Substack: A New Wave of Media

Substack has been around since 2017, but is having a resurgence as many editors, influencers and consumers alike are flocking to the blog-style feed that aggregates written content – in the form of newsletters; keeping all their favourite content in one place.

A place for community, with an active comment section, subscriptions and click-to-buy links; Substack really is a nod to 2000’s blog culture with a modern twist.

Now, with the shift in the media landscape, particularly in Canada – many editors are using the platform as a means to get paid for the content they work so hard to create.

Is Substack the future of media and perhaps a departure from even social content? We caught up with Canadian Journalist Lesa Hannah on what the platform means to her & why she got started there in the first place.

What was the impetus for starting a Substack account?

I’ve always been a communicator–it’s why I started a zine when I was a teenager–so this came out of the same desire. I wanted a platform to write about the things that interested me (that I didn’t see as potential pitches for traditional media) from the perspective of a very opinionated former beauty editor who is also Gen X. My friend Anne-Marie Guarnieri has those things in common with me so I thought it would be fun to combine our voices together into one. We’re also both really into music so it was an extra topic we could share our opinions on. 

What do you find most engaging about the platform?

It can cover a lot of niche interests and share perspectives that you won’t find in traditional media which continues to shrink as I type. I also find it useful for hearing about things such as books, links to articles I missed, and even interviews like Molly Ringwald!

It’s just a whole lotta content to wade through and like anything else, it takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff as they say. But the good stuff is really, really good. I’m just a fan of really good, fun, witty, informative writing so it’s almost like hanging out at a newsstand and picking up magazines and reading endlessly like I did back in the day. Almost.

Why do you think Substack ‘works’? 

Like zines in the 90s, newsletters are a way to communicate what you want to talk about and if you can find an audience for that, even better. It’s also a platform where former editors can go and even monetize their writing which the industry no longer seems to value, or at least, can no longer pay what it’s worth. It’s also a creative outlet for people like me who have things to say and want a vehicle for getting it out there besides a social media account. 

ALSO, I was really impressed how someone from Substack reached out within a week of us launching to offer support. We booked a call with Christina Loff, Head of Lifestyle Substack Partnerships, who let us answer whatever questions we had for best practices and strategies. They care about you succeeding which is pretty awesome.

What do you think the future of the platform is?

I’m curious to see where it can go–I know that beauty is a space that doesn’t have a lot of other newsletters at the moment and that brands have started to collaborate with fashion ones. 

And it seems to be picking up momentum with new ones popping up all the time; I just saw Somsack Sikhounmuong, formerly of Madewell and now at Alex Mill just launched one, Claire Vivier says she’s joining soon and Bobbi Brown just joined. So newsletters may soon become as ubiquitous as podcasts, a feature that Substack has now added but one we won’t be venturing into. And one was just acquired by Puck! So that’s cool and says a lot about the potential of newsletters. 

Who do you follow on Substack / who should others be following?

I pay for Ask Polly, who used to have an advice column on The Cut, Back Row by Amy Odell, Men Yell at Me by Lyz Lenz (she has a Dingus of the Week which gives me LIFE) and No F*cks Given with Sarah Knight. 

I also follow far too many fashion ones that are starting to all blur into one because it’s just recommendations for things I can’t afford and not much text. (It feels lazy and like they just want affiliate link money). There’s other ones I really like that I would pay for if I wasn’t trying to live off a freelancer budget such as After School by Casey Lewis, Feed Me, Changing the Channel, All Left Turns and Harriet’s Substack (she has one post written entirely written from the perspective of Embryolisse cream that’s brilliant). 

Make sure to subscribe to Lesa and AM Guarnieri’s Substack Starving for Beauty for more from the dynamic duo.

Our team of ahead of the curve futurists is already monitoring how Substack is impacting consumers buying decisions and folding the platform into our marketing plans.  How do you think Substack will continue to shake up the media landscape not only in Canada, but across the world?