484 Comments

Hey, just a heads up: we're adjusting how the smart delivery/email pausing stuff works in the app.

The goal here was to make a good experience for readers while keeping the writers' direct connection intact, but we've had feedback from a few folks. We always want to be thoughtful about keeping writers' trust, so we've made the following changes:

1. As of now, the toggle you see after turning on push notifications will default to leaving email on as well.

2. In the next release, we're going to pull it out of onboarding and just have it be a setting you can find if you want.

We're going to continue to iterate on making this great for writers and readers. Feedback like yours helps us do this, so thank you!

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Thank the gods for pulling it out of onboarding! And, P.S. Thank you, Mr. Best!

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Thank you for coming to Office Hours! We are excited to see so many of you starting to use the app and we plan to keep answering your questions as we navigate the early days of the app in the world.

Our team is signing off for today and we will be back next week.

In the meantime, our resources are here for you.

https://substack.com/resources

https://support.substack.com/hc/en-us

And! We hope to see you out on the Substack (virtual) category tour. This is a meeting place for writers to connect directly over Zoom, and as a showcase for the wide variety of writing happening on Substack within a given category. Join us: https://on.substack.com/p/category-tour

See you soon,

The Substack Team

Katie + Bailey + Kelsa + Rose + Jasmine + Chris + Sachin + Josh + John + Maggie + Dominik + Andrew + Nikhil + Linda + Ashley + Nick

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Thanks everyone for your thoughts, feedback, and support on this first version of the app! We're excited to add more features and improve it for you all and your readers. See you next time.

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Thank you! So exciting!!!

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So I'm generally a fan of Substack. But I'm not particularly a fan of this move. Here's how I'm seeing it:

1.

Right now, every reader who transitions to an app represents a *small statistical decrease in conversion rate*. This is almost tautologically true; without in-app purchases, there's a significant disincentive to "impulse subscribes" and the current UI makes it hard to even figure out that you can subscribe paid at all.

An initial email saying they can pay at time of sub doesn't do much to fix this, and does nothing for people who come to like you enough over time to pay. Status: net loss for writers.

2.

Every subscriber who uses the app immediately becomes less a subscriber to my blog and more a subscriber to substack. Whereas now migrating my email list away to some other newsletter platform is pretty much a 1:1 substitution from the reader's perspective, your first move is to shunt people towards push notifications instead of emails, with a high-probability expectation that users will actually do this.

This de-acclimates the users to an experience I can provide other places without you, which is a pretty clear case of creating "lock-in". Note that you might counterbalance this, but lock-in itself is a negative; it's not me not wanting to leave, it's me not being able to leave. Status: net loss for writers.

**

Since the two things above are negative, we start looking for counter-balancing positives, but there aren't any. There are aspects of this that are being presented as positives, but are false/misleading:

1.

This could bring in a very large number of new Substack readers but still not benefit me at all. Substack has traditionally refused to do anything to funnel any readers to any publications besides those topping the leaderboard (reinforcing winners rather than creating new successes). So if you get a million people coming in, that's who they will find - specifically people who don't need the help to be successful, and never, ever the small to medium sized blog.

So while this initially sounds good (So many more substack users!) you've never once made a move that was even slightly in favor of that wealth of readers being channeled to any but a small, lucky handful of already-famous writers. There's no indication in any of your promotional material that you intend to do this, except vague promises that it's something you are looking into, which we've already had for years and years with no actual changes.

2.

In-app payments work out for the writer in one way and one way only: If Epic wins their lawsuit so spectacularly that it represents the biggest anti-trust movement of a generation and wipes out in-app payment fees entirely, at least as far as their coercive power goes.

In any other case, we are either locked into a 30% processing fee (~600% higher than what we enjoy now) or have a confusing disincentive to subscribing at all. Even in the best case scenario, the writer is only left with what they already had; a clear pathway to stripe.

**

Coupling the negatives with the false positives, there's now a pretty clear picture of how this appears to be going. First:

**THE ORIGINAL SUBSTACK PITCH**

1. Bring us your newsletter. We won't try to own it at all; it's portable.

2. We will send out newsletters for you.

3. We will also publish those newsletters to the web.

4. We will give you access to stripe payments.

5. If you want to leave, it's as simple to do as it was to join; you export your newsletter subscribers, and take them to a new newsletter platform at very little shock to your readers.

Now, that was fine. But you are stealthily making a new pitch, that looks an awful lot like this:

1. Bring us your newsletter subscribers.

2. We will send out newsletters and publish on the web as before, but where we can we will also shunt people towards our app.

3. When they get to our app, our pattern encourages them to *stop receiving your newsletter and get used to our app.

4. All this hurts you in terms of your conversion rate.

5. We might get a lot of new substack users, but we have no plans to give you any of them besides the same vague handwaving we've always done. Right now, those all go to our small list of favorites.

6. When you go to switch to another platform, you will find your userbase is substantially less yours than before, and substantially less a newsletter oriented audience than before. You will have to hope that your audience, now acclimated to our reader, will cross platforms back to emailed newsletters without you experiencing friction loss.

