The Direct-to-Reader Platform Reshaping Independent Journalism


Launched in 2017 by journalist and entrepreneur Hamish McKenzie, Substack is a newsletter publishing platform aimed at small publications and independent journalists. The Legend spoke to Nick Bastone, a former tech reporter for Business Insider and The Information who left the world of established media and started his own publication on Substack. His Substack newsletter, The SF Minute, is sent daily and includes the top stories of the day.

Why did you leave your job at an established media company to be independent?
“I covered Google for Business Insider and then The Information. I was working from home and Google felt like a huge company, and obviously it’s hugely important: everyone uses Google. I knew it was this really, really important company but at the same time, with a pandemic going on and seeing everything going on around [San Francisco, and] how the city was changing, I felt [that] the more important thing to do would be to cover the city.”

What is the SF Minute?
“It is a Monday through Friday newsletter. And the gist of what it is is an aggregation of all the publications that are already out there. So I usually highlight two or three top stories and do a grab bag of five or six quick, quick answers that people might find interesting. I think a lot of people care about San Francisco but are also super busy. I think my idea was I wanted to get more people interested [in local issues].”

What is your process?
“On a day to day, [I] read through the Chronicle, the Examiner, Mission Local and Eater. [I pick out what I think] are of the top headlines […] of the day”

Why Substack?
“Right now the SF Minute is ad-based. So there’s an ad at the bottom of the newsletter on some days when I have an advertiser. And eventually, I envision that once we have a steady stream of original stories, those would probably be behind a paywall. Substack makes it super easy to start charging people for that.”

What are the advantages of being independent?
“It’s fun and it’s freedom. Although, I think some people think writing is a little bit more romantic than it is; I think reporting is a grind. You’re proud of the stories once they get out there but the day to day is every day I produce a newsletter. At The Information, maybe I publish an article every week or every two weeks or something. It’s a little bit different, having a daily deadline. I kind of enjoy it.”


You can check out The SF Minute by clicking here.