My Substack experience has been so good that I’m now in a proselytizing frame of mind. I’ve been especially leaning on Robin Hanson to move Overcoming Bias, Mike Huemer to move Fake Nous, and Don Boudreaux to move Cafe Hayek.
The only GMU blog that I would not confidently urge to switch is Marginal Revolution; their readers really are happy to not only go to the URL, but refresh the blog multiple times per day. Even MR, though, would plausibly profit from the long tail of marginal would-be readers who lack the bandwidth to deliberately visit a website every day.
When I wax rhapsodic over the joy of Substack, I keep getting the same objections. Here they are, with my replies.
“Isn’t switching over a lot of work?” No. Set-up is a breeze, taking no more than a couple of hours. Substack aims for a seamless experience.
“What happens to all my old posts?” There’s a very good utility to import old posts. I had a grad student to help me, but he says it was easy.
“Won’t I lose readers?” Almost surely the opposite. Just pin a transition post to the top of your old blog, and 90% of your readers will soon subscribe to your Substack. And you’ll pick up a lot of new readers due to the one-stop-shopping interface for readers.
“Won’t charging a fee cost me readers?” Almost surely, but you aren’t required to charge anything - and I doubt you ever will be. The loss of goodwill would be too great for the platform to sustain.
“I write a lot of shorter posts. Readers won’t like getting emails all the time.” When you publish your post, you can tell Substack not to email it. Though I’d canvas readers to see if they even mind.
“I like to customize the look of my blog.” This was the main reason I didn’t do Substack from the get-go. In hindsight, though, this was pretty foolish. Substack thinks a lot about design, so your customization could easily be a deprovement. And you still have plenty of room to tinker with the look. I was able to take the banner from my original blog and turn it into the email banner for subscribers.
“Substack will eventually start censoring content.” They’ve made a credible commitment not to. Namely: You have full access to your email list, so if you’re ever unhappy, you can leave with all your subscribers. This should also calm your fears about other future unpleasantness.
Request for readers: Who do you think should switch to Substack? Who shouldn’t? Please name names! Maybe you’ll push your favorite blogger over the edge!
Substack views itself as a newsletter rather than a blog, though. For example, it's extremely difficult to find old posts on substack. On a blog, that's a primary feature.
As one of those marginal readers (I've largely stopped checking my RSS feeds frequently) I wish Marginal Revolution were on substack.