This afternoon, after I got some dreary-but-necessary work done, I took some time to browse through a goodly number of Substack newsletters that various folks have recommended. Now, this is by no means a random sample of Substacks, so I don’t claim any general validity for the judgments I am about to make. But in reading through a whole bunch of these newsletters, I noticed two major themes: 

  1. The great majority of these writers consider themselves to be the World’s Greatest Expert in something. They truly believe they know more than anyone else about how to fix AI, or what various literary classics really mean, or how to renew Christendom, or who the next POTUS will be. Again, no random sample here, but holy moly is there a lot of pontificating, asserting from on high, dictating, declaring. Is there some narcissism-elevating chemical in the Substack water? I ask because while there are obnoxious bloggers — that is to say, other writers who don’t have editors — they do not, in my experience, nearly as often assume the tone of relentlessly pedagogical arrogance that characterizes many of the Substacks I’ve been reading.     
  2. Almost all of them write four times more posts than they have ideas to fill.  

There are probably some hidden Substack gems out there, but … then again, maybe not. Please don’t recommend any to me. 

UPDATE: I’m thinking maybe this is the value proposition of Substack — i.e. You should pay me money because I am bringing something super-special that you can’t get anywhere else. There might be a little more of that tone among Substackers who haven’t already made a career elsewhere. If you’re already known quantity, then perhaps you can afford to be a little more modest.