Substack User and Revenue Statistics (2021)

Substack User and Revenue Statistics (2021)

Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Oct. 11, 2021

Substack User and Revenue Statistics

Substack launched in 2017 as a tool for starting paid email newsletters.

Within a year, the company had turned a mission to help writers reach audiences that value them into a platform with 25,000 paying subscribers.

Now, the company boasts a dedicated paying subscriber base of over 500,000 members and millions of readers.

Besides their flagship newsletter offering, Substack has also added support for podcasts.

So, how big is Substack in the overall economy? And what were the details behind their rapid rise?

Here’s a summary of what you’ll find out on this page:

Substack Usage Statistics (Top Picks)

  • There are over 500,000 paying subscribers on Substack.
    There are over 500,000 paying subscribers on Substack
  • Substack has raised over $82.4 million to date.
  • 15 investors have put capital into Substack.
  • Substack launched in October 2017.
  • The top 10 authors on Substack collectively make over $20 million per year.

How many paying subscribers does Substack have?

“Paying subscribers” describes how many unique users pay for a premium newsletter subscription on Substack.

Substack’s paid subscribers over time

Here’s a full breakdown of Substack’s paid subscribers over time:

Paying subscribers Date
11,000 July 2018
25,000 October 2018
40,000 April 2019
50,000 July 2019
100,000 March 2020
250,000 September 2020
250,000+ December 2020
500,000+ February 2021

Sources: Niemen Lab, Tech Crunch, Axios, YouTube, Substack.

How many writers publish on Substack?

There are thousands of writers who post newsletters on Substack. The majority of newsletters are free to read on the platform. Many have a paid tier that includes access to additional content.

Source: YouTube.

How many people read newsletters on Substack?

According to Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie, there are “millions” of active readers on Substack.

SimilarWeb data shows that Substack generated 24.57 million visits in September 2021, up from 18 million in April 2021.

Substack generated 24.57 million visits in September 2021

Sources: YouTube, SimilarWeb.

What’s the ratio between paying and non-paying subscribers?

According to Substack, paying newsletter subscribers represent 5% – 10% of the total readership.

Source: Fortune.

How does Substack make money?

Publishing is free for creators on Substack. For paid subscriptions, a 10% commission fee is charged by Substack. And another 2.9% + 30 cents per payment is charged by Substack’s payment provider (Stripe).

Source: Substack.

Substack used to feature the most popular newsletter among all categories on their homepage. Today, Substack ranks newsletter popularity by category. And doesn’t provide an aggregated ranking among all categories.

Also, Substack’s rankings don’t list absolute subscriber totals. Instead, they provide a range.

With that, here are the most popular paid newsletters on Substack across all categories:

Newsletter Approximate number of subscribers
The Dispatch Tens of thousands of subscribers
Letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson Tens of thousands of subscribers
Bulwark+ Tens of thousands of subscribers
Reporting by Matt Taibbi Tens of thousands of subscribers
The Weekly Dish by Andrew Sullivan Tens of thousands of subscribers
Sinocism by Bill Bishop Thousands of subscribers
Glenn Greenwald Tens of thousands of subscribers
Popular Information by Judd Legum Tens of thousands of subscribers
PETITION Thousands of subscribers
Everything Thousands of subscribers

Here are top the 5 paid political newsletters on Substack:

Politics newsletter Approximate number of subscribers, price
Letters from an American Tens of thousands of subscribers, $5/month
The Dispatch Tens of thousands of subscribers, $10/month
TK News by Matt Taibbi Tens of thousands of subscribers, $5/month
Bulwark+ Tens of thousands of subscribers, $10/month
Glenn Greenwald Tens of thousands of subscribers, $5/month

Here are the most popular paid business newsletters on Substack:

Business newsletter Approximate number of subscribers, price
Lenny’s Newsletter Thousands of subscribers, $15/month
Noahpinion Thousands of subscribers, $9.99/month
Nongaap Investing Hundreds of subscribers, $39/month
The Ankler Thousands of subscribers, $10/month
The Profile Thousands of subscribers, $10/month

Here are 5 of the most popular paid newsletters under Substack’s “culture”: category:

Culture newsletter Approximate number of subscribers, price
Proof Thousands of subscribers, $5/month
Culture Study Thousands of subscribers, $5/month
The Audacity Thousands of subscribers, $6/month
Maybe Baby Thousands of subscribers, $5/month
Hung Up Thousands of subscribers, $5/month

Sources: Alexey Guzey, Substack.

Search interest in Substack

Google searches for “substack” are up 1900% over the last two years, Exploding Topics data shows. And have increased by 500% over the past year alone.

Exploding Topics – Substack

Source: Exploding Topics.

Substack funding

Substack has raised a total of $82.4 million across 4 funding rounds.

Substack funding

Notable investors include Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz.

Funding round, Date Amount
Pre Seed, January 2018 $120 thousand
Seed, April 2018 $2 million
Series A, July 2019 $15.3 million
Series B, March 2021 $65 million

The startup currently has 75 employees, up from 13 in October 2020.

Sources: Crunchbase, Business of Business, ZoomInfo, Axios, Fortune.

How much is Substack worth?

After Substack’s latest Series B round, the company is now valued at $650 million. That’s up from a valuation of only $48.65 million in July 2019.

Source: TechCrunch.

Substack author earnings

The top 10 authors on Substack collectively make more than $20 million a year. An increase from $15 million in February 2021, and $10 million in December 2020.

Here’s the complete breakdown of Substack’s author earnings:

Date Yearly earnings of top 10 authors (in US dollars)
September 2020 7 million
December 2020 10 million
February 2021 15 million
October 2021 20 million

Sources: Substack, Axios, YouTube, Fortune.

Conclusion

That’s it for my collection of Substack growth data and figures.

Demand for non ad-based media models has been taking off. With newsletters leading the pack.

Substack is both riding and driving this growing trend.

In fact, major tech players are looking to get into the paid newsletter business as well.

Twitter recently introduced Revue integration to the platform to promote paid newsletters (following its earlier acquisition of the service) And Facebook launched Bulletin Substack-like tool designed to support independent writers.

So it will be interesting to see what’s coming next for Substack.

Now it’s time to hear from you:

Do you have any questions about Substack? What other data would you like me to include here?

Feel free to drop me a line in the comment section below.

4 Comments

  1. Is there any data on the non-paid newsletters on Substack? Just wondering what the average number of subscribers is and what the most popular topics are.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Jeri, Substack doesn’t share non-paid subscriber numbers (and they’re actually somewhat vague about paid subscribers too). For this resource we collected all the data that was available.

  2. Brian, do you have any data by demographics? Number of YA readers ages 13-17? Number of new adult readers 18-24? Number of adult readers 25+?

    Is there a way to break it down into writing genres as well?
    Romance
    Sci-Fi
    Fantasy
    Thriller
    Action/Adventure
    Mystery
    etc?

    I’m working to build personas for each age group, gender info would be of benefit, too.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Donny, as far as I know Substack doesn’t share that type of info. Maybe when they go public 🙂

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