It is clear to us that these problems can’t be solved with a tweak to an algorithm or a just-so regulation. Instead, the entire system needs to change. With Substack, we have set out to build an alternative media ecosystem based on different laws of physics, where writers are rewarded with direct payments from readers, and where readers have total control over what they read. In this world, writers are rewarded for serving readers well, and Substack gets rewarded for serving writers well. The power is tipped in favor of the people, not the platform.
But if you ask me, the “alternative media ecosystem” I want to see is one where the platform doesn’t matter at all to the reader, where it’s just there to help the creator, not shape the final result. We have email and RSS already; we don’t need an intermediary.
If Substack wants to prove this point wrong and live up to the claim that this is just an easier way to read content, it has to open up that platform to everyone else with an email newsletter. If it doesn’t do that, all such justifications are hollow, and this is really a play to create platform exclusivity. It is not in the spirit of the email newsletter turn email newsletters into Medium.
I should note that in the case of this newsletter, I intentionally chose to put it on a platform so I would be better prepared to critique the market. So that you’re reading this on someone else’s land is a feature, not a bug. I’ve had a good relationship with Revue
over the past year; even though they’re owned by Twitter, they operate independently, and seem to have taken steps to help their writers out. But if they pulled something like this, I would be gone in a second—and happy to self-publish these thoughts elsewhere.
Email should stay open. Building an app play halfway through isn’t in that spirit—no matter the justification.
Update: Substack appears to have turned off the feature that defaults to disabling emails, perhaps as a result of community backlash. This piece is updated to reflect that.