Even though I really don't want to ---
Hi -

Nick Wolny here from Medium and Entrepreneur.

So far this year, I'm seeing buzz about two platforms over and over again: Clubhouse and Substack. Have you heard of 'em yet?

Both platforms are being touted as the most exciting thing to happen to content in eleventy-million years. Though I guess we said that about TikTok barely twelve months ago (Hell, even I said it).

Clubhouse and Substack are being touted as "unprecedented" opportunities for growing online.

The word "unprecedented" was used so many times in 2020 that it's lost its luster for me a bit. But these two software companies are certainly drumming up a lot of attention:

  • Clubhouse, an app for doing live audio, is rapidly eyeing an investment round that would already place it at a $1 billion valuation... with just 10 employees.

    • The cast of The Lion King musical recently did a live performance over Clubhouse. Comedians and musicians are also using it as a way to bring back that live open-mic feeling.

  • Substack, a pared-down email list software, has scholars and journalists alike making tons by launching and maintaining their own paid newsletter.

    • Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College who studies the intersection of history and politics, has a newsletter on Substack estimated to be making over a million dollars a year.

Sexy! Exciting! "Do I need a paid newsletter or a live audio chatroom?" I ask myself.

Believe me, I'd love to be f*cking around on these platforms this weekend and all year long... but I can't... for reasons I'll get to in a moment.

Before I share why I'm being so tunnel-vision, let's first recap what each of these platforms are so we can all be on the same page.

Tagline: "Drop-in audio chat"


Clubhouse's launch has been aided by a super FOMO-driven approach: The only way to join is to be invited by a friend who already has the app.

This feels a little "cool kids at school" to me. But it certainly has people talking.

It's a refreshing spin on radio: Speaker-led live audio chatrooms. You only see announcements and updates from people you already follow.

You can see the rooms your contacts are hanging out in and upcoming events, and you can leave quietly if you just like to lurk.


Clubhouse feels like live radio in the social media era. There are some cool rooms and conversations happening for sure.

And there are some brands out there for whom live audio is a perfect fit. My friends over at Hello Audio are a great example; their product is a software that lets you do private podcast feeds and audio products (incredible software honestly), so obviously an audio-centric social media app is the right visibility move for them.

I wanna f*ck around on Clubhouse so bad at the moment... but I can't just yet.

Tagline: "Take Back Your Mind"


The amount of buzz Substack is getting at the moment is driving me insane, mainly because... email newsletters are NOT NEW and have been around for 20 years.

But it's like the more I resent them, the more I see it. Y'all - I received this text message while writing this newsletter:


Substack is a stripped-down version of an email service provider. Some writers have been flocking to it in order to set up paid newsletters.

I want to grab these writers by the shoulders and shake them.

For starters – and if you take nothing else away from today's, take away this –

Substack is mainly a way to reach your existing audience.

This assumes you have an audience to begin with.

It's great for people like journalists or scholars who want to strike out on their own. And occasionally crazy success stories happen like the history professor mentioned above.

But everyone seems to be skipping step 1 of these success stories. Step 1 is to build an audience... of hundreds of thousands of people.

Even for the most compelling of thought leaders, that usually takes years.

I also feel Substack is price gouging. It's free to start using, but if you charge people for a newsletter within Substack, they take 10% off the top plus 2.9% in processing fees.

That's a ton when compared to services like Stripe and PayPal.

Substack also appears to not have the ability to create automations or condition-based flows. I'm left wondering how it's become so much more popular than the dozens of email service providers floating around when it (1) costs more and (2) has fewer features.

I'm sure Substack will add these options down the line. But for now, it literally does the same thing that all other email providers do, but just with simpler branding and more whitespace.


If I sound a little aggravated about these platforms, I guess it's because I am. Once I realized that, I had to stop and pause for a moment.

"Why do I get pissy whenever I hear about Clubhouse or Substack?" I asked myself.

It's because distraction is the death of dreams.


When you're grinding away, shiny objects are more enticing than ever.

Newly discovered found footage of me on the internet

I would love nothing more than to be f*cking around on Clubhouse or tinkering with Substack at the moment... because I am smack-dab in the middle of my grind.

  • I just hired my first full-time employee

  • Some cool writing opportunities have popped up recently, which means kicking out lots of words on tight deadlines, and

  • OMGGG do we have some fun stuff on the way for you later in Q1... No spoilers yet but they're gonna be awesome!

When you're in the trenches and chugging along... shiny objects look incredible.

Don't get me wrong – it's certainly important to keep your finger on the pulse of emerging trends, technologies, and opportunities.

But as a creator, writer, or entrepreneur... it's critical that you resist the urge to let "being an early adopter" or "seeking inspiration" derail you from following through on what actually matters.

Stay the course.

Do whatever it takes – garlic bulbs, invisibility cloak, sensory deprivation tank – to keep the shiny objects at bay.

At first the FOMO will be agonizing.

But nothing feels better than finishing what you've started.


Had you heard of Clubhouse or Substack? Are you using them?

Lemme know - would love to hear your thoughts.


Nick Wolny has written for and been featured with:

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