How to leave Substack behind and still benefit from its network effects

It wasn’t that long ago that Substack ran a masterclass in exactly what not to do when your users are Nazis.

To catch you up, in November 2023 The Atlantic’s Jonathan M. Katz wrote a piece about how Substack was actively monetizing content produced by the “scores of white-supremacist, neo-Confederate, and explicitly Nazi newsletters on Substack”.

For Substack CEO Chris Best, that was a challenging issue. For many of Substack's users, like tech journalist Casey Newton, there was no issue and no question at all—it was time to leave Substack and its Nazis behind.

Since then, Substack has doubled down only to flip-flop on it all.

Like I said: a masterclass in what not to do.


I actually never had newsletter on Substack, so I don’t need to migrate an existing subscriber list away from Substack. But there is something else that grabbed my attention…

Substack’s effort to compete with a fledgling Twitter platform with it’s Notes, Chat, and Threads features signals a willingness to invest in tech outside of it’s core focus of newsletter hosting. While there’s an argument that this investment could be better suited a little content moderation, it’s too late for that.

Leaving a walled-off platform

With the realization that we’ve got yet another social network on our hands, I figured I’d find a way to move subscribers from the closed Substack ecosystem to my preferred ESP – beehiiv.

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A sneak (and hacky) way to let my potential new subscribers remain within the Substack walled-garden.

But, once they subscribe to my Substack, I add them to beehiiv and never look back.


So, objectively speaking, there is some utility to Substack. You probably just don’t want to run the risk of being recommended alongside some racist publication.

I’ve dialed down the cross-promo and recommendation settings as much as I can and plan to observe the ongoings of the little corner of the Substack platform that’s focused on what Podcast Delivery is all about –discovering and sharing podcasts.

So, I ignore as many of Substack’s bells & whistles as I can (and there are a lot) and use the homepage to do one thing: guide people to subscribe to the newsletter.

Once they do, things really start to kick off.

For now, let’s pull it all together.

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