Even as Twitter continues its very-public tailspin, it’s been a tough habit to break for many users, particularly those in the media industry.
In his Substack publication last week, technology writer Casey Newton wrote, “journalists are put off by [Elon] Musk’s antics, and dunk on him daily … but those same journalists — along with a bunch of people Musk arbitrarily suspended, fired, or laid off — continue to tweet just the same, propping up the service with their quips and sports tweets and food photos just as they always have.”
We’ve discussed some of the alternatives before, but none, as Newton put it, have “taken on the feeling of a daily must-visit in the way Twitter did and still does.”
Newton is a Substack journalist with more than 130,000 subscribers, and like many other writers on the popular newsletter-subscription platform, he will send out a tweet with a link with each new article. (On Twitter, Newton has just north of 200,000 followers.) His “Why Journalists Can’t Quit Twitter” thoughts were published on Substack just days before reports surfaced that links to that platform were being blocked by Twitter and replaced with error messages.
A back-and-forth ensued between Musk and Substack’s CEO Chris Best about what was happening, and once the dust settled, the only clear result was a serendipitous spotlight on Substack’s newest project that highlighted its game-changing contrasts.
Enter Notes, Substack’s foray into socializing within the platform, where writers can not only share posts, but also comment, add recommendations, share images and links, and more.
“Our goal is to foster conversations that inspire, enlighten, and entertain, while giving writers a powerful growth channel as these interactions find new audiences,” writes Best (and co-authors) in the Notes introductory article.
The article notes that the main difference from other social media feeds will be that, rather than be dependent on ads, Notes will run on paid subscriptions, of which Substack boasts more than 2 million. Twitter’s ad-based business model, as Newton spells out in a Substack earlier this week, promises advertisers a large, growing audience, but “every time Musk blocks a domain, he breaks that promise, driving away users and the ad revenue that would follow them.”
At a time when Twitter’s ad revenue — which had made up 92% of its earnings in Q2 2022 — is expected to decline by 27.9%, perhaps not being tethered to ads could be the trick in making a lasting social-media splash.
“The lifeblood of a subscription network is the money paid to people who are doing worthy work within it,” Best and co-authors write. “Here, people get rewarded for respecting the trust and attention of their audiences. The ultimate goal on this platform is to convert casual readers into paying subscribers. In this system, the vast majority of the financial rewards go to the creators of the content.”