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Substack, an online platform that supports subscription newsletters, has announced a $1 million initiative called Substack Local to help independent local non-famous writers to create local news publications.
According to the Substack Local website, it is
“open to applicants from anywhere in the world, is designed to help writers start sustainable local news enterprises. This is not a grants program, nor is it inspired by philanthropic intent.”
Similar to the Substack Pro Program, Substack Local will provide cash advances up to $100,000, with mentorship and “subsidized access” to health insurance and design services. For these benefits, Substack will take 85% of the subscription fee for a year. After one year, Substack will take only 10%.
The deadline for submitting the application is April 29, which will be be examined by a panel of judges who have published with Substack; Zeynep Tufekci of Insight, Anne Helen Petersen of Culture Study, Dick Tofel of Second Rough Draft, and Rachel Larimore, managing editor of The Dispatch.
With Substack Local, the company is collaborating with New Zealand-based Stuff to launch two new publications covering under-served regions in the country.
There were many reports that had divided opinions about this initiative by Substack.
A Financial Times article said that this initiative would make publishers realize the true value of journalists, and it also discusses the disadvantages of being a journalist-cum-entrepreneur.
Joshi Hermann, a former freelance writer who started The Mill in the UK, has a different opinion. He has said in an article in The Vox that “If it keeps on growing as it has been, this can work.” He added that Substack revenues aren’t “the most money I’ve ever made,” but he says they offer him a chance to make something that doesn’t exist — essentially a local magazine with a business model somewhere between the high-end Financial Times and Patreon.Substack Local initiative was started amid the accusations of Substack attracting high-profile writers by paying them huge cash advancements.