155 Comments

I learned quite a bit from reading this. Thanks for opening the window. Substack has changed my relationship to publishing in 20 months. I typed 20 moths. So that, too. --Laurie

Expand full comment

Some people will complain regardless of what you do. I'd be selective about what criticism to take to heart. From my perspective, Substack is doing a great job overall and I think the vast majority of writers are happy with the platform.

Expand full comment

In an environment as competitive as the Internet it's useful, perhaps essential, to embrace a state of chronic dissatisfaction with one's work.

As I understand it, Steve Jobs built the richest company in the world by this method. Nothing was ever good enough to Jobs. And he often expressed his dissatisfaction in a, um, enthusiastic manner. Reportedly, this often made Jobs a big pain in the ass to be around. But his method got the job done. Jobs did his job. It was more important to Jobs to have a big vision and reach it than it was to be Mr. Popular.

The Substack community as a whole might suffer from excessive complacency. The best example I can offer off the top of my head is the endlessly repetitive happy talk claim that Notes is better than Twitter. Ok, Substack is better than Twitter, that's true. But what an incredibly low standard to set for a platform serving writers.

It seems to me a higher vision for a platform serving writers would be to simply opt out of social media short form culture and technology. Notes, Chat and blog comments essentially mimic what's already available in a thousand other places. These services encourage users to communicate in sentence fragments. For the general public, ok, fine, sure, who cares. But for writers?

I think the vast majority of writers are happy with this platform too. On one hand, that's great. On the other hand, it's unfortunate.

Expand full comment

Come to Dunedin next time your in NZ! None of us poets are making any money; but we’ll take you surfing.(We have salmon here too). Thanks for giving us a safe space to create. Grateful. 🪁

Expand full comment
author

I love Dunedin, lived there for four years while studying at Otago and editing Critic. I took John Dolan’s poetry workshop at Otago, too. And my brother and his family live there. Plus, my parents are just up the road in Alexandra. So I will definitely be coming to Dunedin next time I’m home! I’ll hit you up for some salmon, surfing, and stanzas.

Expand full comment

Ah ha! Wonderful. I'll try not to fall over in a fan-induced coma, I did that once to Witi Ihimaera (mental coma I mean), he smiled gracefully. I found out about Substack through a magazine article here, New Zealand Geographic maybe, and was impressed with the ethics. So, again, thank you. I look forward to some fish, waves and conversation. Ngā mihi nui.

Expand full comment

I had to travel all the way to New York to find a poet and artist right here in two-degrees-of-separation Dunedin, New Zealand. I like the new map feature (highlighting top authors by country), but I wonder if it is possible to search for other Substackers who are geographically close and not-yet-famous. Perhaps there is.

Greetings from the warmth and comfort of the Dunedin Public Library, Kirstie. I’ll check out your work.

Expand full comment

Ha that’s so funny, 😂 I’ll check out your photography. I edited a book recently of photography and poetry published by The Caselberg Press: CUMULUS an anthology of skies (there’s a copy in the library 🌟). Carlos Biggemann is the photographer. If my work isn’t your thing - there are loads of fantastic Dunedin poets in CUMULUS. I can also highly recommend the work of Claire Beynon if you’re looking for local artist-poets.

Expand full comment

I will follow these up. Thank you.

Expand full comment

I didn’t know about the map feature.

Expand full comment

Dam I miss Dunedin. sigh

Expand full comment

I hear you. I can’t travel anymore now I live here. Hug from Dunedin.

Expand full comment

Great post, Hamish. I really appreciate your candor, instead of making this a post about how all the writers you met with just raved about Substack.

I feel I’m doing the best writing of my 20-year career right now. And I’m also earning more than I’ve ever earned from my writing. So thanks to you and your entire team at Substack.

I do agree with the point about the revenue share being high. Maybe it could be a changing percentage, e.g., 10 percent on the first $50k, 7.5 percent on the next $100k, and 5 percent on everything over $150k.

You do want to keep your most lucrative writers. And they’re the ones most likely to leave as their revenue grows.

Expand full comment
author

Thanks for the feedback, David. We’re frequently told by the highest earners on Substack that they’re happy to pay the 10% because the growth benefits from the network more than make up for it. Of course, though, we never take anyone for granted and so we continually try to keep adding value to the platform.

