Substack is a traditional social network
Like Manu, I could not have less interest in Substack’s new Notes feature, and, to be honest, I can barely tell what it is. From the screenshot, it looks like Twitter? Why would they create a Twitter clone?
What I can say is that Substack is a traditional social network. Like all other traditional social networks it adds more features you don’t need or want, or makes it more difficult to just read stuff, in direct proportion to its need to turn some form of profit or remain somehow relevant. cf Medium.
Cory Doctorow’s concept of enshittifcation helps us recognise what defines these types of services. Often, they’ll be based on a fad. In Substack’s case it’s that newsletters are the future of publishing, with Medium it’s a need to return to longer form writing, man. Both offer to solve the problem of writers not being able to get paid for their work.
In reality, services like Substack are just middlemen. They don’t produce anything. Instead, they’ll tempt writers in with a frictionless, fashionable publishing experience and the promise of getting paid. Then they’ll try and create a demand for – and profit from – this labour in a marketplace they control. Like Ticket Master.
How many people make money from Substack? Another feature of traditional social media is it creates a few wealthy superstars, while everyone else scrabbles around for pennies.
The really baffling thing is that Medium and Substack are just blogs, or rather, an inferior version of blogs. Is it any more difficult to find someone’s website than it is to find their Substack page? WordPress offers an email subscription service out of the box, and it won’t hijack your reading by slapping a sign-up box over the page when you start scrolling. You can even subscribe by RSS. Add a tip box or optional monthly payment, and you’ll have your very own Substack set up, without the middleman. Or the Twitter clone.
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