As someone who's been hanging around on the Internet since before the worldwide web, I had to laugh at "The email newsletter has long felt like a hack, a reaction..."

The email newsletter preceded "the undeniable shittiness of the website-centric, pageview-driven web" by decades and there are newsletters started last century that are still around. (e.g. I still subscribe to a paid newsletter https://thisistrue.com/ that was a ground breaker in 1994 and which is still the author's primary source of income.)

Personally, I've been keeping in touch with my readers via newsletters (plural because I write under several names) since the beginning of this century. After using various different apps for delivery, each eventually abandoned because of increased shittiness, ironically I've returned to Mailman, the GNU Mailing List Manager (https://www.list.org/) which has been around since the early '90s.

It's still free. It still offers excellent list management functionality (but not the fancy design features you find in other apps) and it's still updated regularly to maintain security. It has both send-only and discussion list options, archiving, content filtering, digest options, spam filters, etc. If you're looking to monetize, however, you do need a separate system set up for payment processing.

So, no email newsletters are not hack reactions. They're retro. An old fashioned way to keep in touch with fans/clients/readers, disseminate information/entertainment, and/or deliver paid content.

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Great article! As a Substack writer, the introduction of the reader app made me question if my incentives are aligned with Substack's. I've been hoping for some time that Substack would build growth tools for writers but they seem to have little to no interest in doing so. As a result, I switched to another newsletter sending platform last week that focuses more on growth and will continue to publish my articles to Substack as well, but not have Substack send my emails. I would have loved to have stayed with Substack entirely, but they're not helping me with my main goal, which is to expand my audience.

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