Expand full comment
Apr 11Liked by Hamish McKenzie

This was a great read Hamish. Could really picture it. Appreciate the use of ‘snafu’ (such a good word). But I think it’s the working for the crazy dream I relate to the most. Thanks for sharing!

ps Still blown away by what you & Chris been able to create with Substack, the fact it creates such amazing live events too. Thanks for chasing dream down for us.

Expand full comment

You give me a place to write about kinship with nature without an editor saying to me ~ you can't say that...just so refreshing. And I have so much gratitude for the Substack community. I'm hoping that this is a forever thing but I also hope you have time to write and read and raise your family. Oh, and rest! in kinship, Katharine

Expand full comment
Apr 12Liked by Hamish McKenzie

Hamish, my activity on digital self-publishing platforms extends over twenty years, hundreds of feature length articles, and hundreds of thousands of views. I struggled on LinkedIn with their algorithmic choking of distribution which, contrary to their representations, failed to deliver my work to even as many as 10% of my self-elected subscribers. I tried Medium, but they too diddled editorially with distribution control and their paywall partnership terms suck big time. I tried Facebook, Thrive Global, and beBee. The best of the lot was probably FB. Until a writer-friend and a former magazine editor of mine put me onto Substack.

.

Let me say clearly, you have nothing to apologize for. Substack is the only platform that delivers what I call the Distribution Tri-Fecta — delivery of 100% of my published work to 100% of my subscribers 100% of the time. All bolstered by a generous, flexible, and adaptable policy re author monetization. Not to mention a useful editor and library of formatting tools and buttons. Kudos to you and your crew, Keep up the good work. Cheers! (Https://www.prg-marketing.com).

Expand full comment

Remember that you have loads of writers NOT in NYC!! Happy to host you just north of DC in Baltimore!

Expand full comment
author

I love Baltimore and used to live there. So I’ll definitely be back!

Expand full comment
Apr 13·edited Apr 13Liked by Hamish McKenzie

That’s great. Truly I would love to host you, Hamish, and arrange for other Substack writers to come together. I’ve been on the platform for about three years now. Transferred my decades-old newsletter (which began on aol to constant contact, to square space) to Substack and it’s been a really good experience, but I do have questions and concerns. Meeting with “non-celebrities” would be quite valuable I believe. And I’m an early investor.

Expand full comment

This is killer. Thanks for the intimate and honest walk about through your head today. You are very appreciated!

Expand full comment
Apr 12Liked by Hamish McKenzie

"I enjoyed the crispy skinned salmon."

talk about burying the lede

[good post]

Expand full comment

I think you owe your readers and writers a real accounting of why you have repeatedly and consistently boosted far right voices and outright conspiracy theorists through your personal recommendations and the site's algorithms. Until you do that, your self hagiography and self pity are going to come off as even worse than they otherwise would.

Expand full comment

I think he does not owe anything.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Ever heard?

And if: ever understood?

Expand full comment

Substack isn't the government. and it strictly limits adult content, so it's already practicing censorship. that doesn't mean that the site needs to recommend lies and hate.

Expand full comment

And I am intrigued why no less than three people came on this nice post to troll over an issue solved three months ago. If it is not solved PROVE IT. Or explain your purposes here.

Expand full comment

Interesting.

You set the standards for "lie" and "hate"?

Expand full comment

If your only justification for allowing hate speech is that it’s not illegal to do so, then your position is severely lacking.

Do you support Nazis propaganda on the platform? Will you personally defend their right to share space here?

Expand full comment

Absolutely nothing is lacking.

I defend the first amendment rigorously for everybody.

Freedom of speech is absolute,

Period.

Expand full comment

Then, if your an american voter, make sure you #VOTEBlue2024 ..... we know how many out here could give one-you-know-what about #freespeech unless, of course, it's theirs....

Expand full comment

You are the winner.

Dumbest comment 2024.

Your dumbness tops Joe Biden.

Expand full comment

doesn’t take much to rile you, does it?

Expand full comment

you don't even know what freedom of speech means.

Expand full comment

what are you Stephen and Molly up to DO tell please

Expand full comment

Have you looked to the mirror while commenting?

