When video-sharing platform Rumble announced in August that it had struck deals with such prominent figures as Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard, it marked a significant milestone in the eight-year-old service’s rise. Founded in 2013 by Canadian tech entrepreneur Chris Pavlovski to help “the little guys” stand out in a crowded market dominated by YouTube, Rumble had a modest online presence until late 2020, when it began attracting conservative voices who had experienced YouTube censorship. In just ten months, Rumble’s online viewership has increased 25-fold. The company has attracted funding from prominent venture capitalists and recently completed a series of deals to bring such outspoken voices as Greenwald, Gabbard, and Joe Rogan to the platform.
But Rumble is only the latest online service to find itself profiting from the online censorship wars. Substack, a newsletter platform conceived as a way for ambitious individuals and small publishers to reach an audience cheaply, has seen its subscriber base double in the last few months as prominent writers—including Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and Bari Weiss—have moved to the service following censorship run-ins at their old publications. Many writers who have moved to Substack report earning much more than what they’d made before. So lucrative has the self-publishing model become that Substack now finds itself in a price war with Ghost, another player in the online self-publishing game.
The sudden, rapid rise of these services offers a lesson in the link between free markets and free speech. Conceived before the current round of controversies over censorship by online giants Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, these alternative platforms were initially designed by small entrepreneurs hoping to gain an audience in a market often dominated by corporate players. In just a few months, however, they’ve also emerged as a way around big-tech censorship. In the process, they’re paying handsome dividends to creators, investors, and users….