Earlier this week Substack announced a new feature, Notes, which will enable writers to post short-form content and share ideas with other users, much like Twitter. Using Notes, users will be able to recommend things such as posts, quotes, comments, images, and links, according to a blog post from Substack co-founders Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi.
“Our goal is to foster conversations that inspire, enlighten, and entertain while giving writers a powerful growth channel as these interactions find new audiences,” the post said.
Notes will have a dedicated tab and the feed looks like any other social media platform – a similarity that the company has acknowledged. But they have also pointed out a key difference in the announcement. The Substack network runs on paid subscriptions, not ads, the announcement reiterates. As ad-based social media is fuelled by attention, the focus is on content that can go viral and on promoting doomscrolling.
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Moreover, the owner of the social media platform makes the most money through it. Through its subscription model, Substack is aiming to change that. According to the blog post, the subscription network will provide financial rewards to content creators who are doing valuable work. In Substack, “people get rewarded for respecting the trust and attention of their audiences.” The model remains the same: focusing on converting readers into paying subscribers. The new feature will make it possible to have constructive discussions as a way to engage with different perspectives and new ideas. “It won’t feel like the social media we know today,” the post emphasized.
The individual posts will have popular icons for likes, replies, and reshares, which Substack will be calling “restacks”, according to The Verge. There is no update on the character limit yet.
The Notes tab will have two feeds, “Home” and “Subscribed.” The former will show content from the extended Substack network while the latter will show content from “a smaller universe of sources tied to your subscriptions,” according to Substack spokesperson Helen Tobin, who spoke to The Verge.
Substack is also working on ways to keep trolls — who come with anything social media-related — out. They are building a system that enables people to control the “contours and boundaries of their subscription universe” making it easier to shut out the trolls and let valuable contributors in.