Substack, a subscription platform startup founded by Hamish McKenzie and Christopher Best that so far has focused on helping writers develop paid newsletter programs, announced this week that it’s beginning to provide support for paid podcast initiatives.
Here’s my buddy Christine Schmidt over at Nieman Lab with some details: Substack will still use its regular email service to deliver notifications to users when a podcast is published, and the web player is a super-simple hit play button, go do things with your life while listening in the background process that many podcast fans have acclimated to. (It works on mobile and desktop and the web page pleasantly doesn’t have to be active for it to work.) “I pay, I get an email. Our audio product is the same thing,” Best said. “You don’t have to do a bunch of dancing around to get it hooked up to your podcast app. You just get an email and play the podcast.” McKenzie and Best said that the steps to share audio mirror the newsletter systems they’ve already built. As the Spotify developments rock the podcast ecosystem — almost certainly bringing with it considerable change in the way podcasting generally works, particularly in its core advertising-supported model — what Substack is trying to offer here points to a potential counter-trend. While Spotify may accumulate more platform power in this space, there’s opportunity for folks to build tools to help some direct power to publishers.
I doubt Substack will be the only player trying to crack that egg. I’m thinking about this developing this storyline out a little more next Tuesday, so more on this soon.