The Free Press

Launching Bari Weiss’s The Free Press

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Frontend Development


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About The Free Press

When Bari Weiss launched Common Sense, she set out to create a media institution, “a newspaper for the 21st century,” complete with a roster of contributors and full time staff, plus audio and video components, all supported by a devoted community of paying subscribers.

In two years, Bari has become one of the most successful publishers on the Substack platform, with hundreds of thousands of readers in all 50 states and around the world. However, being one of the largest publications on the platform comes with its own unique complexities - one of which is the need for a more customized brand presence.

The Free Press decided to move forward on creating a headless experience that would give them this level of customization alongside the power of Substack. This is also when Lazer was brought in - to ensure the development of the pilot went successfully.


When we were introduced to The Free Press team by Substack, we quickly aligned on the development and launch requirements needed for a successful pilot. After being given a base theme to work off of, we were off to the races.

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Matching the look and feel of a newspaper experience through a custom theme

The initial theme we were given contained the basics, but it was missing items The Free Press team required. To add specific experiences like carousels for articles, a modified navigation bar, and more, we leveraged JavaScript, SCSS, and other technology. We further worked closely with the team to also develop multiple custom pages, significantly improve site speed, ensure pages were server-side rendered for SEO, add analytics, and more.

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Leveraging Substack for a true headless experience

Upon finalizing the custom theme, we integrated it with the Substack platform. This allowed The Free Press to have a completely custom website and brand experience while also leveraging the power of Substack behind the scenes as a content management system and operational platform.

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Supervising the successful launch of The Free Press

Since this was the first major publication to launch a headless experience with Substack, we wanted to ensure the launch went as successful as possible. We worked closely with The Free Press team to monitor any deployments and potential issues from users.

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The Result

Overall, collaborating with The Free Press was a true joy. We’re excited for the arrival of The Free Press and to continue to support the ambitions of a new generation of media companies that are finding success with the Substack model. Watch this space.