Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack

Isaac Saul, who told me that his impartial political newsletter Tangle raised $ 190,000 in its first year, recently wrote that he came to Substack “not to be associated with others” after hearing readers’ assumptions HuffPost had been disappointed with his prejudices at work.

One of the writers who left Substack because of transgender issues, Jude Doyle, argued that his progressive system was some kind of editorial policy. However, the analogy with a media company is not clear. Grace Lavery said she wanted Substack to broaden the definition of harassment, but she doesn’t think threats to boycott the email service about writers she disagrees with make political sense. She has had bitter public disputes with other Substack writers, including journalist Jesse Singal, over their gender policy writing. “Boycotting Substack over Jesse Singal would be like boycotting a paper company,” she said of a writer who printed books on paper.

Mr. Singal compared Substack to the unregulated, decentralized Internet from a decade ago. “In the golden age of blogging, writers hated each other but went back and forth over each other’s ideas. Now people keep calling the manager, ”he said.

Hence, the main threat to Substack is unlikely to be the Twitter-centric political struggles of some of its writers. The real threat is platforms competing with a different model. The most technically powerful of these is probably Ghost, which authors can use to send newsletters and invoice them. Monthly fees start at $ 9. While Substack is supported by the venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz, Ghost has Wikipedia vibes: It is open source software that was developed by a non-profit organization.

One of Substack’s largest newsletters, The Browser, with 11,000 paid subscribers, traveled to Ghost last August. Nathan Tankus, a business journalist who is leaving Substack due to transaction issues, has also joined Ghost. David Sirota, who runs the left-wing investigation site The Daily Poster, said he was considering going to Outpost, a Ghost-based system, because “we want our business and brand to stand on their own.”

And it’s easy to go. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Substack writers can just take their email lists with them and connect with their readers.

Substack’s model of taking 10 percent of its writers’ subscriptions is “too greedy to take on anyone’s business for very little in return,” said John O’Nolan, founder and chief executive officer of Ghost, a tattooed, nomadic Irishman who is bivouacked Hollywood, Florida. He said he believes that publishing subscription newsletters “is meant to be made commodity”.

Comments are closed.