7. This locks you in. It makes us more likely to keep you without actually having to be competitive and benefit you. It's good for us, and bad for you.

Substack has done an awful lot for me, but I'm looking for some way this makes sense to do as a company besides what I've already laid out. If there was any chance this was to my benefit at all, I don't think I'd be so negative. But Substack has consistently shied away from any type of audience-building help, any content funnel, or really any way for me to benefit from a growing "substack users" population at all.

At the same time, that very concept of "Substack users" is counter-productive; you've brought me almost none of my audience - I had to find it myself. Now I find plans to convert my audience from "my audience" to "our audience" and potentially eventually "substack's audience" without any proposed benefit to me.

Why is this a good deal? Why do I want this?

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Thank you for this thoughtful critique. Hearing this kind of stuff is valuable for us, and we take it as input for what we do going forward. I'll walk you through how we're thinking about this.

We want Substack to be the place where you can build your most valuable audience. That means you own your connection to the audience - you can reach them any time, unmediated by an algorithm (modulo the gmail promotion tab). It means it is portable: you can leave Substack and take it with you, you have exit rights (which in turn gives us the incentive to serve you well). And it means you can get paid and get 90% of the economics.

When we look at the data, it turns out that while paid conversion is important and will always matter, the biggest lever right now is helping readers discover new writers that they will fall in love with. We think the app can be a big step up in that. You are right that in the first version, we basically replicated the discovery functionality we already have - featured, search, leaderboard, profiles - but already we are seeing a big uptick in the effectiveness of all of these things, because they are more integrated into the readers' experience. And, we think there are a lot of ways we can improve this in the app as usage grows. We specifically want to do discovery in ways that uses the trusted, human relationships you have on Substack to find new stuff, and this unlocks a lot of that.

We have also taken pains to preserve the fundamental contract. As always, you have the emails and can take them with you. As always, you can reach the folks who have chosen to subscribe directly. That said, I hear what you are saying both about the way we set up the delivery options, and on the paid stuff, and we'll definitely be watching these closely and looking for ways to improve. The last thing we want is to hurt the connection you have with readers, or to cause people to pay less, because after all our business depends on both of those things too.

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I don't want to push too hard on this, but the potential pain of the downsides starts for me, today, now. Lower conversion-to-paid rates start now, and lock-in starts now.

Conversion from current discovery is so low that it would have to be orders of a magnitude higher to make a dent. When I'm facing disadvantage *today*, I become really very hungry for something more concrete than "Discovery might get better; we are looking into it.". I want to know things like this:

1. What are the concrete, planned ways discovery is going to change, beyond "leaderboard, profile shares"? Search isn't good enough - that's by definition people I brought to Substack, not vice versa.

2. What are the real, observed and specific improvements in currently existing Discovery component performance? Are we talking orders of a magnitude, or single digit percentages?

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Thank you for writing the above. You make some really great points. I find the whole thing depressing as I look to navigate how I might use Substack as a completely unknown talent. I would love to see a spread sheet illustrating Substack's income relative to the numbers of members and their subscriber size and income. How little is the little guy and how many of us are there? How big is the big one and how many are there of them? What's the average subscriber size on Substack and average conversion rate? Might be a big downer.

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I'd love to hear a response from Substack re this....

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I second everything you’ve said here, but I’ve also just read Chris’ feedback, and am hopeful that this app will be a net positive as it matures. But for this to happen, Substack will have to heed these important concerns you’ve outlined, and not forget about them. As I read your post, it echoed exactly what was running through my brain!

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[Writers requested I pin this answer so here goes!]

The default way for readers who sign up to the app to receive your posts is to keep receiving them via email and the app.

In onboarding, we ask readers: Do you want to turn on push notifications?

If a reader says no --> they keep getting emails and will also see your posts in the app.

If a reader says yes --> only then in the next screen do we give them the option to pause emails and only receive app posts (to prevent them from both receiving email push notifications and app push notifications for the same post).

Regardless of their choice on this screen, readers' email addresses will still be added when they subscribe to your publication.

And if that subscriber at some point stops reading in the app or turns off notifications, we revert to sending them your posts via email so you don't lose your connection with them.

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Thank you very much for the clarification, Bailey! This makes me feel better.

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Brilliant. Thank you. :)

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I mean, my worry is that the feed you've introduced essentially prioritizes posting as much as possible. If everyone is dipping into a feed, then those who post more will get more views. So it really disincentives those of us who post rarely (like once a week or every other week) since these will effectively never be seen in the app.

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I think this is a good point. As others have pointed out, the app is modeled on the logic of how an email inbox works, on the theory that this fits with how writers and readers use Substack.

But.. I think you're also right! The inbox format *does* privilege posting fairly often, and we do see that up to a certain limit, posting more often does help growth. Right now the limiting factor is if you send way more email than someone wants, they will unsubscribe.

This means it's currently tough for very low frequency but high value stuff, and I'd be interested in ways the app could help readers prioritize that kind of thing if they want to.

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One way you could do this is to allow the reader to sort their inbox by publication. So for each newsletter they are subscribed to, there would be a link/menu on the left side that would display only the posts from that newsletter. That way, people can say, oh, I'm in the mood to catch up on X newsletter today, so they click on that newsletter, and only see those. That would help readers easily be able to select what they want to read, and then newsletters that don't post as often don't get buried in the newsletters that do post frequently.

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Oh! I should have read what you said first. I am suggesting something similar.

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Eg. "long reads, big reads, monthly reads", some sort of category that can bring up the high value stuff in such a way that it gets the attention it deserves. Quick templated curated links are fun and valuable daily, but at the opposite pole are the thoughtful long monthlies that have lasting meaning and a different readership. They may be better served as email newsletters than on the app at this time.

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I actually think this objection applies to both the email inbox *and* the app inbox which is designed to copy it. People who send their email newsletter more consistently and more frequently have an advantage just in email and web world, regardless of the app. In email this is hard to fix, but I think in the app there might be more we could do to help you keep tabs on high value stuff.

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Yes, that is true, and I know that Substack actually counsels people to write often and regularly, but that is not how all readers like to interact with their favorite substack publishers.

I know I don't like to read everything that comes to me right away. I feel besieged. The point is to be in control of my feed and my interaction with information. If you could create an app that thinks in terms not of doom scrolling or NOW NOW NOW, but "When I want what I want", it would be a plus for both the reader and the publisher.

I write regularly, but only once weekly. I just don't see the point in more than that, and hello. Have you noticed how many of your regular publishers, including myself, have written lately about their burn out? A LOT!!

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That's exactly why I am being cautious to start and observing, to see if it is the right place - or can become the right place. It is all up to us in the end, and we have to make technology work for us, not the other way around.

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Is there a way you could give the app user a way to filter according to the frequency of how often they are already accustomed to reading the publisher? I have found that roughly half of my readers open me right away, while the other half wait for days or sometimes even weeks, before they open up and read my posts.

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Very helpful clarification, for a monthly high value newsletter...

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Sounds like a job for an algorithmic feed =)

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Yeah -- but where is it and what are the algorithms based on and did I hallucinate or does it exist? :/

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The feed, as it stands, is only made up of the reader’s chosen subscriptions. So the issue you’re describing would be the same if they were receiving emails, though now you’re also not competing with every other email they receive.

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Most people store and eventually open incoming emails. No one is going to scroll back days in the app, it will be completely missed. So very different.

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Not true. I was an app beta tester and I am more likely to read "older" posts in the app than I was to read emails.

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Agreed. I also tested the app and I loved being able to scroll back and say "Oh, has Unseen St. Louis posted recently?" instead of trying to dig through my hellfire of an inbox.

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Interesting, Jackie. Thanks for sharing that.

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I was a beta tester, and I disagree. The thing is, once you read a newsletter on the app, you can archive it. It moves out of the inbox feed. So the feed clears except for unread newsletters. I end up reading more newsletters in the app than email because I don't have to store newsletters in an email folder that I rarely went back too.

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I work here so you can call my bias, but I actually do love "browsing" my inbox!

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@Erik :o you are good at thoughts and words and asserting articulately as fuck the things that usually feel like custard when tryna call out a business doing us dirty. Thank you for the frankly catHARTIC READ

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I have a suggestion for stats that would be helpful. I see writers post the question a lot of what is the best day of the week or time of day to send out their post. I think a stats page that gives a graph of opens over time would be helpful for deciphering when your readers are most likely to open your email. Yes, there will probably always be a peak in the 24 hrs after you send it out, but what if there is a second peak later that is the time that most people are actually reading the post rather than just glancing through it? I know that Substack already tracks when readers open the emails, because you can go and look that up. But it's too bulky to try to look that up that for every individual reader for every post. A graph that displays opens vs. time for the first seven days after a post is published could be helpful to learn whether you should change when you should send out your posts.

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This is a neat idea! In general, very excited about better stats & tools to help writers understand how their posts get read.

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We want it all! Thank you!

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Along this line, as a new writer, I feel judged by the 24 hour stats email, LOL. If I don't see at least two fire emojis, I feel like that post failed. I'd rather be notified about how a post did over a longer time period, since I post on Friday night and many readers don't open right away.

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Those fire emojis drive me bats!!!

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If they bother a veteran writer like yourself, Madame, then I think we can agree that the practice sucks.

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Yes! I'm still getting a feel for what day of the week I should aim to publish, and it would be good to have something more concrete to go on.

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I think this is an incredibly useful idea.

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Great idea! And for podcasting, peaks in downloads would also be useful, just to add another layer of complication :)

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Yes, I like the idea of a graph. At the moment I'm sending Fri 5pm EST, my thought for this time was a woman, finishing work, on the commute home, something to look forward to, to escape. Is that a good time?

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i would like this. The more analytics, the better! thanks.

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Love the virtual category tour! Wondering if Substack can create a humor category? I’ve been publishing humor on Substack for more than a year (I know I’m not alone), but I’ve had to shoe-horn myself into the most relevant categories. Culture was first (honored, but that’s a little high-brow for my stuff), then fiction (which sorta fits and sorta doesn’t). Please, Substack, give funny newsletters a home!

