From Hello Stranger:
At it’s core, Substack is a newsletter provider with a user-friendly interface. It’s a place for writers and creators to build and email list, write a newsletter, and cultivate a relationship with readers. The added bonus? Top fans can opt for subscribers only content, and writers get paid.
Substack claims to be a place for independent writing, separate from the toxic world of social media. Here in the Substack utopia, your content has value beyond clickbait. Substack’s claims of empowering independent writers and journalist have lead to headlines like “What is Substack Really Doing to the Media” and “Why We’re Freaking out About Substack“.
(The jist of all these articles more or less, is that Substack is not actually upending mainstream journalism, and is in fact, another iteration of social media. All of this according of course, to the major publications and media threatened by Substack itself. Hm.)
. . . .
Is Substack actually good for small creators and writers?
Substack claims to be changing the way we write, and upending social media. But is Substack actually helping small creators and writers? What does an independent writer or creator without a large platform stand to gain by using Substack?
In short, yes. Substack can be a great tool for a small creator or independent writer. But like any platform, social media or not, Substack comes with its own set of limitations.
What is Substack?
Launched in 2017, Substack today has over half a million paying subscribers. This statistic does not include the hundreds of thousands more of subscriptions to free publications.
Substack cuts into the subscription-based news industry, generally dominated by publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post by giving journalists who have already garnered a following on social media the means to go independent by starting their own subscription-based newsletter through Substack. While there is some heated debate as to whether or not Substack offers any real chance at income for the average independent writer, several notable journalists have switched to independent writing through Substack.
For most people, Substack subscriptions will not become income replacement. Still, Substack functions as a tip jar similar to Patreon and a way to create content outside of the influence of a social media algorithm.
Essentially, Substack is a platform for anyone to have their own small publication. You can either offer your content completely free (and at no cost to you as a creator), or you can paywall your content through a subscription. Personally, I use a combination of majority free content, with 1-2 subscribers-only articles a month.
Substack and subscription-based content: why it matters
Fundamentally, Substack is both anti-social media, and an iteration of social media itself.
Social media apps like Facebook and Instagram are designed to keep users on the app as long as possible in order to sell ad space. Instagram and Facebook quite literally use your content to keep people addicted to the app, then sell ads, profiting without compensating creators. This ad-based model of content prioritizes clickbait over quality. Basically, social media today is designed to keep you scrolling, not provide value.
Substack is different in that as a provider, they don’t depend on ads to make money. Your content is not ranked by how long people spend on an app, and it doesn’t feed into the attention economy. Collectively, we’re tired of being used by social media.
Substack’s subscription model prioritizes the quality of content. If you don’t write something good and interesting, there’s no incentive to subscribe to your publication or newsletter. If your content is especially good, readers will forward it to a friend, or share it on Facebook. If they stop enjoying your content, they’ll unsubscribe.
Substack seems to put writers and creators first in a way that Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook just don’t.
What are people subscribing to Substack for?
There are sort of two ways and reasons people subscribe to a Substack style subscription based newsletter; they either find clear value in the content, or they are interested in supporting a person.
Celebrities and influencers can likely make money through simply providing additional access to them as a personality through a paid online dairy, while smaller writers and journalists will be able to write, and have to write, quality content to build a subscriber base. The savviest Substackers, and those who already have become and online personality with a social media following, will likely use a combination of both access and value to gain and retain subscribers.
Link to the rest at Hello Stranger
PG is not certain how he feels about Substack.
On the one hand, he’s happy to see people making money from their creative talents.
On the other hand, he tends to fall into the information-wants-to-be-free camp and has done so for a long time.
When PG’s online wanderings bring him to a Substack account behind a paywall, he tends to head off into other places. He hasn’t ever paid for a subscription to a Substack feed/stream/newsletter, etc.
While acknowledging his virtually non-existent use of/exposure to Substack, PG suspects that were looking at a classic 1% v. 99% situation with 1% of Substack authors earning meaningful sums of money from their writing, while some of the 99% get a dribble here and a drabble there and the rest are ignored by anyone other than close friends and relatives.
However, as always, PG could be totally wrong.
He would love to hear from lovers of Substack as as readers plus those who are using Substack to earn some money and feel its a worthwhile endeavor.
Feel free to submit links to your own Substack if it’s working for you, articles that explain why/how Substack is a good idea. You can use comments to do so, although PG does have a WordPress plugin that short-circuits Russians and others from stuffing comments with links to websites of dubious repute.
If you have a bunch of links to places that will shine light on PG’s Substack ignorance, feel free to send them to PG via the Contact PG button up at the top of the blog.