Photo: substack, a San Francisco based newsletters publishing site
Substack is a self publishing service where almost anyone can create newsletters and charge subscribers. In return for providing a professional publishing platform and revenue stream, substack can extract 10% of the revenue generated by content creators. What many dont know, though, is that the San Francisco based start-up was inspired by wechat.
Although e-mail communication has existed since the birth of the Internet, it is difficult for traditional media to compete with the content algorithm driven by recommendation. This trend has shifted readers to niche content, to authors with original or expert voices, instead of focusing on free or paid generic aggregate content. Around 2013, with the appearance of WeChat official account, this trend began to rise in China.
Matthew Brennan, managing director of ChinaChannel, a consultancy, said: Substack newsletter is very similar to WeChat official account MatthewBrennan. From the technical level, wechat is Chinas e-mail service. Substack is so popular that you can find someone on your email list and keep in touch with them somewhere theyre being tracked.
Substack was created by a team of entrepreneurs who initially planned to develop an instant messaging app, claiming to be wechat in the West.. Before creating substack, Chris best was co-founder and chief technology officer of KIK, also known as wechat in the West.. KIK was once very popular, and even got $50 million investment from Tencent in 2015.
Chart: wechat is often described as a super app in China, with hundreds of millions of users
However, the plan didnt succeed, and KIK was inundated with chat apps from competitors, from messenger to snapchat. Best and two other KIK employees, Hamish McKenzie and jairaj Sethi, eventually left in 2017 and co founded substack.
Angel investor bill bishop points out the impact of wechat on the founding team of substack. KIK is trying to learn a lot from wechat, and the key lesson is that users are willing to subscribe to wechat content and even pay for them to browse it, he said Just like WeChat invited journalists, economists and other industry professionals to share their views through WeChat official account, Substack has positioned itself as a platform for writers of all kinds.
There are two key similarities between wechat and substack: first, both flourish in the mode that content is sent directly to users inboxes; second, both enable writers to build their own micro media empire and get rid of traditional publishers.
The WeChat official account enables many writers and brands to build their own direct audience, which is a revolution for the media industry. Chinese Millennial entrepreneurs are always seeking differentiation and creating original brands. Today, a similar phenomenon is happening in the west, which is subverting the algorithm driven mode of content delivery.
According to bishop, the self publishing model is significant for content creators with deep industry knowledge and readers with specific interests. The technology is simple now, he said. With substack, I just need to write content and they will do everything else for me.
Thanks to modern technology, journalists and policy writers can now do many things that used to be done only with the help of large media organizations, says dev Lewis, a researcher at the digital Asia hub, a Hong Kong think tank. All the technologies we use are so powerful that you can even do quite a lot of data processing quite easily, he said. If you can do all these things yourself, why do people work for media companies
Source: Wang Fengzhi, editor in charge of Netease science and Technology Report_ NT2541