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Substack Notes Takes Over the World!
Well, not quite. Other social networks should worry though.
Substack notes just launched today. You can find my profile here; if you follow me on Substack, you already follow me on notes. So come by and say hi!
And now…social media analysis!
Earlier this week I argued that substack and twitter aren’t really competitors. Twitter is an ad based platform; it benefits from Substack, which pays content creators who can promote their work on twitter. Twitter then sells ads against those promotions. It works for both platforms.
Under normal circumstances, twitter has massive legacy advantages which would make it impossible for any new company to compete. Everyone is already on twitter, and everyone goes to twitter to see everyone. This has been a huge problem for spoutible and post and to some degree even for a non commercial network like Mastodon. Even with a twitter exodus, the fact that no one is sure which exit to dus continues to make twitter’s position almost insurmountable.
Substack Notes though…
Substack already has a large number of very popular power users who are going to see Notes as a way to grow their business. That breaks the collective action logjam to some degree. Substack can attract a lot of the big users that attract other people. The result is that right from the first moments today, there is a huge amount of interesting chatter on the network.
And there’s also a huge financial incentive for even tiny little substack minnows like me. I’ve already had my biggest single day increase in free subscribers just from farting around on Notes for a few hours. More, I have equaled my biggest single day increase in paid subscribers. That’s admittedly only two people because I kind of suck at self promotion and at making money generally. But…two people is more paying subscribers than I’ve ever gotten from Spoutible or Mastodon. And it’s more than I usually get from twitter.
Twitter still has a lot of things that Notes is unlikely to ever have. Substack is so obviously and insistently commercial it’s hard to imagine a lot of government accounts feeling comfortable operating there. Legacy journalism outlets are also unlikely to want to give Substack, a competitor, free content. And if you just want a social media network where you chat with your friends and shoot the shit about (say) kpop, substack is a weird fit, since it’s so obviously focused on/optimized for big accounts trying to monetize their work.
For all those reasons, I think Notes is much more of an immediate danger to the other twitter clones (Post, Spoutible, Mastodon) than to twitter itself. I’ve already made plans to abandon my profiles on spoutible and mastodon; I’d imagine a lot of other users are doing the same. If you want to promote your work, Notes is clearly a better place to be. And while self promoters aren’t the only ones who make social networks work, they drive an awful lot of traffic.
In the long term though…Musk has set himself to antagonizing the very same people who might find Notes most useful. And again, those people are pretty central to driving engagement. If Musk handed twitter over to someone competent right now, I think there’s no question that it would remain viable and people would still feel like they had to be there. If he spends another few months doing what he’s done since December though—well, he’s pretty clearly Substack’s best friend.
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