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Daily Briefing for Wednesday, April 12th
Good morning! And welcome to Business Side.
In today’s briefing we cover:
Substack launching Notes
Artifact adding comments
Forbes’ bidder struggles
Plus other developments across the industry
Let’s get to it.
Substack launches Notes. After announcing the feature last week, Substack rolled out Notes to all users yesterday. The UI is similar to Twitter and, in the default Home feed, you see posts from writers you subscribe to, as well as posts from writers they recommend. (You can also choose to see only posts from your subscribed writers in a separate Subscribed feed.)
Substack is hoping Notes provides writers with a valuable new audience acquisition channel, a higher-funnel complement to its Recommendations feature. Of course, Twitter has played this role to date, and the announcement of Notes last week prompted Twitter to impose several restrictions on Substack. Elon was notably silent yesterday, and for now it appears all previous restrictions have been lifted.
My Notes feed has been quite active. The conversation so far feels very writer-to-writer, with lots of welcome posts, advice on newsletter growth, and discussion about Notes itself. Of course, it’s too early to draw any real conclusions.
I did come across a post from Substack author Eric Newcomer, who wondered whether writers or readers would drive the conversation on Notes: “Will this be a shared conversation like Twitter where posters generally need to engage with ‘the conversation’ to stay relevant. Or will it be more like a Substack where authors have more latitude to drive the focus.”
Substack CEO Chris Best responded and pointed toward a middle ground: “I wonder if there is a sweet spot somewhere in between … Ideally Notes feels like not one giant public place with everyone, but a circle with the parts of the Substack network that you participate in where you can have interesting conversations in (and around!) your interests.”
Either way, for now the success of Notes will hinge on its ability not just to drive conversation, but to generate subscriptions.
It is notable, though, that the Notes launch coincided with a Rebooting interview where Substack CEO Chris Best backed off ever so slightly from the company’s anti-advertising stance. The key quote: “If you reduce advertising to a bargain where the audience is a commodity to be sold off, that is in opposition to the reason Substack exists in the first place. The place where it gets interesting is when you ask the question of whether there are ways you can do advertising without that property. That’s an interesting philosophical question.”
Artifact adds comments. It’s the first “social” feature released by the algorithmically-driven news app. To foster quality discussion, Artifact is requiring that users log in with a phone number before commenting. Additionally, each user will receive a “reputation score” based on upvotes and downvotes on their comments.
The social features are significant given that Artifact was created by Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. Over on Mastodon, blogger Chris Messina commented, somewhat facetiously, that: “Artifact is now a social network. RIP publishers' comment boxes (and OpenWeb). Long live News By Instagram.”
Wired’s approach to generative AI. The magazine isn’t publishing stories with text or images that have been generated or edited by AI, though they’re open to experimenting with AI to suggest text for social media and to generate story ideas. And Wired isn’t alone in outlining an AI approach–many publishers are creating task forces to inform their strategy.
Entertainment industry newsletter officially launches. Lowpass soft launched in January and is now officially launched as a paid weekly publication covering the future of entertainment. Notably, Lowpass’s founder & writer Janko Roettgers is starting with almost 20,000 emails after acquiring the email list from Protocol’s entertainment newsletter (which he’d coauthored) after the outlet shut down.
Forbes bid hits a stumbling block. In February, Axios reported that Indian investment firm Sun Group was leading an investor consortium to acquire Forbes for $800 million. Yesterday, Axios broke the news that Sun Group has been removed as lead investor over concerns with its Russian ties. Going forward, it’s unclear who will play the lead investor role, though the consortium is focused on recruiting wealthy, US-based individuals.
Podcast publishers lean into YouTube. ESPN, NPR, and Slate have all found new audiences for their podcasts on the platform with little evidence of cannibalization. This success comes at a time when audiences are gravitating toward video podcasts, and YouTube itself is launching podcast features, like a new Podcasts tab in its main app.
Industry Dive is planning to launch new publications in the Facilities, Automotive, and Agriculture industries
Reddit moderators are struggling with an increase in ChatGPT-created spam
WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia last month, has been officially designated as “wrongfully detained” by US State Department
What Twitter’s open-sourced algorithm tells us about the platform
The Commerce Department is soliciting public comment in what could be a first step toward crafting AI safety rules
How Warner Bros Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav has shaped ($) a strategy other entertainment companies are following
Salt Lake Tribune chair Paul Huntsman is starting a print newspaper in a California resort town close to San Diego
Despite better forecasts, weather apps are still frustrating
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