We discuss a wide range of topics covering the technology, content, and business aspects of Substack Inc. While neither email newsletters nor blogs are new, Substack’s singular focus on email-first has been very successful. Another part of the success has been easy writer and user experiences, and transparent revenue splits. We also covered why Substack Inc. does not facilitate advertising, and how the platform’s commitment to free speech stands out.
Listen to this episode on Apple, Spotify, Google
- Name: Linda Lebrun
- What she does: Linda leads writer relations at Substack.
- Company: Substack Inc.
- Noteworthy: Linda joined Substack two years ago, transitioning from the investment space to tech.
Where to find Linda: LinkedIn Twitter
🎙️Substack’s success comes from the email-first strategy. Neither email nor blogs are new. It was the focused approach that centered on ”coming to users’ doors” — their inboxes — instead of waiting for them to come to the platform that enabled Substack’s growth. ”The analogy I saw somebody making in a Tweet was when you have a blog, it’s like opening up a cafe, and you wait for somebody to come by and poke their head in, and maybe it’s empty, and they don’t come in. But when you have an email-first — an email newsletter-first — structure, it is like Uber Eats. And we see it in the data because more than 95% of the interaction people do with Substack content is either in the email inbox or the app.”
🎙️Writers should be focused on content and audience-building, not technology. Substack offers tools for both established writers with existing audiences, and for experts looking to build an audience. ”If you’re Andrew Sullivan, and you have this huge audience that likes you, or if you have a big email list to port in, then that’s a great way to get started, and you can grow from there. But […] what if I’m not Andrew Sullivan? So in our roadmap, we are very focused on building features that will help people get found, and then we’ll help them create a way for people to go — it’s very MBA-style to talk about a funnel of monetization — if people want to fully participate in what you are doing, and if you want your writing to be a business and a living, it works if you are given tools to move people down that path and say, ‘Hey, if you want to enjoy everything that I’m doing, if you become a paid subscriber, you will.”’
🎙️ Substack deliberately does not focus on advertising. Substack’s business model is helping authors make an extra income, a living, or as Linda says, in some cases, a fortune publishing articles on the platform. They do this by making it easy to launch paid subscriptions. ”This seems to be working; it seems to be gelling to give people a way to get paid. […] The vast majority of people on Substack would be individuals or small teams. The biggest priority for them is to focus their time and attention on what will help their content business — for lack of a better word — grow, which is probably spending their time on writing and marketing and to try also to have an ad sales department; it’s a tough one if you are independent.”
Substack’s Vision: A Writer Can Set Up an Independent Business Online and Charge for Subscriptions
”Substack was started five years ago. A lot of people will know that Substack was founded with the idea that there was no way for a writer, a journalist, to set up an independent business writing online and charge for subscriptions.
We’ve had 30 years of technology with advertising on the internet, but all that you could do if you had a blog to monetize was a PayPal tip jar, which the founders of Substack thought was not good enough.
So if you fast forward now, we have thousands of writers on Substack who, as independent people, are making anything from a side income to a living to, in some cases, a fortune. […]
I was magnetized to pitch myself to work at Substack because I thought what they were doing was such an innovation and was opening up the ability for people to be able to write, in particular about finance, investing, macroeconomics content without needing to either work in an investment bank or have a newspaper agree to platform them; they could do it on their own.”
As Readers, Strive for Personalized Experiences
”The difference between if I receive a sell-side email from JP Morgan — even if it’s an analyst that I like — it’s from this big anonymous organization versus if I receive an email from Mark Rubenstein. It’s a relationship between him and myself.
He’s in my inbox between an email from my mother and my friend, and if I pay for his Substack, I’m supporting him. There’s no organization; there’s no advertising. It’s just us together. So there’s the one-to-one connection; the way CK is structured encourages people to feel.”
There Are More Ways to Engage an Audience Than Through Text
”From day one, Substack has been about writing and writers internally. If you could read our Slack, we don’t talk about users of Substack; we always use the word ‘writer.’
There are a lot more creators than just writers, though. So over the past year, we have developed more of our podcasting functionality. And this is something we want to communicate more about because a lot of people don’t know you can host a podcast on Substack.
