Twitter appears highly bothered by Substack’s existence
In the first episode of Season 4 of Succession, Kendall Roy describes his would-be media venture, The Hundred, as “Substack meets Masterclass meets The Economist meets The New Yorker.” Perhaps feeling as if Substack is getting a little too much attention, especially since the company announced an upcoming short-form content feature called Notes1, Twitter over the past couple days has taken steps to make sharing Substack content more difficult. You’d be completely forgiven for assuming this is Elon Musk–directed and intentional, but it’s worth mentioning there could also just be a…weird bug…or something.
The changes coincide with Twitter officially shutting down its free API, and also with Twitter inaccurately labeling NPR as “state-affiliated media” (a label also given to propaganda outlets like Russian broadcaster RT and China’s People’s Daily newspaper).
On Thursday, Twitter made it impossible to embed tweets in Substack posts. Paste a Twitter link in a Substack post and it simply doesn’t work, giving you this pop-up message:
Team is working on it. We’re not the only ones experiencing problems with the Twitter API today.
— Chris Best (@cjgbest) April 6, 2023
Twitter is also not allowing users to take actions on tweets that contain substack.com links — as of Friday morning you can’t like, reply to, or retweet them. (Quote-tweeting still seems to work.)
oh wonderful — I see Elon has made it impossible to RT, reply, or like tweets containing a link to a Substack article. What’s next, a SpaceX launch site right outside my condo?
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 7, 2023
The block on RTs/likes/replies also doesn’t appear to apply to tweets that include Substack sites with custom domains:
Okay, seems like the custom domains are still exempt from this goofy change in Twitter’s end. (For now.)
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) April 7, 2023
A current workaround is using a link shortener so “substack.com” doesn’t appear in the link you’re sharing.
Looks like you can get around twitter’s apparent ban on substack links by just using a URL shortener lol https://t.co/Bt7HveFV1I
— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) April 7, 2023
Statement from the founders of Substack on Twitter’s decision to restrict engagement with Substack content pic.twitter.com/HbQJk5v0jn
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) April 7, 2023
Twitter’s move against Substack isn’t totally unprecedented; Instagram and Twitter squabbled in pre-Musk times, though more recently the relationship appears to have mended.
Substack, at least until recently, was also burning money. The Information, referring to recent SEC filings, reported Friday that the company “Substack’s expenses skyrocketed as a result of its expansion in 2021, causing enormous losses,” and that year “Substack reported negative revenue, which is unusual.” You can look at the SEC filings here.
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