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Great feedback :)

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Thank you! Really appreciate the work you and the community team does to keep the dialogue going with writers! I use a different platform for fiction and I know how labor-intensive it is to do the work your team does.

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There’s no humor category? That seems a gross oversight. Writers are funny too! 😬

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Not yet. But then again, I remember the days when fiction writers were advocating for a category, so I’m confident we’ll get there

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Yup. The Fiction category eventually happened. But poor non-niche writers like me who write humor, fiction, comics, and assorted other creative writing in one newsletter will never have a category. Maybe Variety or the dreaded Other. 🤣

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What’s APP-ening, everybody?

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I see what you did there...

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If you can’t have fun with a product launch, did it even launch?

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We're apping a really good time!

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Mostly just h-appy about the release

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I was a beta tester for the app and loved how I was able to remove my (rather numerous!) subscriptions from my email inbox. I also find that despite some limitations, I prefer reading in the app over email. It's a nicer experience to just open up the app and graze for a bit when I have time and it doesn't feel so much like "work".

For those brand new to the app and are already skeptical, give it a few days before you panic. It's not perfect - few new launches like this are - but it's really good. It's possible there may be a few bumps in the road as Substack works out the kinks but I feel confident that it will end up being a good thing for those of us writing Substacks rather than a hindrance!

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Thanks for building with us, Jackie.

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Good point Jackie. I'm sure they will be tweaking the app as we go. Software is never perfect. I am happy with the app so far!

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I was excited about the app - but I realize now you've made it "either/or" for notifications instead of "both/or". If I toggle it to email, they all go to my email. I was hoping for both app notifications AND email.

Ideally, we'd be able to make this choice by newsletter but at least we should be able to make a different choice for our own newsletter vs newsletters we subscribe to.

And lastly, please allow us to toggle off notifications for likes on comments of newsletters where we are readers. Those fill up my email box (or notifications) so fast I can't see notifications about actual comments or posts.

Thank you!

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So, if I'm reading this right, if someone downloads the app and has notifications go to the app, then they don't get the post in their email? Is that right? I'm on Android so can't test it myself. As a writer, I would want my readers to have the option to do email, app, or both. It sounds like from this that both isn't an option. I'd definitely be another vote for allowing the post to be sent to both.

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Hi Karen, The default is that the posts are sent to both. The option is to have the post go just to the app, and not email, but you have to do that in the app settings.

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When I launched the app, the default was to send to the app only

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not mine, as of just now.

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The current default is that if readers choose to receive app notifications instead of email, that preference will be respected. Like Josh mentioned, it's possible to enable push notifications without pausing email too.

Our prediction is that people will be read and discover *more* in the app, but Substack is only incentivized to improve app use insofar as it gains writers more subscribers and revenue — so while we predict this will create a net gain for new subscriptions, retention, and engagement, we’d definitely revisit the design if that doesn’t happen.

Finally, writers will always get all readers' emails in a list, and the plan is to begin re-sending emails after a couple weeks if a reader becomes inactive in the app.

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But with all due respect, if the reader doesn't actively choose it, the default will be app only? (Putting aside preference will be respected)

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Turns out I didn't choose to receive notifications. I was wrong. Jasmine below clarified the answer. Thanks.

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Hmmmm... I get both, actually. I think you can adjust that in the app, in Settings > Notifications

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I might be wrong but I've tried several different settings and I seem to get one or the other so far. I'd love if someone could tell me exactly how to do it!

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Sure. Along the bottom part of the screen, look for the icon that looks like a person. Tap that, which takes you to your profile.

Then, when you get to your profile, look at the top of the screen and you'll see a gear icon. That's your Settings.

Tap the gear icon and then a tray will open up at the bottom of the screen -- you'll see Notifications in there.

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I did that - but I can only toggle email on or off. When I toggle it on, I don't get notifications in the app.

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thanks, that was my question too

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For me, it’s working “both, or just the app”, and for those who haven’t seen it, there’s a switch in there to choose.

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Josh - I can definitely say that once I toggled the email back on, I didn't get notified of new posts, only likes or comments. I just went and checked on the ones for today.

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I do see her new post in the "inbox" - is there a way to move something out of the "inbox" after you read it so you know which ones you haven't read?

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Ah - so I see I can just swipe it to the right and it disappears from the inbox. So I guess I don't *need* notifications for new posts. Basically this was all just me not figuring out how it worked and being frustrated! At least I will know what to tell my readers I guess, lol.

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Yes, it is turned on. Just going in the app now, I saw a notification for this comment, but no notification for the new post from "The Gardening Mind" which arrived in my email. So I'm getting notifications for comments and likes, but not for new posts where I'm subscribed. (Not sure about anything on my own newsletter as I haven't posted since Sunday.)

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Thanks - and no, all the same email address.

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Hmmm. Ok, I see - I get notifications about comments and likes but NOT about new posts? I just have to find new posts in the "feed" it looks like. I would really love to get a notification when someone has put out a new post so I don't miss it and can easily find it!

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Looks fantastic, love it - Thanks to the Substack team!

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Thanks Jolene! We appreciate the kind words.

