The allure of Substack has lured many journalists away from their traditional newsroom roles to a position of becoming their own editors, artists, marketers, accountants, and most importantly, bosses. Emily Atkin was one of the first to feel the draw, leaving her position as a staff writer at The New Republic in September 2019 to launch her climate change-focused newsletter, Heated, that same month.
"I definitely did not have the idea beforehand. I was at the place in my job at the time where I wanted to make a move. I weighed my options [and Substack] seemed like that was what made me the most excited," said Atkin. "I was trying to trust what would be the thing that brought me the most joy and sort of sense of purpose. And that's where the idea came from."
A year and a half later, Heated has more than 40,000 free subscribers and boasts a conversion rate of free to paid subscribers between 8-12%, which Atkin said is the metric she obsesses over to indicate her path to success. With that proof point, she said she is ready to add to her team to deliver more value to the paid subscribers, who represent Heated's sole source of revenue. She did not say how many paid subscribers the newsletter has.
This episode is the second of a four-part series on independent content creators that includes interviews with YouTubers, TikTokers and Substackers. The aim of the series is to show how these individuals — commonly labeled bloggers and vloggers, influencers and freelancers — are essentially turning their passions and hobbies into their own media companies, as well as highlight how this segment of the media industry is becoming more mainstream and setting standards for how digital media companies should approach these platforms themselves.