You have the benefit of — every time you release an episode, it goes out to your email list, you have a comment section under every episode, and you can choose to paywall some episodes if you wish.
If you’re Joe Rogan, you’re never going to move your podcast to Substack because he’s making a gazillion dollars off ads. But if you are somebody who is — again, talking about our finance and investing community — if you podcast to a niche of people and they find your content actionable, you might not need to worry about finding some advertisers; you might be able to monetize it by putting some episodes behind a paywall.”
[07:22] ”Substack takes a 10% platform fee of any revenue you make on Substack, and Stripe, our payment processor, takes a 2.9% credit card processing fee; pretty standard across the internet. Substack is free to use if your content is free, but when you turn on paid subscriptions, that is how much it costs. And there are no other costs. So it’s quite transparent.”
[15:02] ”Going back to your question about the product roadmap, what we’re concerned about is giving people the certainty to, first of all, for them to come and use Substack and understand that it is easy enough that we help you grow. And then we’d like to get them to go paid because I talked about how we don’t make money unless they do.”
[18:26] ”With advertising, […] what we are most opposed to is this attention derby that gets created on social media sites that serves the advertiser and not the writer or creator, where they end up having to warp their content in order to fit what is going to be surfaced.”
[00:00:00] Linda Lebrun: With advertising, I think, what we are opposed to, yes, the, you, like you said, “Ditch the ads.” In this kind of hostile language, I would say what we are most opposed to is this attention derby that gets created on social media sites that serves the advertiser and not the writer or creator, where they end up having to warp their content in order to fit what is going to be surfaced.
[00:00:24] Intro: Hello and welcome to Signals by AlphaSense, where we hear thoughtful insights from business leaders, investors and experts.
[00:00:35] Nick Mazing: Hello and welcome. You’re listening to Signals by AlphaSense, and I’m your host, Nick Mazing. Today we’re joined by Linda Lebrun, who leads Writer Relations at Substack. Substack is backed by Y Combinator and other brand-name VCs. It is a digital publishing platform that has risen in prominence over the last couple of years as the go-to place for either people with some kind of audience, who are looking to start their own newsletter and monetize that,
[00:01:02] or, alternatively, as a place to build an audience by people with expertise. I personally subscribe to over 20 Substacks, paid and free, and the quality is really good. We’re going to discuss the platform itself, the business of free and paid newsletters, content recommendation systems, advertising, free speech and more.
[00:01:24] Linda, welcome. And can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and about the company?
[00:01:30] Linda Lebrun: Nick, absolutely. And thank you so much. It’s so awesome to be here and, uh, talking to you and get a chance to talk to your audience, too. So to, just briefly about myself, so my own background is that I started at Substack two years ago, Substack itself was started five years ago. A lot of people will know that Substack was founded with the idea that there was no way for a writer, a journalist to set up an independent business writing online and charge for subscriptions.
[00:02:01] We’ve had 30 years of technology with advertising on the internet, but all that you could really do if you had a blog to monetize, it was a PayPal tip jar, which the founders of Substack thought was not good enough. So, if you fast forward now, we have thousands of writers on Substack who, as independent people, they’re making anything from a side income to a living, to in some cases a fortune.
[00:02:21] And, in my case, I never worked in tech before coming to Substack, I was in the investment business. But I was magnetized to pitch myself actually to work at Substack because I thought what they were doing was such an innovation and was just opening up the ability for people to be able to write, in particular about finance investing, macroeconomics content,
[00:02:43] without needing to either work in an investment bank or have a newspaper agree to platform them, they could just do it on their own. So, that’s how I came to it, and it’s, it’s been a really fun couple of years. A lot has happened, but I’ve gotten to meet some just tremendous talents when it comes to writing and analysis.
[00:03:01] Nick Mazing: So, let’s start with some basics. Emo has been around, let’s say, forever, depending on, on your scale. Blogs have been around forever, and somehow Substack was successful creating really, a real, very viable business model, both for Substack and for the writers, using those, let’s call them all tools. So, what do you think has made Substack successful from a technology and UX user experience perspectives?