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Hi,

I love the new mobile app EXCEPT for one thing:

When you turn on notifications, it automatically TURNS OFF EMAIL DELIVERY.

I wish this was opt-in rather than opt-out, as to many people it won't be obvious why they stop getting emails. Maybe the app was their secondary reading place, and now they are not getting emails on their laptop where they read substack that they have paid for.

I can see both sides, but i feel like the failure mode is worse when it’s opt-out than when it’s opt-in.

Worse case with with opt-in is they have more notifications that they have to turn off, or go in settings to opt-in the feature.

Worse case with opt-out is people have no idea why they’re not getting emails, they miss content they paid for for weeks, possible content that is time-sensitive, etc

I think it would be fine to show people a popup that asks them if they want to stop getting emails delivered, but it should be very clear, very explicit, and very opt-in.

I also feel non-technical users will never go in settings and will never understand the vocabulary of what it means, so they are at a big disadvantage if something important in their reading flow changes. So default should change as little as possible to most regular people.

Savvy users will figure it out whether it’s opt-in or opt-out.

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Thanks, this is valuable feedback.

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Thank you for reading, I appreciate it.

I know substack is very aligned with readers and writers, so I hope it all works out win-win-win in the end.

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I want my readers to read my web site first, the app 2nd or 3rd. How do we make sure that when we post all of our readers get our emails?

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I second all of this, especially "I think it would be fine to show people a popup that asks them if they want to stop getting emails delivered, but it should be very clear, very explicit, and very opt-in."

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Furthermore, now I feel so stressed about this -- the possibility that some people will be missing emails they've paid money for -- that I feel like I have to mention it in my next issue. I wasn't going to talk about the app at all -- I honestly don't care that much about the app; if it works for other people, great, it's just not for me -- but if my subscribers suddenly might need guidance about it (and I have no idea if they are using the app or not), I have to say something. I'm the steward of their experience with my newsletter, and this is messing with that.

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Hey Liberty - let me clarify!

The default way for readers who sign up to the app to receive your posts is to keep receiving them via email and the app.

In onboarding, we ask readers: Do you want to turn on push notifications?

-If a reader says no --> they keep getting emails and will also see your posts in the app.

-If a reader says yes --> only then in the next screen do we give them the option to pause emails and only receive app posts (to prevent them from both receiving email push notifications and app push notifications for the same post).

Regardless of their choice on this screen, readers' email addresses will still be added when they subscribe to your publication.

And if that subscriber at some point stops reading in the app or turns off notifications, we revert to sending them your posts via email so you don't lose your connection with them.

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Hi Kelsa,

Maybe it's not entirely clear to me because I was on the beta of the app, so onboarded the app long ago, but a friend and sub of mine sent me screenshots of his app, and it seemed like he was opted-in without changing anything for the option to stop email deliveries when he turned on mobile notification.

My suggestion is for people to have to expressly make the choice to press that button to stop email deliveries, rather than for it to be auto-selected after mobile notifications are selected. Many many people just skip through these things, leave defaults, and won't expect to stop getting emails, IMO.

Unless I'm totally misunderstanding what the situation is.

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I understand that the goal is to avoid people getting notified twice, but if that happens, it's a smaller problem (and more easily fixable by looking for the notification options and noticing the option to opt-in) than to have people who didn't want to stop getting emails stop getting them because they were opted-in and missing newsletters (potentially time-sensitive) that they subscribed and paid for.

Not getting emails is a much much bigger change to someone's reading workflow than potentially getting notified twice, so it should be only enabled from an action by the user, IMO.

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Thanks for this clarification, Kelsa!

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I had the same issue, and I think my readers will need a bit of hand-holding to find their way to be able to see both on email and on the app.

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Right? I feel like I've just gotten some of them past the whole Gmail "Promotions tab" thing.

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If this option was clearly opt-in, I don't think any hand-holding would be necessary and there would be a lot less confusion.

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Congrats on the launch. When can we expect the Android version to come out?

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I'm waiting on that too. Can't wait to have a play with it.

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Thanks! We don't have an exact date to share yet, but ASAP :)

If you'd like to be the first to know, you can drop your email address here https://substack.com/app/android-waitlist

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Thanks. I've already done that. Can't wait to see it. Hopefully some of the feedback and issues from the iOS version can be ironed out too so us Android users will benefit from that

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Having looked through all the comments on the app, a major issue to me is that it won't show email headers and footers. I often write a preamble in the header for my subscribers that I wouldn't necessarily want on the web version. Is there a schedule to add this feature? When?

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Thanks, this is good feedback. Right now those are "email" headers and footers, but I can see the case that you'd want them in email *and the app* but not on web.

Could you explain a bit more about how you use them, and what would work well for you? For example, do you change them every post, or keep them constant? You mention that you write a preamble for subscribers - would it be good if that showed up on the web too if the visitor was a subscriber?

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Hi Chris - the footer is usually the same each time. It's about sharing and subscribing. But I change the header every time. Sometimes I don't have one and so my email starts with the article.

