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Apr 12, 2023Liked by Nikita Petrov

I plead guilty for being the person who said your decision to invest here was more emotional than financial. You concluded that I thought your decision was not rational. Many people think emotionality and rationality are mutually exclusive, but in fact, they aren't, as emotionally based decisions can be rational (link below). Our emotions play an important part in our decisions and can be valuable, but they can also lead us astray. So a combination of emotion and logic usually lead to the best decisions, which it sounds like you used. You are both financially and emotionally invested in Substack, and it shows with your lengthy and useful analysis and suggestions for improvement. I think THEY should pay YOU! :)

https://exploringyourmind.com/emotional-and-rational-decisions-which-are-better/

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Great post thankyou!

I'm in no doubt that Substack have our best interests at heart, but ultimately they are beholden to VCs. VCs who themselves may prioritise short-term profits and unsustainable growth over user well-being. Substack might like to put us in charge but would they let it?

We need longterm sustainability of the platform. Not grow fast, pay off investors and die young. I've invested years in hosting content on platforms now graveyards of dead links and holes where stories once were. Ask any startup how long it promises to look after our hosted stories and you'll be lucky to get an answer.

The best things Substack has going for it is the decentralised nature of email and a lack of dodgy advertising models. If Substack asked for investment to buy the VCs out then I'd not hesitate to go all in.

If they don't create a platform that cares for writers over VCs, I have no doubt there is already someone waiting in the wings to do so.

As it stands I'm only in a position to offer a barrow load of hope and faith in this platform I have enjoyed for years.

Substack has already done so much for independent writers like myself, and long may it continue. I REALLY want Substack to succeed.

But I'd also like a backup plan.

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The path dependency of raising massive amounts of VC, and then sticking to bubble valuations is the real problem here.

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FWIW, we've so far not been pressured to do anything in particular by our investors (I know it's not possible to credit this, of course!). We think that subscription and creator-centric systems can support a much larger % of culture and creation than they do today, and we think pushing that % up will help creators, communities, and the Internet as a whole, and of course make money too, so that's what we've been pursuing (for those and other reasons, too).

This isn't to say your concerns aren't valid! First, our investors could start hounding us at any time, although I don't think the board structure would allow them to do anything crazy. Second, even without investor pressure, we can do the wrong things for many reasons, from avarice to error. A lot of what we must do to sustain and expand this economy requires balancing tensions.

For example: we don't want to be a "rich get richer" platform that only works for the already-famous, so we need to be able to catalyze discovery of and growth for pubs; this means we need traffic, readers to whom we might show such pubs; and reasoning like this leads to features like Notes. At the same time, we're well aware that many of our users are here explicitly because they hate comparable features elsewhere, that part of what's great about Substack is its difference (obviously!).

So we try to thread needles and put pieces together that strengthen publications and their communities while growing the pie and so on, but it'll always be a somewhat delicate / high-risk process. That said, I expect problems to come from our errors more than from our VCs.

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You're doing a remarkable job. The whole startup/VC world is a mystery to me, I feel like I need to find some documentaries to watch :)

We've exchanged some feedback and comments over on Notes, and I think the general thrust of my thinking is in agreement with where the company wants to go. But I'm curious: are there things in this post that you strongly disagree with?

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Less word monitoring and no censorship should do it

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‘Long term’ you’ll be hearing this a lot when describing WEF, IMF, WHO et al tactics

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Yes! Let's abandon the visions of the post-human world for a pro-human one!

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In regards to "The first kind will be powered by AI and ads, and the second by humans and subscriptions. The first will disempower their users, the second will put them in charge." - It does seem like there's some sort of algorithm to Notes, have you seen anything about it so far? Hopefully it's simpler than Twitter's recommendation algorithm.

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They have explained how it worked during the pilot, but I think it’s been tweaked since then. They did promise to write it out eventually -- I’m guessing after more tweaking, when they settle on an approach. But it’s supposed to be something straightforward, e.g. those you subscribe to + who they recommend or subscribe to, something of this sort

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Good article!

My number one personal practice for staying civil is to not drink alcohol.

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I have a lot of trouble doing that.

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Apr 12, 2023·edited Apr 12, 2023Liked by Nikita Petrov

Well, you did it. You convinced me. I invested in Substack. Not as much as you did, but I seriously suspect I am more risk-averse than you are.

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Apr 13, 2023Liked by Nikita Petrov

This is really good Nikita, and a lot of it really does match how we think about the product. Thank you for writing it.

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author

Thanks Chris! Substack is the most exciting thing on the Internet for me — right now and in its recent history — so I'm really rooting for it.

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