Expand full comment

They solved this in January. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/substack-removed-newsletters-criticism-nazi-content-rcna132963

Why are you here trolling them over something they fixed three months ago?

Expand full comment

This was raised a year ago, and ignored until people were leaving the platform en masse. Then it was ‘fixed’. His pretending people had no reason to be angry is disingenuous at best. You all standing up for freedom to Nazis just identies you as Nazis, and when the Nazis are defending Hammish, well that’s something he’s going to have to decide how he feels about it.

Expand full comment

Also please quote actual sources or you are frothy at the mouth with baseless allegations.

Expand full comment

Alrighty you just called me a Nazi to defend your argument this makes you A. TROLL. Why am I feeding you? I am bored.

To business:

It really doesn't matter now cause THEY SOLVED IT see and so people coming three months AFTER to cause drama, you are drama mongers.

Prove I am a Nazi. This is Substack not YouTube!

Expand full comment

A libertarian and a pro-trumper supporting freedom of speech for Nazis. True American Patriots to be sure.

Expand full comment

I could suggest that you read my position on the issue in the following two posts,

https://zorkthehun.substack.com/p/nazis-are-the-least-of-our-problems/comments

and

https://zorkthehun.substack.com/p/censorship

but you clearly displayed a mental incapacity to comprehend them.

YOU and your kind are the problem, a very real problem, not the imaginary Nazis you are evoking to justify your own totalitarian aspirations.

Expand full comment

Amen.

Expand full comment

"Everything Is Horrible." True. Including this virtue-signalling-style answer of yours. Especially this.

In fact the one who behaves like a typical 'far right' is you when you fancy a platform where the ideas you don't like should be censored. Only because you don't agree with them. 😊

Expand full comment

I get it. You prefer vice-signalling. And I'll agree that you have successfuly promoted and aligned yourself with morally bankrupt ideas. good job; Hamish will have you on a podcast now to talk about why people shouldn't condemn Nazis. you win.

Expand full comment

Pot would improve your foul mood make you relax about a lot of things, you should try it!

Expand full comment

Other vice signaling: weed is a fine thing. Some nice shots of whiskey or bourbon amidst a Mary Jane haze......you were saying something?

Expand full comment

Heck yeah anyone besides me enjoy whiskey?

No one invite Noah, Stephen and Molly they are Karens!

Expand full comment

Noah, I'm pretty sure reality check is your greatest talent, cannot argue with that. Good luck with your fights against morally bankrupt ideas. Some concentration camps for those who are not fully aligned with your high ideals perhaps? 😊

Expand full comment

Did not make it past that awful AI header image. Sends a real mixed message about the supposed value of creatives. Reconsider in the future.

Expand full comment
Apr 12Liked by Hamish McKenzie

Hey, I’m in DC, would love to buy you a cup of coffee at a cafe sometime!

Expand full comment
author

Can we make it a matcha?

Expand full comment

Absolutely! Let’s do this! Will you send me a PM or an email? (alexandersemenyuk33@gmail.com). Have you been to Ralph Lauren cafe at Tysons Galleria?

Expand full comment
author

Oh sorry, I’m on my way back to SF now, but let’s try again in June, when I’ll be back

Expand full comment

Sounds good! Would love to take you there, send me an email so I can send over my cell number

Expand full comment

Keep it up man, you can't please all the people all of the time but you are pleasing a lot - myself included. Let me know if you ever make it over for beers in Singapore!

Expand full comment
author

As long as we can hit up the Maxwell Food Market

Expand full comment

Of course, I'll even treat you to Tian Tian's famous Hainanese chicken rice (Anthony Bourdain's favourite) 🍗🍚

Expand full comment

Hamish, I am a small fish in a big sea of talent but I am so grateful to be here. I know that the work you do is not easy. There will always be critics. There will always be things that could have been done better. I believe in what Substack represents and have faith that you will make every effort to continue providing a platform for voices like mine.

I am retiring from the Navy after 24 years of active duty and am embarking on writing as my second career. Substack is my home for that. I am giving my all to this and I know that you and the team are as well.

Thanks, Matthew

Expand full comment

Loved reading this. I am in New York for the whole of June, if you’re about, would love to see you!

Expand full comment
author

Yes, we must hang out in NY. I’ll be there in June.

Expand full comment