In today's post (which you can see here - https://gentlecreative.substack.com/p/want-an-escape-route-from-your-day?s=w) I had the following little intro in my header:

If you read the short description for Gentle Creative it says “gentle, realistic advice about writing with an occasional dollop of tough love.”

Today’s article (below) is one of those dollops of tough love. Sorry!

But I still love you all!

Keep plodding gently

Cali x

I use the header to do a more personal communication with my subscribers which I don't have on the web version. The web version is straight into the article.

So if the app doesn't have that, then I might have to put that intro into the top of the article and then remove it after the email has gone out. The downside of that is it will happen after the Heading of the article. At the moment my little note is at the top of the email and then you get into the article. I like that.

At the moment I haven't publicised the app to my readers because I don't want them to lose this feature. As an Android user, this is hard because I can't see the app myself and figure out how to play to it's advantage.

Thanks for coming on line today and answering feedback. I'm sure the app will get there in the end and it will benefit all of us.

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It's not quite the same thing, but I go back once my newsletter has gone out and add headers and footers to the web version of my newsletter already. I do this before I share them to social media, on the rationale that readers who come across my newsletter that way may not be subscribers and so might require that context. I also add a prompt to subscribe to my newsletter, and I think that's improved how often people who see it on social media subscribe. Although that would have readers seeing the same content on the web as the app

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Me too, Cali and Melanie, I make tweaks to the web version after sending the email, including switching "Share" buttons to "Subscribe" buttons so that people who get to the web version are prompted to subscribe, but email-receivers are prompted to share.

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Thanks Melanie. There's usually a workaround. I had subscribe buttons too after the email has gone out so that people arriving from social media can see them

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- Why is it that people are now able to bypass email entirely and read everything on an app through which it is impossible to become a paid subscriber?

- At the bottom of 'subscribers only' posts, readers are told that they must become a paid subscriber to continue reading, but are given no options or even directions on how to do so.

- The headers and footers of what used to be our emails have disappeared. It was in these sections that I often asked people to become a paid subscriber.

- If payments are eventually activated on the app, what kind of cut will Apple be taking? Will that cut be absorbed by Substack?

Thanks. The app looks lovely by the way, but as a writer it feels lack a step backwards.

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Thanks.

The idea with the email setting is to have an option for people who are reading in the app not to get emails for those posts. We figure that's a win/win - it's nice as the reader not to see a duplicate, and it's nice as the writer not to send a bunch of email that gets filtered or ignored and might hurt deliverability. Then, we can still send the email if the reader isn't in the app, or for things that require a paid upsell, etc. And of course you always get the email list and the right to email folks. The thinking is that this gives the best of both worlds. That said, we hear the feedback and will continue to look for ways to improve.

Re paying in the app: there are limits to what we can do currently in the Apple ecosystem. In this initial version we contact folks through email to help them with the payment process, but we'll definitely be tracking closely how this is going and looking for ways to make sure that we're helping folks pay -- after all, our business depends on that too.

Great feedback on the headers and footers. And thanks for checking out the app!

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Not a tech person, and I realize this means someone would leave the app, but could there just be a button or link that takes them out to a paid subscription option in the browser on their phone? That seems like it would be pretty easy to add, possibly as a button?

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Hail, Chris!

I was FLUMMOXED when I realized readers could not subscribe to their favorite Substacks on the app. So tell me if this works:

1. People can not subscribe to their favor writeres from the app.

2. When people on the app click "manage subscription" of their favorite writers, they are shown a screen page that says YOU CAN NOT MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IN THE APP.

3. So what we writers should do is put a link to the WEBSITE post with each new essay and say SUBSCRIBE HERE.

Does that work? Or am I missing something?

Ravishing regards,

E. Jean

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You *can* sign up for the email list within the app. You just can’t pay within the app quite yet. Once those folks are ready to upgrade to a paid subscription they can do it in email or on the web.

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Chris! Hail! ASTONISHINGLY, I just payed for a subscription on my iPhone (with apple pay) by CLICKING a link WITHIN MY ESSAY which took me to my Ask E. Jean Website Subscribe Button:

Within the essay I wrote: "Are You on the Substack App and Can’t Figure Out How the Hell to Subscribe…..Click Here"

I placed it right before the Pay Wall cut off---and low and behold!

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So, you and Substack will be making 10% off this sweet little work around.

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Good points to make. I was just thinking to add a header too!

I would like to see the number of user who would prefer the app over email. It’s still early and worth playing with a bit. We’ll work the kinks out. It’s as positive that so much user feedback is being taken and incorporated.

I’m no IT person but the app may be a rendering device for now, pulling from the website. In that way, payments may still belong solely to Substack.

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From what I understand, the paid subscriber side of things is to be resolved at a later date, and this isn't how it's supposed to - or eventually going to - work? So in this regard, while the rest of the app is a v1.0, the paid subscription side of things is a v0.1? (ie. currently a workaround that sends you to the Web version because there's no other way of doing it.)

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In their launch post, they say they're "optimistic" about a payment option on the app at some point. Nothing solid. So in the meantime we need to hope people don't just ignore Substack emails (which was the whole point of Substack, wasn't it?) and the website entirely and read everything on the app.