[00:03:34] Linda Lebrun: Yeah. And it’s, it’s a hundred percent true, you know, nothing here is novel. Nothing here is rocket science in terms of the technology piece, it is just how it is put together and how it is optimized. So, so, from a technology point of view, I think, this is somebody coming from the outside to Substack and listening to the vision of the founders and seeing it enacted on the product roadmap, I think the
[00:03:57] critical thing was making it email-first. So, the analogy I saw somebody making in a tweet was, “When you have a blog, it’s like opening up a café, and you wait for somebody to come by and poke their head in, and maybe it’s empty, and they don’t come in. But when you have an email-first, an email newsletter, first structure, it is like Uber Eats.
[00:04:17] It comes to your doorstep.” And we see it in the data because more than 95% of the interacting that people do with Substack content is either in the email inbox or on the app. So, we have an Apple and Android version of the app, and people use that, but by and large, it is in email. So, I think what people have done before with independent online publishing is they have set up a blog, and maybe over here, off on the side, there was a little box,
[00:04:41] if you wanna receive updates, put your email here. That’s a lot different, most people listening to this will have had the experience of going to a Substack welcome page. It’s just like, boom, the image, boom, the title, the one-line description, a place to put your email. And if you don’t wanna put your email, you can go and look at the Substack, and on every page, it’s a subscribe button.
[00:04:58] And then, it’s very easy to drop in the subscribe button. So, all of this stuff may seem just, it, it’s more intentional than you even think. Everything has been A/B optimized down to the floorboards to try to get people to give the email. And I think that’s a lot of, from a technical point of view, why it has worked.
[00:05:14] There’s also a psychological reason why it works, and I think a lot of that is the difference between if I receive a sell-side email from JP Morgan, even if it’s an analyst that I like, I kind of just feel like it’s from this big anonymous organization versus if I, we were talking about, uh, Mark Rubenstein, when you and I were chatting earlier, I receive an email from him,
[00:05:33] I know it’s a relationship between him and myself. He’s in my inbox between an email from my mother and my friend, and if I pay for his Substack, I’m supporting him. There’s no, you know, organization, there’s no advertising. It’s just us together. So, I think there’s both the, the technical piece that has worked, and there’s also the one-to-one connection that the way Substack is structured, encouraged people to feel.
[00:05:59] Nick Mazing: Mm-hmm. So, let’s dig in a little bit on the business model side. How do the economics work for Substack and for the writers? I mean, they clearly work. And that’s a very important part of the story because you have been able to attract some very high-profile journalists from what you would call the mainstream media, like Bari Weiss, like Matt Yglesias, like Glen Greenwald, like Bill Bishop, and you also have some, you can call them homegrown stars, including the anonymous Dunberg,
[00:06:31] and petition worked in the top finance Substack rankings. Last year I actually did a, a Reuters event with Dunberg again. We had a green chicken avatar instead of a, uh, which is kind of, which was kind of funny. And I, I tried to get petition too, but that account wanted also voice changes, which we couldn’t accommodate technologically.
[00:06:50] So, how do the economics work?
[00:06:53] Linda Lebrun: So, I’ll talk first about how it works from a fee platform point of view, the numbers, and then talk a bit about how this question you asked of how we’ve been able to attract high-quality writers. Because this is something where I had somebody say to me, “It seems like anybody can start a Substack, but you have a lot of really good people on it.”
[00:07:11] And so, people sort of scratched their heads, how did we do that? And there, there were certain, I think, things the founders did that encourage that. But, in terms of the, the business model, so Substack takes a 10% platform fee of any revenue you make on Substack. And then Stripe, which is our payment processor, takes a 2.9% credit card processing fee, pretty standard across the internet.
[00:07:34] Substack is free to use if your content is free, but then when you turn on paid subscriptions, that is how much it costs. And there’s no, other than that, there are no other costs. So, it’s, it’s quite transparent, it’s quite aligned we would offer because clearly having it structured this way is going to incent us to focus on building the features and creating the platform that is going to help people make money.
