The Power of Paying Writers: Substack Pro and Accomplishment Arbitrage in Journalism


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 14, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Paying Writers: Substack Pro and Accomplishment Arbitrage in Journalism


In the ever-evolving landscape of journalism, the internet has revolutionized the possibilities for writers. However, it has also shattered the traditional business model that sustained the industry. This dilemma prompted Substack, a tech startup, to develop a unique program called Substack Pro, aimed at ensuring writers' financial security and success. By exploring the concept of "accomplishment arbitrage," we can understand how Substack Pro aligns the interests of writers and the platform, ultimately reshaping the journalism landscape.

The Birth of Substack Pro:

Substack Pro emerged as a groundbreaking solution to the challenges faced by writers in the digital age. Unlike traditional tech startups, Substack prioritized the financial well-being of writers over audience aggregation. By offering a year of guaranteed payment regardless of publication performance, the program absorbed the risk on behalf of the writers. This demonstrated Substack's commitment to building a trustworthy and reliable model, where success was intertwined with the writers' success.

A Win-Win Partnership:

To sustain the Substack ecosystem, Pro writers agree to let the platform retain 85% of the subscription revenue in the first year. However, after this initial period, the writer's share increases to 90% of the revenue. This arrangement exemplifies the platform's willingness to shoulder the risk for writers in the early stages, while still ensuring a fair distribution of revenue in the long run. These deals are primarily viewed as business decisions rather than editorial ones, highlighting the autonomy and ownership writers have over their publications on Substack.

Selection Criteria and Diversity of Thought:

Substack Pro's selection process is based on various factors, including audience size, engagement on social media, and the respect garnered from readers and peers. Furthermore, Substack evaluates the market opportunity of a publication by assessing the coverage of its subject matter in other platforms. The goal is to host a diverse array of voices, as Substack believes that a diversity of thought is crucial for fostering healthy discourse. The platform recognizes that not all writers who express important perspectives will be universally loved, making the free press a vital component of our society.

The Concept of Accomplishment Arbitrage:

In the tech world, the value of accomplishments is not consistently changing in one direction. "Accomplishment arbitrage" refers to the disparity between the perceived value of an accomplishment and its true value at a given point in time. The interpretation of an accomplishment's value is influenced by the ease or difficulty of achieving it in the present. This concept sheds light on the dynamic nature of the tech industry, where accomplishments can fluctuate in significance over time.


Substack Pro's innovative approach to supporting writers and the concept of "accomplishment arbitrage" in the tech industry highlight the evolving dynamics of journalism. By prioritizing financial security and empowering writers, Substack has created a model that aligns the interests of both writers and the platform. To thrive in this changing landscape, writers can leverage Substack Pro's program to build their publications and establish a loyal following. However, it is crucial to remember that success in the tech industry is not solely determined by past accomplishments, but also by adapting to the ever-changing landscape.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the Substack Pro model: If you are a writer seeking financial stability and autonomy, consider joining the Substack Pro program. It offers a unique opportunity to focus on your craft while Substack takes on the financial risks.
  • 2. Cultivate a diverse network: To increase your chances of being selected for Substack Pro or any other platform, invest in building a diverse network of engaged readers, peers, and followers on social media. Engage in meaningful discussions and establish yourself as a respected voice in your field.
  • 3. Embrace adaptability: In the tech industry, the value of accomplishments can change rapidly. Stay agile and constantly adapt to new trends and developments. Continuously refine your craft and explore new ways to reach your audience effectively.

In conclusion, the Substack Pro program and the concept of "accomplishment arbitrage" offer valuable insights into the evolving landscape of journalism and the tech industry. By prioritizing writers' financial security, Substack has created a symbiotic relationship that benefits both writers and the platform. To thrive in this ever-changing landscape, writers must adapt and leverage opportunities while remaining true to their unique perspectives and visions.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)