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Yes. And as to your specific points on paid subscriber prompts, sorry, you're absolutely right there, my bad. Maybe the in-app functionality isn't in place and that will be resolved later, but right now we need to have those same prompts as links to the Web version of those pages. If they're just missing, it's hobbling our ability to attract paid signups.

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Thanks for the question Mike.

Right now the two flows are (1) a special email that goes out immediately after a new free subscription from the app, and (2) the "manage subscription" button that any existing free subscribers can access from the publication page in the app.

We're tracking the paid conversion funnel for new subscribers that discover via the app very closely in this initial window. While there are some limitations in the app that don't exist on web, there are also some benefits presented by the app too (e.g. everyone who finds you in the app is already logged in and has an account, and won't have to type in their email address, wait for the login link, go to their email, then back to web, etc.). Overall, we are sincerely optimistic we can make these flows work really well and result in net-positive paid subscribers for writers. There's a lot more we can do, and it's critically important work that we'll be prioritizing.

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Thanks for this, Sachin, I appreciate the thoughtful answer. (And thanks should really be to Shaun for his original comment, because I wasn't considering all this until he pointed it out.)

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seems to be the case for now...

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Thank you! I haven't actually even seen the app yet because my iPhone is old enough to not have the requisite operating system. So, I have to go spend money I don't really have to see an app that doesn't really do what my emails to folks already do? I'm trying to see the upside, but given the problems you're noting, I don't really.

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Shaun, here's the work-around.

1. People can not subscribe to you from the app.

2. When people on the app click "manage subscription," and page comes up that says YOU CAN NOT MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IN THE APP.

3. So what we should do is put a link to our WEBSITE with each new post and say SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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Good questions. I'm posting here so I can see what the response is from substack. I'm on Android so haven't see it yet but losing the email headers and footers seems bad. I like to put a bit of a preamble in the header sometimes that I don't want on the web version of the article.

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I write a newsletter for working moms who care about career success AND being an involved parent. I've been doing some marketing through Facebook groups, but I'd love to hear other suggestions for how to reach my target audience.

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What I do is go where my potential subscribers are. 1. twitter. 2. Stocktwits.com. 3. LinkedIn. 4. SeekingAlpha.com.

If I was you, I would make a point of posting on parenting sites' comments sections and message boards.

Find a couple of very popular sub stack parenting sites. Subscribe. Post comments. Be supportive and nice, not critical. Remember, you're trying to sell yourself.

You are what you post.

LinkedIn might work, too, if you respond to women who post comments and articles about careers. There, focus on the careers aspect. On the parenting sites, focus on parenting. And definitely stay on topic, whatever it is.

Post some of your sub stack articles that are relevant to whatever is being discussed in a thread. I've done that and gotten lots of new subscribers. Pardon my gratuitous advice. :)

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Coming here is a start! I’ve gotten subscribers that way. There’s also social media if you have a lot of followers. Not sure how well that converts. You can also join communities or do cross promotions.

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Promote everywhere!

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YouTopian is correct. The more places you have your newsletter linked and listed, the more people will passively trickle in. Occasionally, something you post will be a hit and you'll get a good chunk of subscribers.

I try to post my stuff in Facebook groups where I think my target audience will be active already. Try to think in terms of utility to the people you're after. Is the content you're sharing something they'll find directly useful?

My substack is split into 3 sections. I have a different strategy for promoting all of them.

-A podcast where I interview people. This gets me new subscribers via followers of my interview subject

-A breaking news service. This nets me click traffic and subscribers from Facebook groups where the articles are shareable

-Personal Essays on the outdoors. I try to avoid sharing these altogether. These get picked up by my core subscriber base and reposted on social media.

Hope this helps!

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Great question, me too. Wish I could give you more of an answer!

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Hey everyone. Happy Thursday. LOVE these Office Hours. Two requests:

1. Anyone know if "Writing" will be added as a reader interest? Please say yes! I'm a writing/memoir coach, and my newsletter, "Writers' Haven with Christine Wolf" (https://christinewolf.substack.com) focuses on process and craft.

2. In my quest to connect with other writers and feature profiles about their unique approaches, I'd love to hear from Substackers willing to share their experiences growing and thriving on this platform. If you're willing to be featured in my series "Writers on Writing", please reach out to me at christine (at) christinewolf (dot) com.

Thanks so much

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We have "Literature" and "Fiction" - do you think we should change one to "writing"?

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Yes. Or have Writing as well. I write about the creative/writing process - it is neither Fiction nor Literature. If you had a Creativity tag, that would help.

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Yes, I agree, as I focus on non-fiction, and help others with the business of writing.

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I'm another vote for "Writing" as a category. Please!

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Why not go with a BSIAC-type of subcategory system?

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I recommend everyone reach out! It was great being featured!

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Thanks for being our first interview!

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I will be in touch with my experiences. As a writing coach I do deal with fellow writers who are working on select memoirs, and have secured my page to start sharing some of the process - just starting to go digital actually, so this connection is great. You will see my Substack experiences from the ground up.

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Yes I agree - we need a "writing" category

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Just sent you an email, Christine!

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Thanks, Sarah. I'll be in touch soon!

