Substack, the popular newsletter platform has come under scrutiny recently for its new feature called “Notes,” with some users speculating that it’s an attempt to pivot to an advertising-based business model. The skepticism has not been helped by the fact that Substack raised a ton of money on a high valuation, spending 25 million to make just one million last year and is now scrambling to raise a new crowd-sourced round. However, it’s important to note that Substack is very clear that its ultimate goal is to convert casual readers into paying subscribers, and it runs on paid subscriptions, not ads. This differentiation sets it apart from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook who rely on ad revenue.
There is no doubt that Substack has generated a lot of buzz and raised a high valuation from investors. Still, some users remain skeptical about its business model and long-term sustainability, given that many blogging websites (not personal blogs) tend to struggle in the long run. Moreover, Substack’s critics argue that creating a “Twitter clone” without any additional benefits to writers and readers is not going to help the platform.
Furthermore, the article touches on an unrelated topic around the complexities of funding, VC, and founders. It can be challenging for first-time founders to navigate complicated VC funding rounds and the subsequent pressure to perform quickly. Still, as the ecosystem continues to evolve, there are early-stage VCs that prioritize founders and provide guidance, provide pipelines for CorpDev teams at larger companies, and try to help entrepreneurs avoid the unwinnable VC game of always chasing the never-ending goal of growth.
In conclusion, Substack’s Notes feature might be a good addition to its platform, but it can be challenging to convince users that it’s not another attempt to monetize their data or attention. Regardless, Substack has gained a lot of traction, and with the right strategy, it could continue to grow and compete with other publishing platforms.
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Author Eliza Ng