Substack is making meaningful change to social media, and why they should become a hardware company slinging printers
March 21, 2021
Substack is playing the social media game but with different rules. No ads, direct reader-writer relationships, and a flat 10% platform fee. What do you get for the 10% fee?
Ghost and Mirror are two of Substack’s most modern threats. Substack is also competing with traditional social media companies, but writers and content producers looking for more control over their business, including a direct relationship with their audience, are seeking production tools that give them control. It’s no longer conducive for platforms to mediate relationships between content producers and consumers, and algorithms mean less control for content makers trying to reach their audience, but also for their consumers who are subject to the recommendation engine. Change is happening.
Ghost and Mirror have a different model for writers than Substack. Ghost charges small monthly fees, Mirror is an open platform and doesn't charge to publish (not even gas fees!). So why would someone pay 10% fees to Substack?
In short, the platform is capable of producing network effects for writers without algorithms and ads. Saved payment, discovery, not getting flagged as spam in the email inbox, and now the Substack native mobile reader. Substack has had a web reader for a little while now, and you can even save it as a progressive web app on your mobile home screen. Last September I wrote about the experience of their web reader and made a prototype to learn more.
Fast forward to March 9, 2022 and Substack announced and launched their native mobile reader. Two weeks in, I can confirm it is amazing.
In the new environment, the entire reader experience is improved. The reader beats the clutter of the email inbox. The inbox is a social media feed that is meant to catch you up not keep you scrolling. No ads.
For writers, readers are able to discover and sign up much more easily. Another network effect is that liking and commenting is now as easy as twitter. Not having to save session in the web means engaging with posts in the native environment is much more likely, and is a far superior experience.
Audio and Video are next. Both are inside the platform today, but limited. When Substack offers this model across content mediums, they have a chance to become the most meaningful social media platform.
Substack the hardware company
Digital is great for distribution, but reading on analog paper seems to be the superior way to read. Now, for video and audio, digital may still be the winning medium. For reading though, science seems to say we should progress to where we came from, reading on paper.
Substack could sell printers to readers. For readers that consume many Substacks, it’d be the modern morning paper. Print all your Substacks each morning, or once a week. Substack could sell a simple printer at cost, with a subscription for the ink and paper. What do you think?