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    The HypothesisAnnalee Newitz3/18/2111 min
    23 reads14 comments
    The Hypothesis
    23 reads
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    • elioty1 year ago

      There is so much misinformation in this article, I’m not even sure where to start. Sad to see this make AOTD.

      • DellwoodBarker11 months ago

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      • jeff
        1 year ago

        C'mon you've got to elaborate a little more than that. Is Substack not paying some writers to publish on their platform? Are they disclosing which writers they are paying? The article seems pretty straightforward to me. If the author is lying about any of this it shouldn't be too hard to point out.

        • elioty1 year ago

          The author doesn't like that substack publishes (and has paid) writers she disagrees with, so she conjures up a "secret" plot on behalf of their "editors" to "fund" trans-haters and concludes substack is a giant "scam". C'mon, what part about that is straightforward? Read Hamish's statement. Read the authors she disagrees with. None of these people are right-wing trans-hating nutjobs using the platform to discriminate against the powerless.

          Substack's not a group of "editors": they're a startup luring talent with a sweet deal to incentivize making the leap to their platform. They don't edit, review or own content. Again, read Hamish's statement. Recently, Spotify lured Rogan to their platform, does that mean Spotify is an editor or endorses Rogan's beliefs? No, they're a tech co trying to gain marketshare and maintain an ecosystem that includes thought that doesn't have to be endorsed by Spotify. The author even admits in this piece that she joined substack b/c other writers she respected were writing there. So, afaict, substack's not crazy for luring popular, respected writers to their platform.

          Suggesting the list of writers is "secret" makes it sound naughty when it's more likely "we don't want to share writers' salaries with the world". And anyways, they don't bring writers "on staff", they lure them with a fixed first year deal that is offset by their first year's subscription revenue. After year one, the writer is on their own. If the author brings in lots of subscriptions, substack may not even lose any money on a "pro" writer in that first year. Sure, there's a selection process for picking those writers, but my bet is they select for financial success, not for political allegiance.

          And perhaps that's precisely why the author is so upset here! She thinks certain writers should be banned, period. So, where's the scam?

          • jeff
            1 year ago

            I think there are a few different things going on here. I'm not familiar with some of the writers the author mentioned, but I've read and enjoyed the works of others that I did. I'm not bothered by the fact that she has a problem with any of them. I think the point is that Substack is opening itself up to this kind of criticism in general since it's paying some writers and not others.

            I think that's reasonable. I don't agree with her assessment of some of those writers but I would call that a difference of opinion, not misinformation. I read Hamish's statement (still have to read Ben Thompson's) and this made me roll my eyes:

            We see these deals as business decisions, not editorial ones. We don’t commission or edit stories. We don’t hire writers, or manage them.

            So you don't hire writers, legally, but you do pay (some of) them, and you don't make editorial decisions, only business ones. There's no way to know what Matt Taibbi or Glenn Greenwald (as examples) might write about! Why not pay Alex Jones to start a Substack? He's got a huge following!

            I think this is all just so weak. Yeah, Substack isn't a newspaper or other traditional publisher, but they're not owning their shit. Go to substack.com and substack.com/about and it's exclusively about how the whole platform is about a direct connection between readers paying writers. They're excluding a big component of their platform from the top-level marketing because they know it doesn't make them look as good.

            As a final note: I don't think any of this is evil or should be illegal or anything. I don't think any writers should be banned and I'm not going to boycott Substack or anything. I just think it's fair to criticize them both for their marketing/communication and for whichever writers they choose to pay. And yes I think the same goes for Spotify or any other company.

          • Critter1 year ago

            Thanks for the details,

            Tech company gaining market share is ok, attracting talent is a reasonable strategy, but why not disclose who is being compensated? (If they want to be open...)

            As you said:

            Substack's not a group of "editors": they're a startup luring talent with a sweet deal to incentivize making the leap to their platform. They don't edit, review or own content.

            By deciding who is compensated to be involved, they are turning themselves into editors, that’s one of the main points of the article. Is that wrong?



        • Critter1 year ago

          This is a serious flaw in what presents itself as an open platform. If you know of misinformation you should provide details... start anywhere.

          • elioty1 year ago

            It is an open platform. You or I can create an account and start publishing. The fact they've lured popular (and some controversial) writers to their platform doesn't make it less open.

    • SEnkey
      1 year ago

      I don't see the issue here. Substack is a private company and isn't obligated to disclose who it pays or compensates to use its platform.

      I think the last bit from the author sums it up: I like this FREE platform that lets me communicate with my readers and fills a market niche. I wish someone did this that didn't pay some people.

      It's like Gmail. I don't like google and so much of what they do...but until someone has a better tech-stack that combines email/drive/photos etc etc for free...I'm using Gmail.

    • jeff
      1 year ago

      I've read several articles recently that describe how hard it is to earn any money at all on Substack since you have to start writing for free in order to build a following. It made sense that those who already had a huge audience before joining Substack would be the most successful but I wasn't aware that Substack was also paying some writers directly.

      It's a pretty smart strategy in an evil genius sort of way. Not being transparent about who is a staff writer and who isn't really doesn't sit well. Beyond even that though, the whole newsletter grind seems like a pretty miserable model since it relies on a constant stream of fresh content. You should get paid every time someone reads something you wrote and you should be free to publish your content anywhere you choose.

      • elioty1 year ago

        I agree! It sounds like a grind alright. And getting paid by the read makes a whole lot of sense to me too. That’s why I love Readup

    • Jessica1 year ago

      This was a fascinating read. Just in time, too, since I was thinking of starting a substack as a place where I can freely write, and potentially earn an income. Though now I'm considering other platforms that I still have to read up on.

    • Florian1 year ago

      So much drama 🍿🍿🤓

    • chrissetiana
      Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeReading streak
      1 year ago

      This is precisely the kind of thing that happens in organizations that lack transparency and accountability.