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The Business of Content

Jul 27, 2020

A year ago, Jesse Singal had a very traditional freelance writing career. When he wasn’t working on his book, he’d write articles for places like The Atlantic and New York magazine. The mixture of book advance and freelance revenue provided a reasonably stable income.

Today, the economic climate for journalism is much more dire. The Covid-induced recession has led to mass layoffs and a squeeze on freelancer budgets. Some publications have closed up shop completely. But in many ways, Jesse’s income streams are more secure than ever. That’s because he launched a paid newsletter through Substack and co-hosts a hit podcast that monetizes through Patreon. Together, these two sources generate a nice six-figure income for him.

I recently interviewed Jesse about why he decided to monetize his audience directly, how he designed his paid offerings, and whether he thinks platforms like Substack and Patreon can replace the income for laid-off and underemployed journalists.