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Looking forward to it!

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Ive just joined. Starting a creative writing thread. Should I post an image on my Announcement Page, just because people like images? Not a kitten, obvs. Or maybe a kitten. With a typewriter.

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Images are a great way to capture readers attention and drum up excitement. We have a resource here on visuals for your publication. https://on.substack.com/p/grow-3?s=w

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kitten with a typewriter is perfect!!

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A kitten ON a typewriter, now you're talkin'.

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Is there another kind?

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Kittens sell! Typewriters, not so much - ancient machine (even though I like them). A kitten on the typewriter is better than on the keyboard, but watch out for the fur on the carbon ribbon.;)

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It's your party! do whatever you want!!!

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I always like kittens! 🐈

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Am I in the right place? Where is the actual conversation that includes Chris Best fielding these questions?

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Hi! Here I am

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Hi, Chris. I may not be able to stay with this thread, but I wanted to say I have been with you guys from nearly the very first day and I love it. xx

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Thanks Whitney!

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Whitney, the Substack team (including Chris, I assume) doesn't show up until Office Hours officially starts, on the hour, but many people arrive after the initial email goes out (an hour ahead of time). So he's just not here yet 😊

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But it is 1PM on the East Coast, and I clicked in on the link that said Starting in five minutes, which was five minutes ago. Thanks

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We were just settling into our little Zoom session as a team, but we're here now!

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I didn't know you guys were on Zoom as you jumped into the thread! 👀

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Yes! It's a great way for people from our team who work in different parts of the company to hang.

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Love the new app. Thank you so much for creating it. I promoted it on my newsletter today along with the results of discounted one-year subscription offer donated to World Central Kitchen. 🇺🇦

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As a writer I think it would be fantastic to have a link right at the paywall that would enable readers to become subscribers. Perhaps a link to the website in a separate browser? Or are you unable to provide such links due to iOS restrictions?

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I’ve added a custom button before the paywall on a post.

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Clever. Thanks for the idea

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YOU ARE A BRILLIANT WOMAN, CHEVANNE! This turns out to be the only way some one on the app can get to a page to subscribe.

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People can click on the three dots to view in browser and subscribe that way. Not ideal but it works.

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Jackie, alas, No. You can not subscribe from the app. When you click "Manage Subscription," you receive a screen which says YOU CAN NOT MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION IN THE APP. Chevanne's idea of putting your link from the website post is the way to go!!

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Right, you can’t do it in the app - but if you view the Substack in the browser, you can. It’s in elegant and many users will probably never go that far but it does work. I have successfully added a paid subscription and unsubscribed from Substacks that way.

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Jackie, what are those emojis you are using.....I can't grok them

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You mean in this thread? Most are just smilie faces. Do you not see them?

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Oddly, no, I don't see 'em, but I love your messages!

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Mar 10, 2022·edited Mar 10, 2022

If Chris can answer this, it would be great: Can we please get an option to disable showing the "Welcome page" to people who haven't subscribed? I don't want to shove the email form in people's faces before they've read or browsed anything. I've personally seen the welcome page also being confusing to many readers, and it deters them from browsing at all—"Let me read first" isn't intuitive. It's also really annoying for people who *choose* to browse my articles from the Web and just don't prefer email.

The welcome page is my single biggest gripe with Substack. Sending people to the /about or /archive pages directly doesn't help because the moment people click on the logo or title to visit the homepage, the email form is shown again. If Substack is marketing the platform as being designed for "Bloggers" too (https://substack.com/for-bloggers), then they shouldn't treat publications as merely being newsletters with an email form.

The new Substack app allows people to read and discover Substacks without being shown the welcome form, it only makes sense to have the Web version behave the same too. While I would understand not changing it by default but why not at least have it as an option for writers? Substack already lets writers toggle a bunch of major and minor settings to tweak their publication, why not this too?

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Agreed. It puts up the velvet rope right at the beginning. I was put off by it when I first started but if people are mostly readers, it’s even more annoying.

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I love the app for reading. It is convenient to have all the newsletters I subscribe to (and none others) in one place and easily accessed. I don't have to scroll through other emails to find them (and they will never go to a spam folder.) I don't particularly enjoy reading in my email app (which I intentionally only open once per day.) The Substack app is a nicer reading experience, in my opinion.

It is also easier to comment on the app. You don't have to go to the website, comments are built in. So hopefully that will boost engagement.

Obviously, paid subscribing and discovery need work, but I am hopeful those will improve in later versions.

Thanks, Substack for making the Substack newsletters reading experience so much better.

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Thank you for the feedback, Mark!

I totally agree with you on reading (and I'm especially excited about comments/community so writers can get more feedback and reader interaction), and both paid subscriptions and discovery are top of mind for future improvements.

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I agree that commenting is much easier on the app and I appreciate that tremendously.

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So many great questions!! Is it possible to produce a FAQ after this closes? Or better, just a list of actual answers to issues that came up without regard to frequency of “asks”?

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Hi Michael! We have started answering some q's here - https://on.substack.com/p/writerfaq?s=w

And it's likely we'll keep growing this!

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