My First Week With Substack

A Blog Disguised as a Newsletter 

I started this Substack last week on a whim. I hadn’t thought about blogging since... well, it’s been a minute. But a few weeks ago HEY introduced HEY World: a no futz way to create blog-like posts by simply putting some text into the body of an email and hitting send. And, then, boom, one had a blog post complete with a shareable URL. There were literally no other thrills and that was truly what made it so delightful.

Around the same time my weariness about Twitter began to peak. The algorithmic timeline and the alerts about suggested trends and topics was giving me more anxiety than joy each time I opened Twitter.

And so HEY World popped into my life at the perfect moment and I found myself dipping my toe back into blogging. I wrote some long posts, but most were no more than two paragraphs. If I had a quick thought, I could write it down and hit send. It was like Twitter but without the pressure to get likes or retweets. I could share a few thoughts and it was merely calm. 

Blogging once again fit neatly into a certain place in my life and my desire to share some thoughts occasionally. But then HEY’s parent company had a public meltdown and I no longer felt comfortable using their blogging service. 

Enter Substack.

Substack is a blogging platform disguised as a newsletter platform. Metaphorically speaking, they put the emphasis on the other syllaBLE. Whereas platforms like Squarespace, Wix and Wordpress promote their “get up and running fast” blogging tools, Substack markets itself first and foremost as a platform for newsletters.

And I think they were right to do so. We’re at peak newsletter and Substack is hands down the easiest way to launch a newsletter for either personal or professional use. I dabbled with Ghost, which is a great platform as well, but it’s not for the faint of heart. 

But, while Substack promotes itself as a newsletter platform, it’s a damn good blogging platform. The text editor is robust, there are just enough options for customization, and the resulting website for reading newsletter posts is easy on the eyes. Like I said: a blogging platform designed as a newsletter. 

Within an hour I had a blog running on Substack. Only, I was using Substack “off-label” so to speak, or putting the emphasis back on the first SYLable, by using it primarily as a place to blog. The good news is that I can see myself continuing to Substack for the foreseeable future. With that said, there are a few minor improvements I’d love to see come to the platform sooner rather than later. 

Email Digests

As I mentioned, most of my posts are short musings. They really don’t deserve their own email. Also, I’m not writing about anything timely. I’m not every day Inbox material, and I’m quite content with that arrangement. 

As such, it would be great of Substack offered a way to select a few posts every now and then, say, once a week, and automatically assemble a digest that I could blast to my subscribers. Maybe I could write a quick preamble and then Substack would pull the post headings, links and excerpt text into a nicely formatted email. 

API for Third-Party Text Editors

I have to imagine that a number of Substack users, especially those who have been publishing online for years now, are quite particular about their writing tools. Whether it’s BBEdit, iA Writer, MarsEdit or Ulysses, writers are persnickety about their text editors. Personally I’m all-in with Ulysses. 

It would be great if I could draft my posts in Ulysses and then publish them directly to Substack. This would also make publishing on the go even easier.

Tags or Categories Behind the Scenes

In general, I’m not a big fan of tags. They just look clunky and add extraneous UI. That said, Substack currently displays recent posts below the main blog entry. Because I tend to write about a diverse set of topics, it would be great if I could surface there other posts of mine that readers may find relevant. A behind the scenes tagging system would be a simple way to implement this. 

So, yeah, one week into my Substack journey and I’m quite happy with the platform. Oh, and if you like this post please consider subscribing to Medium Focus.