While I'm fine with Substack having a leaderboard and understand why you want one - the "big names" attract more interest and new customers, for one thing - I also think you should seriously consider some of the criticisms from Jesse in the threads here. While I don't agree with all of what Jesse wrote, he makes some of the same points I came here to make.

First of all, I greatly miss the "new public posts made in real time" discovery tool. I used it regularly, and found some very interesting writers that way. I was hoping you'd develop a robust search tool that would enable me to search all Substack newsletters by subject matter and/or keyword, but I figured the real-time posts discovery page was a step in that direction. I didn't worry about it too much because, well, you're in beta. Eventually you'd have a keyword search tool of some sort, right?

But this leaderboard that displays only the currently popular writers - combined with the loss of the real-time new posts feed - is NOT a good sign. If you kept that real-time discovery tool AND the leaderboard, I wouldn't be worried.

I have niche interests. I'm not interested in any of the subjects currently being covered by writers on the leaderboard. I want a tool to find great writers who cover obscure topics and maybe don't have the level of PR skill or name recognition that your top writers have, so they'll never show up on the leaderboard. Many of those writers are the ones who are most in need of financial support and assistance in reaching potential readers!

Are you going to help us find THOSE writers, Substack? Please say yes. I've been here a year already, I left Patreon for Substack, and I still love your platform. I really, really want to keep on loving it. I hope you'll eventually have a keyword search tool.

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Very interesting, I like that you're trying new things and explaining what you're aiming for here.

With there being two goals at once — "to help publishers find new subscribers and subscribers find great publishers" — it strikes me that it may be really hard to achieve both with a single discovery mechanism, but seems like a good thing to experiment with.

One thing I think is worth keeping in mind is that, even if the algorithm doesn't reward bad behavior, it may still have biases. One example I'm thinking of might be bias against new creators. Ranking based on revenue or subscriber counts seem like it could bias toward early adopters / those who have most subscribers already.

Some alternatives could be using other factors like growth trajectory, conversion rate, or e.g. the ratio of likes to total subscribers rather than absolute numbers. Basically, ways to recognize quality as separate from metrics tied to quantity.

Look forward to seeing more experiments / new features in the future!

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The move to the leaderboard function is a horrible idea, quite frankly.

It's bad enough you guys don't have a passable search engine to find newsletters or even a sorting section by theme/subject. But eliminating the ability to see new posts/newsletters sent out in real time, further creates a huge gap in being able to find and explore content, and rewards the worst excesses of tepid hive mind banality. Garbage rises to the top, in part because the people are "Name" people backed by larger publication get preferential treatment and worse, paid ones get even higher priority in the algorhythm.

Worse, is that the idea of "interaction" is a shrill, shrieking joke. You can't even freaking comment on a post without subscribing. How can you interact if you force us to subscribe to leave feedback to a piece? This is especially galling, given the priority of paid newsletters over free ones and the hoops you have to jump through to leave feedback.

Not to mention, that the metrics for how you even end up on the leaderboard have NEVER been explained by you guys. Is it based upon website hits? Number of subscribers? Number of subscribers who click on the email links to read it on the website? Amount of cash each newsletter makes per month?

As it stands, the feces is what rises to the top at this time. There is zero option to actually explore, to discover newly created newsletters or even seek out newsletters by themes one might be interested in. The same 4-5 newsletters/posts clog up the leaderboard and you can't even leave feedback telling them what you think (good OR bad) without being forced to subscribe to them or paying the writer money. Hell, you can't even email a newsletter writer to give them feedback! It makes the entire experience a chore, especially since older posts linger on the leaderboard for DAYS with no way to even vote down the stories, if you don't like them or what they say.....

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Thanks for the transparency here. I think you make a good point about the difference between algorithms that reward engagement vs value. How far are you willing to go with this algorithm? One metric you can include because this is a subscription model is a measure of high-quality subscribers (how long they’ve subscribed + how often they open/read/like/comment). Newsletters that have a more of these kind of readers and posts that are opened/read/liked/commented on by these readers are probably an extra high-signal proxy for value. And really tough to game.

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While I appreciate the focus on surfacing, I’m curious about longer term implications, if the goal is to help readers find the content they want. E.g. I’d find it much more interesting if I could search across terms to find content I’m interested in, that surfaced in a way that was a leaderboard in the sense that it matched by interest. If I wanted to see work focused on commerce, hip - hop, and community, a leaderboard isn’t going to show me that, unless it expands in scope. I appreciate the need to balance product choices with what people want, but right now it seems that those things might be in a conflict of sorts. You have one of the best opportunities in the market right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing how you prioritize both makers and readers.

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