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Monday, June 17, 2024

TikTok creators experiment with Substack under new program

A group of TikTok creators have been selected by Substack for a year-long incubator program aimed at helping them expand their reach and businesses.

The program, called Substack Creator Studio, was announced last month as part of the company’s efforts to evolve from a primarily text-based newsletter platform to a multimedia subscription engine.

“Substack is evolving into video and beyond because the people who want to benefit from this model are pushing us forward,” Austin Tedesco, the company’s head of video and podcasting, said in a blog post announcing the Substack Creator Studio program.

The TikTok stars chosen include trend forecaster Coco Mocoe, vintage clothing curator Gabi Jones, New York City-based artist Jeauni Cassanova, comedian and actor Jenny Gorelick, natural hair-care expert Justice Jackson, a news commentator called Kellerman, film enthusiast Kit Lazer, Venezuelan American transgender content creator Miguel Pena, storyteller and podcaster Patrick Hicks, and a TikToker who posts animated shorts under the name “God.”

All of them still maintain TikTok accounts. But the creators chosen for the Substack program said that they were seeking a more stable platform to grow their audiences in light of a potential TikTok ban. They also want to connect with their audiences in a more direct way, rather than relying on a platform’s algorithm to feed their videos to potential viewers.

“Substack’s the first platform that I’ve seen that gives you the ability to reach all of your subscribers or followers,” said Jackson, the natural hair-care creator, who has 2.7 million followers on TikTok. “There is no algorithm games. If someone subscribes, they see your content. Which you can’t say for pretty much any other platform.”


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Substack allows creators to charge monthly or yearly subscription fees for paywalled content, including video, audio and text. Creators can also offer a free monthly tier.

Anyone can join the Substack platform. But fellows in the Creator Studio program will get additional technical, marketing and strategic support, Substack has said.

Cassanova, the New York artist selected for the program, said he was drawn to Substack because it has a broader range of content formats.

“As an artist who wears many feather hats,” he said, “it’s nearly impossible in the current digital landscape to share everything you create without having to conform to platform-specific limitations. Substack allows you to present your work exactly as you envisioned it, no cropping, no 15-second snippets, none of that.”

Several creators also said that they liked that Substack was more responsive than other global social media behemoths.

“The most frustrating thing [on TikTok] is that there is no one I can talk to if I have a problem,” said Chicago podcaster Hicks, who has nearly 500,000 TikTok followers. “There are tons of impostor accounts of me on there that TikTok won’t take down. Meanwhile I get my own videos taken down or demonetized constantly and appeals go unanswered.”

He said that the staff at Substack responds quickly and works to resolve creators’ issues.

Substack has had its share of controversy this year. It came under fire in January after the company initially declined to act against certain newsletters that appeared to express support for Nazi ideology. Although Substack eventually took down a handful of openly pro-Nazi accounts, some high-profile writers fled the platform.

But Substack is not the only platform that has drawn fire over content and moderation. Meta’s heavy-handed moderation tactics have angered many creators, especially those covering news and politics. Recently, Meta announced that creators who post about politics, news and social issues would have their videos down-ranked and their accounts would be hidden from suggestions, significantly limiting many creators’ reach. Kellerman, the news content creator, said the crackdown had curtailed his viewership on Instagram.

Mocoe, the trend forecaster, said she was excited to lean further into written content, which remains a core part of Substack’s platform: “I love that I can put my longer thoughts into words without worrying about things like ‘Is my ring light charged? Is my makeup done? Is my mic working?’”

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