Why I Don't Use Substack
October 27, 2021
As you know, my newsletter is not on Substack - the tech is a mix of a few other solutions that I set up myself.
You've got to give it to Substack that it's a nice product. I subscribe to several newsletters from there. I also set it up for myself, just to try it out, and it is extremely easy to get going. It only took a few minutes. Getting my tech running took longer than that. I tinkered with it for a few weeks and needed to do some research to decide exactly how a good setup for me looks, as I haven't done it before.
I like to own my content myself and not be controlled by any other platform. It turns out though, that with both Medium and Substack, I would own my content.
First and foremost, you own what you create. Any original content you post, upload, share, store, or otherwise provide to Substack remains yours and is protected by copyright and any other applicable intellectual property laws.
So far so good. The kicker is that you can be kicked off at any time.
Substack is free to terminate (or suspend access to) your use of Substack, or your account, for any reason at our discretion.
They continue by saying (basically, my own interpretation of the legal language, see link above) that they might give you your posts, but they are not required to. So even if you own the content you've published, they have it and they might not give it back.
Besides the fact that they can take you down whenever you want and you need to back up your content all the time, I see two additional reasons not to be on Substack. One, you recognize a Substack newsletter when you see one. They all look pretty similar to each other, although there are some modifications you can do, you will always have to stay within their boundaries. It looks nice, but I believe that they will feel pretty bleak when they've been around for a while and everyone is using them. With my way, in the future, I retain the option to change it any way I want without changing my whole setup.
The biggest problem, though, is that you never know what the platforms are going to do next. They optimize for themselves. Sometimes their incentives are aligned with their creators, but not always. Therefore, I don't like relying on them.
Take Medium for instance. They used to provide a solution for people writing through WordPress to automatically post on Medium as well. This was probably a good growth strategy for them since they made it extremely easy for people posting on their WordPress site to also post on Medium. This was great when Medium wasn't large enough to get a lot of content, as the reader base wasn't large enough to attract it. So in a sense, a part of solving the hen-and-egg problem is making it extremely simple to add content to the platform - it's automated into the process of posting on your WordPress site. A while ago, though, Medium decided to shut that API off. They probably felt that the numbers were in their favor. So much so, that they could hope to convert a decent slice of the people who wrote through WordPress to write exclusively on Medium, thus increasing the value of the platform since it then has more exclusive content. When the platform makes decisions, they don't primarily think about the users or the suppliers, they think about themselves.