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Yo! Great post! We actually went pretty deep into these sorts of ideas in 2020 and 2021; it was the web3 era, and Chris (our CEO) has had some experience with various kinds of decentralized ownership projects. Substack has always made its reputation among writers for basically financial reasons, so anything that makes the financial picture rosier, better, more compelling for writers is music to our ears.

As you can imagine, there are two major issues with any such projects: (1) the mathematics and (2) regulations. There are substantial regulatory / legal complexities around nearly anything that touches money, and especially anything that approaches ownership / stakes / securities. The government is really anxious about the possibility of fraud or predation, so most interesting arrangements are simply not permitted.

But honestly, (1) is worse. I can't give away any of our numbers, but basically none of this would add up: there aren't enough writers making enough money to support the oceans of writers making no money, not even close. The $60M figure is also close to the total amount of money Substack has raised; so even if we used all of our funding on this, it wouldn't add up and we'd be bankrupt in a year, at which point no one would be making any money.

The math is brutal because Substack, like most platforms, has a very, very long tail; it's longer than people realize, and its volume is immense. If we announced that any writer who joined would make $12K / year, we'd instantly have *millions* of writers signing up for that money; especially globally, that's a giant amount of money. If we then decided —to save the program and company— to qualify writers somehow, well (a) it would be so costly and time-consuming to qualify millions of applicants that we're back to the math problems and (b) it would put us in the position of choosing "who deserves to make money," which we deeply do not want to be in.

There are a lot of people in the company very keen to make writers richer and to make writing a viable livelihood; it's the whole reason the company exists! We also have some web3 people, so these conversations never stop; every few months, we explore something new in this area. You may have heard that we did a community round of investment under brand-new SEC rules that allow regular people to invest (which is a great e.g. of how regulated this all is; until recently, you were legally barred from investing in startups or owning equity in any way in this category of business; the SEC doesn't like creative financial ideas; too often, they're scams, so they locked the whole scene up!).

Shared this internally with the folks who cogitate on this stuff; thanks very much for sharing it!

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I don't think I got that tag to show up on my feed, my man! It would be cool if this would work but my jaded self fears it won't. Why is it artists don't have patrons anymore? Google for greatest art patrons. Why is this not a thing anymore today? Starts with a C. There are good and bad "isms"...

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