[00:07:54] So, this is, uh, what sort of governs the roadmap too because the product roadmap, because we’re going to always be thinking about, “Well, how can we help the writer make more money? Because that’s the only way we make more money.” When it comes to attracting high-profile people, the first recruiter of writers, the first evangelist of Substack was of the three founders, two are technologists, and one is a journalist, which is Hamish McKenzie.
[00:08:16] And he was the person who went out on Twitter and on the internet and, with the idea of Substack being, journalists are being disrupted and dislodged because the traditional media models have been wrecked by just many changes in society. If you can attract people and because you don’t need any technical expertise, have them come and pay for you,
[00:08:39] you can build a living just based on that, and then you don’t need to go get another media job that you’re gonna just get laid off for in, in 18 months because everything is so disrupted. So, he went out and his ability to influence people like the, initially the, the, the Matt Yglesias and the Andrew Sullivan, that cohort of people who, they had already been bloggers for 20 years, but they found this to be a better model.
[00:09:02] And many of those people have, have stayed. People who have done research about Substack will likely know there was a, when I first came to Substack two years ago, there was a phase where we were doing some deals with writers where we would say, “Okay, if we think you’re gonna make a certain amount of money in the first year, we’ll do a deal where to give you a guarantee.
[00:09:20] Substack, we’ll keep most of the revenue, but we’ll agree to give you a certain amount of money.” And there, there was, it was never the preponderant number of people coming to Substack. There, there were some deals done like that. We’ve actually sunsetted that because that was more of a lever to get more people to understand and come and try Substack and get our brand out there more.
[00:09:39] And, to this day, most of the people you see on Substack were at the top of a leaderboard. They never came because of any deal. What they did was bet on themselves and say, “Okay, from the first day, vast majority of every dollar I make is going to be to me.” So, and I give that perspective just because people sometimes do wonder, you know, “Substack are paying these people,
[00:09:56] is that how they get all these good people?” I think a lot of it is, you know, in any business, it’s the incentives being aligned that are going to be what govern how you get and whether you get the people whose, whose content is the best. So, I think we have been very fortunate thus far. We do allow anybody to come and start, but the fact that I can, if I can, say to somebody, “Oh, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Margaret Atwood.” The name-dropping. It, sometimes it helps to start the conversation, and then you can get into, “Okay. How money work for the kind of writing, kind of podcasting that you do?”
[00:10:25] So, the economics are pretty transparent, I think, very easy to understand which, which you think is an advantage. So, let’s, let’s go back to the technology part. You mentioned that most of the consumption is over email. I love email. Like, I, I literally filter them into my Substack’s folder and I control that.
[00:10:41] Nick Mazing: I know what’s new, I know what’s old, I know what I have read, and so on. You have the website, you have the apps. You have been adding a lot of features, like comments for community building, you launch podcasts and other, all the events, I think there is some sort of a recommendation and discovery engine.
[00:10:57] You have the little board, obviously, where people can get an idea about the number of subscribers the, the top players in the different verticals have. So, can you tell us in a little bit more detail kind of what’s on the roadmap? What’s been, how you guys have been really enriching the, the platform?
[00:11:15] Linda Lebrun: Yes. And you mentioned some things that have been really, the, the features are trans, I’m hesitating because I was gonna say, oh, recommendations has been transformative for writers, but of course, what transforms the experience or the success of a writer is his or her own work, we can just try to make features that make it seen by more people. When it comes to the product roadmap and how we
[00:11:37] govern decisions about it, I say this is somebody, not on the, the product side, but we all, as a small company, work very closely together and we try to listen to writers, so the people who are writer facing are perennially feeding information back to the, the product side. Ever since I came to Substack the number one request of writers and creators on the platform,
[00:11:55] it’s never been for some specific technical thing, like, “I wanna be able to have my text be hot pink.” Or anything like that, it’s always been, the echo has been, “Help readers find me, help new people discover me, who are going to care about what I am doing.” So, a couple of years ago, each Substack was much more of a silo.
[00:12:14] It was, okay, if you’re Andrew Sullivan and you have this huge audience that likes you, or if you have a big email list to, to port in, then that’s a great way to get started, and you can grow from there. Because we have share buttons and we have, try to send down the friction so that it’ll make it easier for people to subscribe.
