Disclaimer: Lean Investments is a financial education and entertainment website. None of the content below should be misconstrued as investment advice or a recommendation. The author holds none of the positions mentioned below.
*Updated on February 3, 2022 to include new entry, Doomberg.*
Information is critical to investing success. That was part of the motivation for starting Lean Investments in the first place.
Having high quality information from a well-curated variety of sources can be advantageous when deciding which investments to make and refrain from. For example, if you had the information that Nikola’s truck wasn’t capable of rolling on its own, you may not have invested in the company.
Most of us know about Bloomberg, CNBC, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, but there are also many more niche areas of the financial world where a single expert may share his or her thoughts in-depth in a manner not possible through large publisher’s business models.
That’s where Substack, the managed email platform designed to help writers earn income from subscriptions (as opposed to ad revenue) has further expanded the amount of quality information universe and can be a real boon to investors seeking an informational edge.
Below we highlight the best such newsletters on the Substack platform, but first we explain a little more about what Substack is and why it’s such a great platform for taking an expert level “deep dive” on specific subjects you won’t find at major news outlets.
What is Substack?
Substack is an email platform that makes it really easy for writers of any kind to start their own subscription-based email newsletters. Writers can start to build an audiences with free editions of their newsletter and then turn on a paid option later. The paid option will give readers access to more frequent newsletters or bonuses. It’s a pretty flexible model that really allows the writer to build a personal relationship with his or her audience.
As a reader this means you don’t subscribe to Substack per se, but you pick and choose among the individual writers you want to hear from and also determine your level of support. Most offer a free version which will land you occasional public posts to help you determine if this is content worth paying for. I personally subscribe to about ten different Substack newsletters, about half of which I pay the premium versions. You can cancel anytime and are not locked in to long subscription terms.
Substack was founded in 2017 and has received investment backing from notable venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator and Fifty Years. Substack was founded by Chris Best, who had previous tech success as a co-founder of the messaging app Kik, along with two other co-founders.
Substack really started to gain momentum in 2020, for a number of reasons. One was the pandemic and the harsh impact to newsrooms across the country and resulting layoffs of reporters. This created the conditions for more journalists to experiment with new business models, and Substack was near the top of the list for ease of use and commercial potential.
The platform also began adding some of the best journalists with strong followings such as Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Andrew Sullivan, who left his previous position with New York Magazine to run his Substack newsletter full-time.
The Best Substack Newsletters for Investors in 2021
While Substack offers email newsletter subscriptions for almost any interest, from topics ranging from the music industry to politics to collectibles, we highlight the best options for investors below.
Sinocism – Bill Bishop, the publisher of Sinocism, was the “OG” of Substack and the first really notable publisher to launch on the platform. His China-focused newsletter now has tens of thousands of subscribers and sets the agenda for what Americans should know about the country on a daily basis.
The newsletter is typically broken up into a “top 8 categories” based on what is happening in the newscycle with China and is filled with news links from both domestic Chinese, American and international news sources. The end of each newsletter has dedicated sections for topics such as business, culture and politics with many, many links to credible sources such as consultants, research groups and professional investment firms.
Most Fridays Bill also leads a discussion group on some pressing questions facing China and/or the China-US relationship. As China becomes more important both as an investment destination in its own right and impacts the prospects of many US and international companies having a skeptical, in-depth curated news source from an American who has spent extensive time in the country is extremely valuable.
Cost: $15/month or $168/year
Frequency: Every weekday.
The Bear Cave – Being a bear is unfashionable these days, but having access to the best bearish analysis on individual stocks in one newsletter can be extremely valuable, even for bulls. Edwin Dorsey, the publisher of The Bear Cave, conducts his own research on problematic stocks and publishes weekly in-depth reports on these companies for his paid subscribers.
Even if you don’t act on his analysis by shorting the stocks he selects or buying put options, I’ve learned a lot about the red flags to watch for when it comes to corporate governance issues that may lead to trouble. In the free edition of his newsletter, Edwin curates the best of “bearish Twitter” and takes note of notable highlights from new bearish research reports from the top-tier due diligence and activist firms like Citron Research and Muddy Waters.
Cost: Free weekly newsletter or $44/month for two additional deeply-researched short ideas per month.
PETITION – This newsletter covers disruption from the perspective of the disrupted. What does that mean, exactly? It means PETITION focuses on distressed investing, bankruptcy and restructuring news, in a curated format along with plenty of their expert-level analysis. Similar to The Bear Cave, it’s often just as instructive for an investor to see what is going wrong with certain industries as it is when things are going right.
With the PETITION newsletter you get deep-dive analysis of notable Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, with commentary always looking at the bigger trends and market forces at play. Recently this means a lot of coverage of COVID-19 industry victims from hospitality, retail and traditional media. The newsletter is funny, full of images and .gifs and easy on the eyes, despite being quite text heavy.
Cost: Free weekly newsletter or $49/month for premium second edition.
Frequency: Weekly or 2x weekly for paid members.
Doomberg – This newsletter has come out of the blue to become one of the most popular finance Substack newsletters, publishing substantial, smart and funny articles on oil and gas as well as other “heavy industry” topics all for free as it continues to grow its membership. Written by anonymous consultants who provide advisory services to family offices and C-Suite executives, Doomberg is “especially useful on days when you are feeling confident about the future.”
The newsletter’s recent analysis of a potential energy crisis impacting New England is a perfect entry point into the world of doom (You can read it for free, here). The newsletter has also published on a range of other interesting investing topics ranging from corn ethanol, cryptocurrency and the magnesium market. Doomberg is a perfect macroeconomic complement to The Bear Cave for those who realize that finance and investing isn’t all sunshine and roses.
Cost: Free, for now.
Substack’s Growth is Just Starting
There you have four of the best investment-related newsletters currently on Substack. You can take a look for yourself on Substack’s platform for new and trending newsletters across their categories here. I will continue to update this article as I engage with and read more Substack newsletters that might help your investing.
Looking for more resources? Check out our posts on The Best Free Stock Market Email Newsletters and The Most Informative Podcasts for Long-Term Investors.