The Substack controversy

Substack as a company continues to be a great idea and yet seems to have made some critical mistakes.

For one it’s sliced it’s potential author audience pretty thin. On one hand people like me with no professional writing experience are unlikely to get a single subscriber since they aren’t really doing much to promote new voices. The audience you build is your own. Similarly the expectations around a weekly (or daily) newsletter are extremely high. It’s a ton of work to write something that often.

So it’s not a promotional tool, and it’s a lot of work to keep up. So what is it?

People want it to be like Facebook or Twitter, or even medium which promote content as well as give us the tools to publish it. But so far anyway it’s a bit more like Shopify or mailchimp. It’s a tool you can use to publish but the audience building is your job.

Thinking of it like Shopify also translate to the way it handles payments. Customers pay you through your own stripe account, just like Shopify. This means you own your customers.

So then what’s to stop you from moving to another platform once you get big enough? Nothing really.

Is interesting because Shopify really has the exact same slice of the problem. You build a Shopify store instead of an Amazon one because you want to own your customer relationship. Because you feel like you have some advantage that allows you to attract customers on your own. But you aren’t so confident that you want to build something totally bespoke.

That’s a sweet spot for customers to aspire too but I wonder how many are sustainable there.

But that comes back to the point, Substack aspires to be a tool that is powerful and flexible enough that even the biggest writers don’t want to bother reinventing the wheel.

Most businesses probably shouldn’t have happy cog build custom e-commerce sites, most probably should just use a battle tested tool like Shopify. Just like most solo authors should use Substack.