Substack wants to make the platform a better place for readers and will add features to its reading apps to make them “feel more and more useful and fun,” co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Sethi. said in a post on Thursday. Substack is perhaps best known as a place for writers to build newsletter audiences and earn a living from their work, but the co-founders went into great detail about how Substack itself can be a better place to really read things too
“The Internet revolutionized reading, but instead of a utopia, it has created a disaster,” the co-founders said. “The major places we read online today are cacophonous, stressful, and our minds are being squeezed for ad dollars.” They acknowledge that there are nice but niche reading products out there, but argue that the big tech companies no longer seem interested in making them. “Instead, we are left to deal with a deluge of pop-ups and a media economy dominated by big social media that is making us angry and stupid.”
The co-founders, however, believe that “it is still possible to harness the powers of the Internet to create a better world for readers.” Here are some details on what that would look like in practice, though I warn you that this is somewhat vague:
We can see a future where reading online is a joy, with fast-loading posts, clean and uncluttered pages, and easy navigation. We believe in a business model that empowers readers to help shape culture by directly supporting the writers and work they value most, leading to an incentive system that rewards quality and applies upward pressure. for excellence even in the smallest niches. We believe that reading can be social without being distracting. And we’re betting that recommendations from trusted peers can power a discovery system that helps the world’s best readers find the world’s best job, no matter where you’re from.
Here are some more details, also vague:
Over the coming months and years, we’ll be adding features and developing our reading apps to make them feel more and more useful and fun. Not only will you have a quiet place to read, but also a place to hang out with the smartest people you know. It will be a space where you can establish a home for your cultural interests and build an audience even if you don’t have a publication. And it will all be tied together in a network of meaningful connections, represented by subscriptions, that prioritize trust over time spent or glances.
Substack did not immediately respond to a request for comment on more details or a more specific timeline. But this attention to Substack readers is not a total surprise. The company has already introduced a ton of features aimed at encouraging users to hang out on Substack instead of just reading individual newsletters that arrive in their email inbox, including its mobile apps, the ability to add RSS feeds to your Substack feed and your tweet type Notes.
While “it’s been clear for a while who a Substack writer is,” say the co-founders, by making these changes Substack wants to build something that makes people describe themselves as “Substack.” reader” (emphasis his). I guess we’ll see if that happens.