In the coming days, we will start rolling out a way for writing, ideas, and discussion to travel through the Substack network. We’re calling this new product Notes.
In Notes, writers will be able to post short-form content and share ideas with each other and their readers. Like our Recommendations feature, Notes is designed to drive discovery across Substack. But while Recommendations lets writers promote publications, Notes will give them the ability to recommend almost anything—including posts, quotes, comments, images, and links. Our goal is to foster conversations that inspire, enlighten, and entertain, while giving writers a powerful growth channel as these interactions find new audiences.
While Notes may look like familiar social media feeds, the key difference is in what you don’t see. The Substack network runs on paid subscriptions, not ads. This changes everything.
The lifeblood of an ad-based social media feed is attention. In legacy social networks, people get rewarded for creating content that goes viral within the context of the feed, regardless of whether or not people value it, locking readers in a perpetual scroll. Almost all the attendant financial rewards then go to the owner of the platform.
By contrast, the lifeblood of a subscription network is the money paid to people who are doing worthy work within it. Here, people get rewarded for respecting the trust and attention of their audiences. The ultimate goal on this platform is to convert casual readers into paying subscribers. In this system, the vast majority of the financial rewards go to the creators of the content.
So just that I have this clear Substack is making short form content, but because they aren’t a “legacy social network” it’s somehow better than Facebook or Twitter?
Tack this on with the fact Substack is asking readers for funding gives you a company looking to get as much money as they can and keep people on their app and website as long as they can.
As we develop Notes, we will focus on building a system that lets people control the contours and boundaries of their subscription universe so that it is easy to keep trolls out and even easier to let valuable contributors in. The goal here is not to create a perfectly sanitized information environment, but to set the conditions for constructive discussion where there is enough common ground to seek understanding while holding onto the worthwhile tension needed for great art and new ideas. It won’t feel like the social media we know today.
While Substack doesn’t necessarily have an infinite scroll they do have a ranking algorithm, check marks for highly successful Substacks, and now something they claim isn’t Twitter but looks a lot like Twitter.
Substack was once my home for Clicked and other works I made, and I liked what it had to offer back then. However, I am happy to no longer have my work there because this is just another weird and concerning decision from them.