Substack Is Stepping Up To Support Independent Writers and Free Press

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The Takeaways:

  • Substack provides support for writers that goes beyond software. The company is offering to help its newsletter writers with other fundamental work-related needs like “healthcare, personal finance, editing, distribution, design, and coworking spaces.”
  • The Substack Defender Program, announced last week, will provide legal support to US-based writers who have paid newsletters and who publish work that may attract unreasonable legal pressure. Support includes pre-publication review and defense against threats.
  • “Sometimes, powerful people think that if you’re an independent writer they can shut you up with a legal threat… so we wanted to take away that disadvantage of being independent,” Substack co-founder and CEO Chris Best told Axios.

What happened:

Substack Defender is part of a program that will form a comprehensive support structure for independent writers. Unprecedented so far in the publishing industry, such a model may serve to set the bar for the kind of support and protection independent and freelance writers deserve to receive for their work.

Substack states that they are “committed to creating the conditions that allow independent writers to flourish, which means helping to restore the infrastructure that has been eroded by the continued dismantling of models and institutions that once supported a healthy free press.”

However, not everyone might be able to access the support they need. The company has control to choose which authors and for what purposes it will provide legal resources. Substack told Axios that for now, it will focus on defending writers against “the most flagrant abuses.”

Power in numbers:

And it’s not just Substack that is starting to realise the benefits of cooperation.

Everything Bundle founders Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper combined their respective newsletters to great effect. They gave readers a discount if they signed up for both, and both received more new subscribers as a result.

“We don’t feel like we’re inventing anything new, we just re-discovered what a lot of writers figured out a long time ago,” says Shipper. “We’ve just found in our own experience that writing this together has made it both more fun and made the quality of our work higher.”


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