174 Comments
Aug 3, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

I really hope Substack wins here. Email + no algorithms + no ads is a *far* better, less manipulative model than traditional social media.

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If Substack does win, it's going to be because of a movement of people like you showing the way. Let's go.

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I'm all for creating an authentic community!

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Ideological differentiation of the product is a significant part of Substack's success so far.

In a more competitive environment in Newsletter platforms, and with Newsletter and Subscription overload, how can Substack remain fresh with new iterations of the product? Some level of product-market fit has been achieved, but for scalability what you can design that nobody else can imitate?

It's not a challenge I'd wish on any CTO or VP of Product to be honest.

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I like getting recommendation from someone I know or follow rather then getting it by algorithms. When I saw that Substack enables it's writers to refer couple of newsletters that they follow to their readers without any direct monetization but promote their writers in this way, that was my "trust is built on me" moment.

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We need to reimagine, rethink what community looks like in the digital world. It's why I left Instagram and exactly why I started on Substack.

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Count me in, Erin! A little nervous for such a big change, but let’s do it!

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I totally agree! I did the exact same thing, left Instagram at the same time I found Substack.

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This is incredibly timely! Just yesterday, I shared with my already existing ~2500 people email list my plan to start an artist community here on Substack. With just one email I already have paying subscribers, something I didn’t even dream of before yesterday. Ive been wanting to start a free community for some time but no platform felt right. I am really excited about the prospect of now growing this community here. I especially love that my members don’t have to constantly check an app but instead get updates right in their inboxes.

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well said

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Congratulations Lauren! It is so nice to see other artists making their way to Substack. After loosing some of my mojo for Instagram, I joined Substack in April to begin a new Blog. I love this platform free of algorithms. Love the wonderful people I met on Instagram, but am so disenchanted with where the platform is headed. Good luck! xx

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I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been writing on Substack for almost two years, and added a paid premium a couple of months ago, with surprising success. I am in the process of building the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative https://iowawriters.substack.com/. I’ve gone to their towns and showed them how to create their own columns. It’s working. We are all professional writers. One is a Pulitzer winner. Take a look! Thank you for doing this!

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Slightly related - Iowa has great rest-stops, and one's theme is about famous Iowa writers. Kudos!

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Aug 3, 2022·edited Aug 4, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

I originally came to Substack because it was a clean and easy way to blog and send newsletters. It was only afterwards that I realised it actually represented an escape from algorithmic despair. As you change and expand the platform, I really hope you find ways to keep it that way. As both a writer and reader, it reminds me of the 1990s in the strength and quality of discussion and community involvement, while being very forward-thinking in its actual implementation.

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Same here! - the algorithm-freedom caught me by surprise too, and also made me remember the 1990s, specifically hanging out in Tower Records listening to music for free, reading Interview magazine and zines, and striking up conversations with random people lol.

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I love this description of substack - I just wrote a blog post about my interest in the quieter/non-invasive spaces on the internet. TikTok feels like the noisy bar you go to as an intern during your first summer in NYC and substack feels like a nice country home you have to escape the city. This platform has provided both the reader and writer control over, what I call, their “virtual” personal space.

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Haa haa! You nailed it! TikTok feels like a global talent contest, which is exactly why I like it. It is noisy though . . .

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We publish three services on Substack and love the platform. We run private communities elsewhere (on Slack and also on Seeking Alpha). We would LOVE it if Substack offered a chatroom function for exactly the reasons you say. Ideally for our paying members only and ideally within the Substack app as well as website. It would be well worth an additional pay-away on the subscription fees.

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I agree, I have a monthly Zoom with my paid subscribers. It's a close-knit community. How about a chat room?

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Right, where Substack manages the conditional access ie no manual reconciliation to your active payor database

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Exactly!! Otherwise, we all use Zoom and there's no need/incentive to collect the money though Substack when it is cheaper directly through Stripe and then Zoom to execute the paid service.

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I lead the larget online community of people with hearing loss in Latin America, and Substack has been the best way to keep in touch with this amazing community. I'm sick of algorithms, and I feel blessed for being able to reach my readers the way Substack allows me to. Keep doing this amazing work.

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Spot on post Substack! The algorithms behind the big social media sites are increasingly being geared to serve bottom line and not users. Zuckerberg admitted as much last week when he said that Instagram feeds next year will go from 15% to 30% of content suggested by AI, which in human speak is 15% more advertising.

Substack keeps it real and organic as it should be. In the 8 months of using this platform I've had better and deeper interactions with users more than the whole of my experience using Twitter or the various Meta properties.

Keep going strong!

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100%. This is why I switched from writing on Medium to Substack in May as well. The people reading my stuff are real and engaged, which lets me focus on creating great stories rather than worrying about how to game inscrutable algorithms.

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“The people...are real”--number one reason I love Substack. Readers and Substack creators.

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Hell yes, Hamish!

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This post spoke to my heart. I am becoming increasingly apprehensive about reaching audience through social media given our often-conflicting priorities. Their priority–user time and selling ads. My priority - connecting with my audience in meaningful ways. It's for this reason that I'm just about to start my own substack!

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I think that's something Substack writers will have to contend with. The lack of an algorithm is great, but it means we have to figure out how to trip the social media algos elsewhere to get any readership.

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Aug 3, 2022·edited Aug 3, 2022Liked by Hamish McKenzie

It is a challenge to find our audience ourselves, but that doesn't necessarily rely on social media algorithms. I did find some of my audience that way, but I found more by connecting with other writers (the Substack Grow workshops have advice on this https://substack.com/grow). And I love connecting with other writers, whereas I find a lot of social media soul-destroying.

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Great point.

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Welcome and good luck with the launch!

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I experience this sense of community when I read comments to the more famous or successful writers (Michael Moore, Heather Cox Richardson, f.e.). The tone is always warm and supportive; unlike FB, there's hardly ever a deliberately critical voice. And when I read the comments here: people share great ideas, are kind to each other, and really further a "we/us" attitude rather than "me, me, me". It feels good to be part of this community.

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I needed this. Thanks, Hamish.

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Subscribers are a wealth of knowledge.

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So true! For a premium add-on when I went paid, I created a Monday Zoom Lunch for paid subscribers. It’s turned into a real happening. Participants include journalists, judges, legislators, and other interesting folks. I have an influential guest for an interview and those on the call are welcome to ask questions. This Monday, I’m interviewing a therapist about the spike in folks seeking mental health support. Should be fascinating. I’ll encourage the Zoomers to share their feelings, too.

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Hi Julie. But to do a private paid Zoom you need the paid option on Substack? I don't think you would need that. Zoom is outside Substack either way and Stripe is what everyone uses to collect the payment either way. Wouldn't you save money?

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I host the Zoom on my private account. On Monday mornings I send a link to the Zoom meeting for that day. I record the Zoom and send it out to paid subscribers using the Substack ‘video’ option. Does that make sense?

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Yes it does make sense. But, you are paying 10% for a vehicle that could work just the same outside Substack because that specific medium is outside Substack. When it comes to paid written articles, then the medium is inside Substack. That's why some people suggested Substack to have own video.

Unless there's a "video option" on Substack I don't know much about, lol.

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The three dots are for editing.

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deletedAug 3, 2022·edited Aug 3, 2022
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Just press the dots and you get edit.

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This is great, Hamish! Thanks for sharing. I built a community of over 218k for moms on social and while it’s still thriving, I decided to join substack last month to have an alternative way to connecting with them. Our community has reacted well so far and I can’t wait to keep building. 👏❤️

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Finally a platform that filters based on quality of content.

Now we creatives can finally focus on our craft and the rest will follow.

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