[00:12:30] But of course, you had a lot of people saying, “Okay, well, what if I’m not Andrew Sullivan?” So, we, in our roadmap, we are very focused on building features that will help people get found, and then we’ll help them create a way for people to go, it’s very MBA style just to talk about a, a funnel of monetization, but it really is if people want to fully participate in what you are doing. And if you want your writing to be able to be a business and a living, then it, it works
[00:12:56] if you are given tools to be able to move people down that path and say, “Hey, if you want to fully enjoy everything that I’m doing, then if you become a paid subscriber, you will.” So, one that I’d highlight is Pledges. We’ve very recently introduced this feature called Pledges. And so the, the question that we noticed with writers was sometimes a writer would have a, a large audience, they’d be successful in attracting people.
[00:13:19] Other Substacks would be recommending them. So, they had people becoming free subscribers and they, they might be good at using social media. You know, Twitter is a very important surface for finance and investing writers. You can have something on Twitter, people find it resonates. You say, “Come over to my Substack and sign up.”
[00:13:34] But then, the question was, “When and will they turn on paid?” And it’s a lot more than a, just a, you know, algorithmically or, uh, numerically-based decision of, “Okay, I have 2000 or 5,000 or whatever, I’ll turn on paid.” It’s an emotional decision where you’re making yourself vulnerable in saying, “I think what I’m doing is worth paying for.”
[00:13:55] So, we, Substack, said, “How could we help people have more awareness or certainty as to whether they are ready for that, as to whether their audience will pay for something?” I’ve had the experience in talking to writers. Sometimes somebody who’s only publishing for free, say they have a blog, they’ll say, “Yeah, I’ve had people say to me that my stuff is worth paying for.”
[00:14:16] Wow, this is the biggest green flag ever. So, “How can we show people that green flag?” So, the idea of pledges was, if you have a Substack and you do not have paid turned on, there’s a, a feature called Pledges, which you can have toggled on or off. It’s, as always the, the writer’s in charge. But then, if people want to show that they are willing to pay, if you did set up a paid version of your Substack, they, and this, this, not everybody listening might know this.
[00:14:41] Somebody has to put in their credit card if they make a pledge to you, and the pledge becomes a real subscription. So, it actually is real money. So, we now have many hundreds of thousands of dollars of pledges already, even just having introduced this. And what it’s doing, again, what we’re very concerned about is if people can make money off their writing, it’s showing them that they can.
[00:15:01] So, I guess, you know, going back to your question about the product roadmap and what we’re, we’re concerned about is giving people the certainty to, first of all, for them to come and use Substack and to understand that it is easy enough and that we do help you grow. And then, the second thing to, we’d like to get them to go paid because I talked about how we don’t make money unless they do.
[00:15:20] Linda Lebrun: And then, maybe the last thing I’d highlight is there are more ways to engage an audience than just text. So, from day one, Substack has always been about writing writers. Internally, you know, if you could read our, our Slack, we don’t talk about users of Substack, we always use the word writer. There are a lot more creators than just writers, though.
[00:15:38] So, we, over the past year have developed a lot more our podcasting functionality. And this is something I think we wanna communicate more that, that it’s a thing because a lot of people don’t know. You can host a podcast on Substack. You have the benefit of every time you release an episode, it goes out to your email list, you have a comment section under every episode, you can choose to pay well, some episodes, if you wish.
[00:15:59] So, we’re trying to, just as with text, make our mark in one part of podcasting. If you’re Joe Rogan, you’re never gonna move your podcast to Substack because he’s making a gabillion dollars off ads. But if you are somebody who is, again, talking about our finance and investing community, if you podcast to a niche of people and they find your content actionable, you might not need to worry about finding some advertisers.
[00:16:25] You might be able to monetize it just by putting some episodes behind a paywall. So, I’d say all of that is, you know, we have a busy product roadmap because there’s a lot we can do, and we are getting feedback from writers on the, all the time, on what they’d like to see next from us.
