Instead of “This Week in Substack” and “Open Forum,” I’m reacting to the breaking news of Twitter’s potential “Super Follows” and asking for your comments. I was thinking of charging for access beyond 280 characters, but decided against it. I hope you’ll try a paid subscription to reward me for my restraint. 🙂
Twitter bought Revue, a newsletter platform, a month ago. Now it is planning (or exploring) a feature called “Super Follows,”1 which would allow a user to charge for perks such as newsletters.
Super Follows isn’t just aimed at Substack, since it’s not limited to newsletters. Super Follows would encompass subscriptions for content like Patreon, or for access like OnlyFans. Moreover, Twitter is simultaneously planning “Spaces” and “Communities,” potential rivals to Clubhouse and Facebook Groups respectively.
But let’s focus on the challenge to Substack. (This newsletter is about Substack, after all.) Should Substack or those who publish on it be concerned about Super Follows?
I’m sure some current or potential newsletter creators, especially with many Twitter followers, would be tempted to use Super Follow in addition to or instead of Substack. However, content on Twitter is well-established as (1) free, (2) short, (3) in general, viewable by everyone. (How many popular accounts have protected tweets?) I feel it would be awkward to sell Twitter users – either creators or their audiences – on paywalls for longer content.
As Nieman Lab points out, Super Follows would raise particular problems for journalists and the news organizations they work for. But I think that a wider range of prominent people on Twitter would face a difficult choice of whether to talk to all of their followers or give only their elite followers the inside scoop. Would they want to shut out or disaffect a large majority of their current and potential audience?
I think Twitter would do better to grow Revue as an independent service, where creators and audiences would go for free or paid newsletters. Revue publishers could continue to promote their newsletters on Twitter, as many Substack publishers do.
Substack and Revue, metaphorically, are both apples. Substack and Twitter are an apple and an orange. Surely Substack should build on its strengths – which are not related to short messages, to potentially millions of people, possibly several times a day. Likewise Twitter should focus on what it does best and not try to tack on something very different.
I could be wrong. Apparently someone at Twitter thinks a subscription service including newsletters could work. And if Twitter releases Super Follows, surely some creators would use the feature to sell newsletters and some of their audiences would subscribe. Some Substack publishers would migrate to Twitter in search of a larger audience. But I’d still envision a future for platforms such as Substack (and Revue) that are dedicated to free and paid newsletter publishing, rather than offering newsletters as one, out-of-the-ordinary, option.
What’s your view about Super Follows? Do you consider it dangerous to Substack or publishers on Substack? Would you be likely to use Super Follows as either a creator or a member of a creator’s audience?
Reports differed on whether Twitter will have, is planning, or is exploring a Super Follows feature.