If you tweet something about Substack now, you don’t have to think that people will find your tweet. Strangely enough, if you search for tweets about Substack, you will only find tweets about ‘newsletters’. Yes, Twitter is feeling the pressure of Substack, a Twitter alternative that apparently sits in Elon Musk’s irritation zone. But the question is: what is Substack anyway?
Substack is a journalistic platform where newsletters are made: Edward Snowden and Emily Nunn are examples of people who have contributed to it. It has more than half a million paying customers and is a household name in the world of newsletters. It is not a hugely commercially oriented company: rather, it has a charitable basis in which it wants to ensure that there is less of a gap between citizens and journalism.
Substack was once launched by Chris Best, the man behind Kik (a kind of WhatsApp), together with Jairaj Sethi (also Kik) and journalist Hamish McKenzie. The platform has several investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that previously invested in… Twitter. Substack is set up to give writers their own publishing space and you can make good money doing it. The top 10 publishers on Substack collectively earn $7 million a year.
Substack takes 10% of subscription revenue and to join a newsletter, you pay 5 euros per month (or 50 euros per year). There are also free newsletters, so you don’t necessarily have to pay. Partly for this reason, it is also a very popular platform that has more than 1 million users, even though it is often thought that newsletters are a thing of the past.
Earlier this year, Substack chose to introduce Notes, which is sort of a carbon copy of Twitter. The difference, however, is that it’s not about advertising, which of course became more and more the focus at Twitter. It’s about good quality content over commercially driven content that only revolves around popularity, according to Substack.
Basically, Substack is just a newsletter app and you wouldn’t think that’s really threatening to Musk and co, but since Substack said something about Substack Notes, which is very similar to Twitter, it’s been a mess. We can’t ask Twitter for a comment on Substack: the communications team has been fired, and when you send a press inquiry to Twitter, you now only get a poop emoji in return.