[00:16:39] Nick Mazing: Mm-hmm. And it kind of nicely leads into the next question I wanted to ask and that is about advertising. And I really wanna know how you think about it. And everybody knows that advertising in the media right now, online, just absolutely degrades the user experience, right? It’s not just bloat and, and loading speed and just offensive, ugly ads in your face.
[00:17:05] We also know that social media is not optimized for the users. It’s optimized for the advertisers. Right? And, you know, ad load has obviously been increasing, whether it’s in search, whether it’s on, you know, the big gathered social platforms and so on. And, you know, I, like, I always joke that ad funding is the original scene of the social media companies.
[00:17:26] Nick Mazing: So, and Substack itself doesn’t ads, as in, like there is no ad sales department. The way you would, you know, you can call a penny paper and, you know, they’ll sell you ads. And I think when I looked at the Twitter profile of Substack Inc, it says, “Ditch the ads.” That was a few weeks ago. Maybe, maybe it’s, maybe it’s still there.
[00:17:48] And you, I mean, you really are about subscriptions rather than advertising. But there is another angle, we have advertised in a number of Substacks, and we’ve had to reach out to the writers individually to see what makes sense. And, you know, something like trackable, like an upcoming webinar in their niche and, and, you know, things like that.
[00:18:08] So, so, it, it is doable, but from an ad buyer perspective, it’s very inefficient. So, what is the philosophy around ads? Because advertising clearly happens on Substack, we’ve done it, but on the other hand, you’re not facilitating that.
[00:18:26] Linda Lebrun: With advertising, I think what we are opposed to, yes, the, you, like you said, “Ditch the ads.” In this kind of hostile language, I would say what we are most opposed to is this attention derby that gets created on social media sites that serves the advertiser and not the writer or creator, where they end up having to warp their content in order to fit what is going to be surfaced.
[00:18:50] And this is from YouTube to Twitter to everywhere else, what has created a lowest common denominator effect of anything that you re, read, see, or hear on the internet. So, we want it to be an opposition to that. It’s not an ideological opposition to ads, per se. And indeed, a, as you’ve observed, many Substack writers do, particularly in the free version of their product,
[00:19:16] they will have some ads, they’ll, it’s not uncommon, somebody will have a banner and say, “Brought to you by, at the top.” Or some people will do classified ads. And when I see that, personally, I, I mean, I’m commercial-minded and practical about it. I’m happy that they’re getting more money. The more money that they have to continue to independently support what they do, the better.
[00:19:33] I guess our perspective as Substack right now is the whole in what is available for writers and creators for self-support is, paid subscription has not been easy to do. You always had to hire somebody, and they had to clutch together a bunch of different solutions and do plug-ins, and you’re just tearing your hair out with the complexity of, of everything.
[00:19:55] Whereas Substack just said, “It’s a full stack for subscription publishing, hence the name. Out of the box. It just works.” So, the, the, the first part is it didn’t exist before to just write and be paid for it. And that’s what we’ve focused our time and attention on. Whereas, if it comes to help people attract advertisers, and invoice advertisers, and be a matchmaker with advertisers, that has existed elsewhere.
[00:20:19] Right? But this is what we’ve, and it seems to be working, it seems to be gelling to just give people a way to, to get paid. The other thing I might offer with advertising is, the majority, vast majority of people on Substack would be individuals or small teams. And, for an individual or a small team, the absolute biggest priority for them is to focus their time and attention on what will help their content business, for lack of a better word, grow, which is probably spending their time on the writing and
[00:20:48] truly the marketing part too, and to try to also have an ads sales department. It’s, it’s, it’s a tough one if you are an independent, again, like all that said, it’s not a fundamental ideological opposition to it. Truly, if, whatever Substack has, has done, or will do in the near future along those lines, it’s very much governed by the fact that we are
[00:21:09] 75 people. And what our writers are, are asking for, us for every day is to optimize and create new ways for them to engage with their readers. And that subscription-based publishing, it was, is what makes you achieve an ongoing, reliable income that you can actually, you know, make plans around. So, that, honestly, that primarily is the reason why we’ve mo, mostly focused on the paid subscriptions piece of it, because that’s where the need seem to be crying out the most.
