With celebrity journalists such as Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan and Matthew Iglesias giving up their institutional gigs and going it alone, Substack has emerged as the hot new media thing of 2021, even though it’s not new and it’s unlikely to pay off for more than a few writers who had a substantial audience even before they switched to Substack……I guess my revised message should be “blogging is alive and well, except now we call it Substack.” After all, you can subscribe to my blog and get an email every time I post — so it’s a newsletter, right? And Substack archives your past newsletters in an attractive list kept in reverse-chronological order — so it’s a blog, right? Does this sound like a revolution to you?
I have been writing extensively in defence of blogging for long. This old link surfaced from HN news discussions, and I agree with the author that the Substack model is only an inferior CMS with a payment model integrated in it. They used the VC money to create hype, and it will be time before the subscription bubble reaches stratospheric heights. The next evolution in the substack will be aggregation- where the payouts are given based on the views (again controlled by opaque algorithms) or you are free to keep your “editorial independence”. It is a handy excuse. How many subscriptions can you endure? Everyone, servicing the niche area, will require some subsistence. This model is screwed upside down; especially when you leave the discovery of your content in someone else’s hands. They will whine about “human curation” (or add some other tier around it, but it will hurt the independent publishers more.
Here’s something interesting:
Maybe he should have checked in with Patrice Peck, a journalist who publishes a Substack newsletter in relative obscurity called Coronavirus News for Black Folks. According to an article by Clio Chang in the Columbia Journalism Review, Peck has discovered that overwork and burnout are just as real for newsletter writers as they are for bloggers. (And why would we think otherwise?)
“I’m creating graphics on Instagram to promote it, tweeting it, doing everything,” Peck told Chang. “It’s a one-woman show. That gets exhausting. I don’t put it out as frequently as I’d like to.”
I automatically post it to Twitter through the WordPress plugin. I barely interact on Twitter, except for checking notifications. It is difficult to get the “word-out” and social media has poor engagement rates. All the digital metrics fluff is out there to create a “hype”. There is no burnout by blogging because I don’t work under pressure to write. The substack hype requires a revision.