Jack Dorsey posted this on nostr a couple weeks ago, and the idea stuck with me. He initially wrote it after Twitter blocked Substack, and I think he’s probably right. Substack started its own notes product to compete with Twitter, and Twitter started allowing long-form posts and revenue streams for creators to replace Substack. They’re both all in on being everything you need to reach other people online.
The advantage to using Substack is that you have your readers’ emails, so should it enact policies with which you disagree, you could simply send out your own newsletter and retain all your readers. The advantage to Twitter is the massive network effect of so many readers being there and already-existing audiences for so many people making content.
The problem for Substack is even though it gives its authors power to access readers directly, it’s still a centralized platform that controls acquisition of new readers. The only other growth mechanism is via Twitter which is now its enemy and limiting the reach of its posts. The problem for Twitter is it’s a centralized platform with a social credit score. Twitter can arbitrarily suspend you or limit your reach via algorithm or edict without warning. If your reach is dependent upon it, you’ve built your house on a shaky foundation indeed.
Substack was important during the pandemic because Twitter, Facebook et al. went all-in on censorship, while Substack remained tolerant of dissident speech. But, being centrally controlled, Substack is a half-measure. Yes, you can take the emails with you, but it’s still a social media company trying to keep you ensconced in its ecosystem to the point where you’re loath to leave. Moreover, most readers follow multiple Substacks replete with their payment information, so it’s not a trivial ask to get them to sign up and put credit card info into yet another platform.
4/27/23: Made a long Twitter thread on Twitter about the problems with Twitter. Ironic I'm linking back to it here, but I don't have anything against Twitter per see, except that it's a dystopian social credit-score hellscape run by the Antichrist himself. Seriously, though I still like Twitter (and Musk himself because he wouldn't be the Antichrist if you didn't like him!), but it's unwise to build your house on a weak foundation. That Twitter can ding me because other people (with whom I don't even interact) decide they don't like my posts, or because someone, who serially spread misinformation for years, unilaterally decided what I posted was "misinformation" makes it unstable. You can be arbitrarily rugged at any time and for no good reason.
To that end, I'm posting more here and also on nostr, which is a protocol, not a platform. The difference is no one controls it the way no one controls SMTP - - there is no one who can buy email itself and prevent you from sending any. Someone can own Gmail or Protonmail, but not email, and similarly someone can own Twitter or Facebook but not nostr. That means no social credit score, no censorship and a marketplace of ideas.
The problem for me is no one follows me there, so I'm posting into the void, but if I had even 50 followers, it would be worth it, and that's my aim for now. It's also IMO the future, and it's a good idea to get in early. I wish I had gotten into Twitter early, and I wish I hadn't waited until 2015 to start a podcast, but it's still early for nostr.
If you want to check out nostr, here's a link to more information.
And if you want to follow me there, here's my public key:
One other key feature of nostr is you can link it to an lightning network (bitcoin) address and receive payment for posts or long-form content piecemeal without necessitating credit cards, personal info or subscriptions. I realize most people are not there yet — many don’t use bitcoin, let alone lightning. But they will — you will.
It’s the future.
. . .
I still like Substack’s product and will continue to post here (as well as on my site), but I agree with Dorsey it’s on the way out.
I also don’t love the business model — even if you’re making a little money on your Substack, say $5K or $10K per year, their cut is 10 percent ($500 to $1,000), and that’s before another 3% gets taken out by Stripe.
People were aghast at Elon Musk charging $8 per month for Twitter ($100 per year), but anyone with any kind of paying subscription base on Substack is getting robbed by comparison, especially when it was Twitter itself driving most of the growth.
It like Uber or Airbnb — a middleman getting far too big a cut for matchmaking and one that’s hard to displace due to network effects/ecosystem buy-in from the authors and audience.
But as I said, I’m sticking with it for now, while having one foot in the future.