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March 9, 2022, 2:02 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK: on.substack.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   March 9, 2022

Substack has launched an app for reading — available now for iOS only, with an Android waiting list, as well as in the previously launched web format — that lets readers peruse all their subscriptions to Substack content in one spot and also lets them add RSS feeds from outside publications.

One benefit for Substack writers, the announcement blog post noted, is “instant, reliable delivery (no more Promotions folder!), multiple media formats in a single package, and another way for readers to connect with you and your work.” In other words, their subscribers can read their newsletters in the app, adding to that sweet open rate, rather than digging through email and possibly missing an issue. (Disclosure: I write a Substack newsletter.)

On the other hand, “Once you turn on app notifications, the app lets you turn off emails,” Adam Tinworth noted at One Man & His Blog:

That’s a huge paradigm shift — and a big gamble for Substack. We all go to our email inboxes regularly, even if we don’t really want to. But this option turns your Substack-based newsletters into yet another app competing for your attention. Not everyone will turn this on. Not everyone will download the app. But, for the regular newsletter reader, it’s a seductive option.

Substack isn’t shy about describing Substack Reader as somewhat revolutionary, “an app for deep relationships, an alternative to the mindless scrolling and cheap dopamine hits that lie behind other home screen icons,” and “an important piece of this puzzle” in “an alternative media ecosystem based on different laws of physics, where writers are rewarded with direct payments from readers, and where readers have total control over what they read,” “a way back, and then further forward than we’ve been before.”

People have longed for the return of not just the RSS reader but the bloggy Google Reader-era internet basically since Google Reader shut down in 2013. Most years, Nieman Lab’s prediction package includes at least one prediction about a return of blogging, a return to better blogs, or a renewed embrace of RSS. A lot of companies have tried. Maybe this time, our attention won’t be too shot, and the content firehose will slow to a trickle, and it’ll work.

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