[00:21:37] But if anybody is listening to this and is like, “Oh, my Gosh, if I run a banner ad on my Substack, am I gonna get kicked off?” No, absolutely not. Because that would be against our fundamental idea of what the writer should be in charge of, his or her own business, when they publish on Substack.
[00:21:50] Nick Mazing: Mm-hmm. And that builds into, into the last question that I had. Advertisers, especially large corporate advertisers, tend to be very risk-averse. Right? And that’s been an angle, or you can call it, I mean, I’ll call it and a tag vector by pressure groups to, uh, sensor unpopular views and outlets. And Substack was criticized. The number of places were not canceled and, quote-unquote, unpopular citizen journalists, investigators during the pandemic.
[00:22:22] Now, in my view, that was the right thing to do because a lot of the problems that were raised by the, you know, independence actually turned out to be true. And Eastern Europeans have a lot of appreciation for dissent. And tell us a little bit more about how Substack Inc approaches free speech.
[00:22:43] Linda Lebrun: I really appreciate what you said about dissent. Because dissent is, not dissent highfalutin about it, but dissent is critical to a free society, and that’s what the Substack founders thought, too. And when they started Substack, they, you can actually, I’ll recommend people if they wanna read more about this. If you google Substack Moderation, you can see a blog post that the three founders together wrote in December 2020 when a lot of this controversy, this discussion was in a, in heightened state about ought Substack to take some of these people that may be very broadly disagreed with off the platform. Our attitude is readers and writers are in charge. Substack is very different than something like a social media site where you’re getting this, this barrage of algorithmically driven content that is, you know, you never know what the next thing is you’re going to read.
[00:23:34] You’re not really making choices. Something else is making choices for you. Substack is not like that. You are selecting whether you want to subscribe to or unsubscribe from somebody. And so, that lets us take a little bit of a, a different attitude. So, the, the, the founders of Substack really favors civil liberties, believe in democracy, against authoritarianism, and want to adhere to a principle of free speech.
[00:23:57] The alternative is having somebody who is an executive at a, sort of Silicon Valley corporation deciding what is right or wrong, which to, to, to me, that’s, I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think it’s much more appropriate to take this tact that we’re gonna adhere to a principle. All I said, I should say, it’s not a free for all.
[00:24:15] Substack does have a content moderation policy, which, again, anybody who’s interested can Google. We don’t allow plagiarism, for example, we don’t, if you, if you make a Substack and say, “I’m Donald Trump.” Your Substack will get deleted. Impersonation is not allowed. So, there are rules. It’s just we have not gone down the same path of, “We’re going to have a litany of what you can and can’t say and what’s permissible and not permissible in terms of the content and the beliefs.”
[00:24:40] And, you know, as, as you point out, Nick, there has been pushback on that or pressure on that, but we’ve adhered to it. And what I find when I talk to finance, investing, crypto writers, even if they don’t plan to write about anything politically controversial, they appreciate that attitude because they know that what’s underlying it is, they’re not partnering with a platform that is ever going to do a rug pole on their ability to reach an audience based on something they’ve said. So, for me, that was part of the piece of what really attracted me to work at, at Substack, too. And, you know, I think we’re always glad to have the chance to, to talk about what our perspective on that is. And I’m, I’m glad that you agree with it.
[00:25:19] Nick Mazing: Linda, thank you for joining us.
[00:25:22] Linda Lebrun: Nick. It was absolutely a pleasure, and really appreciate the, the time and, uh, had a lot of fun.
[00:25:26] Nick Mazing: Today, we spoke with Linda Lebrun from Substack Inc, the digital publishing platform. We’ll have all the relevant links in the show notes. My name is Nick Mazing. This is Signals by AlphaSense. You can subscribe to us on all the major platforms. Thank you for listening.
[00:25:40] Outro: Thank you for joining us. This was another episode of Signals by AlphaSense. Keep in mind that all views presented here are the views of the guests and hosts and do not represent the views of their employers or of AlphaSense. Nothing in this podcast constitutes investing, tax, legal, or medical advice.
[00:26:00] If you enjoyed this episode, leave us a rating and review and subscribe for more.