I’m not sure if I just sensed the societal vibes about to shift based on early COVID reports, but having considered it for a while, I decided to start an email newsletter at the beginning of February 2020.
At the time, the white hot Substack had tons of momentum, so that’s where I set up shop. While the product itself was generally pretty solid, I began to come across more and more troubling reports about some of the authors being supported by the platform. I (regretfully) soldiered on for a bit, but eventually I started feeling icky enough that I migrated over to the Twitter-owned Revue…
…just in time for Elon to buy Twitter, take Revue out back and shoot it in the head.
So I slunk back to Substack, all the while continuing to feel gross about it, but also remaining generally lazy enough to not put in the legwork to find a reasonable alternative.
Then Substack added Chat.
Then they added Notes.
My friend Austin is fond of saying that when he shops for a new TV, he doesn’t want a complicated “smart” platform situation, he just wants a dumb panel with the ability to plug in (or more importantly, not plug in) what he wants.
Substack hadn’t been a dumb panel for a while, and their larger ambitions were becoming clearer and clearer.
Then their CEO did this interview. Yikes. Platform bloat and re-planting their flag on direct support for hate? A true match made in hell, any “network effects” be damned.
What’s sad/funny is that the alternative I’d been looking for was staring me in the face the whole time. I’ve long run my personal site on WordPress, and while I was vaguely aware that they’d been making some moves into the newsletter world, it took a post from Anil Dash (a vocal Substack critic from the jump) to remind me about this totally viable option.
And here’s the thing: it’s great! Not only have I been able to fully replicate what I was doing on Substack (including payments, should I decide to go down that path in the future), but I can keep things simple for now, then layer on other features if and when I decide to do so.
Chat? Nah. A jammed-in microblogging service targeted at scooping up Twitter refugees? I’m good.
Just a newsletter is fine for now, and while no platform is perfect, having now made the switch, I feel a great deal better about Junk Drawer’s new home.