Substack CEO Chris Best makes the best for electronic mail: Social media makes us angry and unfocused

  • What is Substack: A platform for readers to pay writers directly. Paid email newsletters are a good way to reach people. You have a direct relationship. There is no algorithm in-between you and your audience.

  • Why build a business in the paid email space? A frustration with how much control we lack over our own attention. It used to be you would be bored and you’d spend money to find things to fill your time. In the age of social media that is flipped. Attention is now your last finite resource. Now you aspire to regain control of your time. Email newsletters is a way to gain control over what you pay attention to.

  • One of the people who inspired Chris to start the company is Ben Thompson: Ben had been saying that more people should do paid newsletters. It is a really good model. That made me think: what if we just made having a paid email newsletter really easy?

  • Substack is riding a tailwind: People are starting to value their time more and more. Your time is worth something. At some point it is irrational if you don’t want to spend your money to use your time and attention better.

  • There are a lot of parallels between email and podcasts: They are both niche-based. You choose what to subscribe to. The content is delivered to you. 

  • A problem Substack solves: Paid models allow things to exist that wouldn’t otherwise exist in an ad supported model.

  • More advantages of email: Email is an app you use all the time. It is an open channel to reach an audience that is not directly mediated by a 3rd party. It is a really good distribution channel.

  • Email is simultaneously a super powerful and underrated medium to reach people: Our numbers have told us that people really like to consume stuff in email as opposed to using email as a notification to link to a website.

  • A terrible place to be: Anytime the core of your business is based on the whim of a big company. An example is a media company building a business on top of Facebook.

  • Substack is perfectly aligned with their customers: We are focusing on building tools that help people make money when their content is good. Our business model is to take a cut of subscription revenue so we have every incentive to help readers love it.

  • Are there other mediums this works for? At some point, someone is going to figure out how to do paid podcasting right. And that will be a massive industry.

  • Full podcast here.