Substack Writers Concerned as Subscriptions ‘Plummet’ Due to Follow Feature

Substack writers are expressing their concerns about the platform’s following feature on social media, which some argue is suppressing their subscription growth.

“Substack is completely gutting their business right now,” author Jeanna Kadlec wrote on Threads. “Every writer I know is seeing our subscriptions plummet as our ‘follower’ count rises.”

“This latest intervention is indicative of their efforts to transition to a social media hub where they can sell ad space,” Kadlec continued.

The author said she was experiencing “stratospheric growth” on the platform in the fourth quarter of 2023, which was halted by the follower feature addition.

“My subscriptions are now slowing, and there is a growing discrepancy between my subscribers vs “followers” that has me considering a move to Patreon,” Kadlec added.

Other Substack users replied to the post sharing similar experiences with one writing that their subscriber growth has “flatlined.”

“I have enough social media. I use my social media to get subscriptions, not more followers,” Helene M. Epstein wrote about the follow feature.

Substack added the follow feature to the platform in August 2023, making the platform feel much more like a social network. The feature allows a user to keep up with a writer without having to subscribe.

When the feature was announced, the company wrote in a blog post that, “Following helps writers grow their audience via the Substack network, which is already home to millions of the world’s most valuable readers.”

“We built this feature to help maximize — and not replace — subscriptions, which will always be the most important type of relationship on Substack,” the blog post continued. “A follow offers a lightweight way to start a relationship with a writer or reader, with the option to convert it into a subscription at any time.”

Substack noted that the subscribe feature would remain the centerpiece of the platform, however, writers are experiencing a decrease in subscriptions since the follow button was implemented. While the platform encourages users who follow writers to also subscribe to their newsletters, it appears the initiative is not working as planned.

Substack did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

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