Substack offers software to help people set up free or paid-for newsletters and promises the people creating them that they can write what they want and that they own their own mailing list and can take it with them if they leave.

Substack, they argue, is tearing apart that coalition of workers by ripping out the stars. But Douglas McCabe, media analyst at Enders Analysis, isn’t quite so sure.

“The internet just creates this endless cycle of aggregation, disaggregation, aggregation and disaggregation and that is an internet story, full stop,” he says. Substack “will end up aggregating particular kinds of content and trying to sell a single price point to access these 20 writers who talk about the environment or talk about the future of technology, or whatever it is they talk about”.

Every limit to Apple’s ability to exert control over its own platform is a challenge to its strategy to derive long-term growth from services instead of devices, said Joseph Evans, head of tech at Enders Analysis.

“It’s striking that aside from games and maybe dating apps, there are very few new business models that have really thrived and become extremely profitable through in-app payments,” he said. “The kind of ‘transaction tax’ is probably part of why we haven’t seen as much business model innovation in that area.”

Joseph said "Some of these technological limitations have stunted how much money is in podcasting," adding podcasting is a platform on which ad tech has traditionally been very "primitive."

He added "That's where this trend of subscribing to podcasts comes from. Even if you have quite a small audience, if they're really engaged with your content, they might be willing to pay, you know, $5 a month to get bonus content and that can add up to real money very quickly."

Alice said “There’s a bit of differentiation between the large players and effectively the long tail of smaller groups or independents who have felt the effects of the pandemic differently. All players, but pretty much every local site bar a small number of exceptions, run digital advertising and so even though traffic went up – and in some cases went up kind of substantially – the flow-through of digital ad revenue was was not as strong as it would have been in pre-pandemic times.”

She added “In the tail it’s likely that there would be a greater reliance on SME advertising and that means that when those businesses were forced to close and when that marketing spend was poor they will have been more affected and less able to restructure costs, which is what the large groups have been able to do."

There were, however “no real winners last year. Every regional house had staff losses and huge costs… It was a pretty bad year for the industry as a whole.”