Substack is creating a Twitter-style feature called Notes

6 Apr 2023

Image: Focal Foto (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The newsletter platform said the feature may look similar to other social media feeds, but the key difference is the lack of advertising.

Substack is releasing a new short-form feature in the coming days that bears clear similarities to Twitter’s news feed.

The newsletter platform said the feature – Notes – will let writers share posts, quotes, comments, images and links with their readers, in order to boost growth for these writers.

Images of the upcoming feature show the ability to like, share and comment on posts, along with a sidebar that shows symbols such as messages and notifications. All of these features appear very similar to other platforms, particularly Twitter.

A smartphone screen next to a webpage, showing the Notes feature from Substack.

Examples of the upcoming Notes feature. Image: Substack

Substack acknowledged that the feature “may look like familiar social media feeds”, but said the key difference is the lack of advertising.

“The lifeblood of an ad-based social media feed is attention,” Substack said in a blog post. “In legacy social networks, people get rewarded for creating content that goes viral within the context of the feed, regardless of whether or not people value it.”

“By contrast, the lifeblood of a subscription network is the money paid to people who are doing worthy work within it. Here, people get rewarded for respecting the trust and attention of their audiences,” Substack said.

The platform also said it plans to develop features that help users keep certain people out of their “subscription universe”, such a troll accounts.

“While we are reaching the limits of the era of social networks, there is so much rich territory to explore with subscription networks,” Substack said.

A rise in Twitter alternatives

A lot of alternatives to Twitter have been popping up since Elon Musk took over the platform last year.

Towards the end of 2022, platforms such as Mastodon saw a surge in users as people left Twitter to find alternative social media sites.

The push for Twitter alternatives has been noticed by larger platforms, as Meta is working on its own decentralised platform codenamed P92.

Meanwhile, Musk has been focused on promoting Twitter’s own subscription service, Twitter Blue, by combining it with the platform’s verification feature.

Legacy verified checkmarks were scheduled to be removed from 1 April on Twitter, but it appears the platform has entered a winding down period.

Various high-profile figures have said they don’t plan to pay. Musk recently decided to remove the verification badge of The New York Times when he was told the media group didn’t plan to pay.

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Image: Focal Foto via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic