Substack now lets writers paywall their ‘Chat’ discussion spaces

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Substack is launching the ability for writers to paywall their entire Chat or specific threads to paid or founding members only, the company announced on Wednesday. The rollout of the new feature comes 18 months after Substack launched Chat as a way for writers to communicate directly with their loyal readers.

The company believes paywalled Chats will help keep conversations intimate and free of trolls, while also acting as a paid perk for readers. Substack says its data shows that active Chat participants are 12% more likely to retain their subscriptions.

Writers can choose to paywall a whole Chat or individual Chat threads. Once a writer paywalls their Chat, free subscribers and non-subscribers will be prompted to upgrade to view the Chat.

Substack's paywalled chat feature

Image Credits: Substack

Substack is also upgrading the Chat interface to make it easier to navigate large groups. The company is launching the ability to search Chats to make it easier for people to find old threads. Plus, it’s introducing thread notifications and new reply badges to ensure people don’t lose their place in a conversation. Substack is also upgrading its back-end systems to load new Chats and replies in real time, making it easier to stay up-to-date on conversations when discussing live matters.

When Substack first launched Chat, the company hoped to capitalize on Twitter’s upheaval in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover. Substack still sees Chat as a viable alternative to Twitter (now X), as it noted in its latest blog post that “many readers prefer the simplicity of Substack Chat to other platforms.” The company then highlighted a comment from a paid subscriber saying chat is a good substitute for X.

Chat isn’t the only Substack feature looking to take on X, as the company introduced a Twitter-like “Notes” feature a year ago. The Notes feature lets users share posts, quotes, comments, images, videos, and more in a Tweet-like format. The short-form content is displayed in a dedicated Twitter-like feed.

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