Dark Pattern: Substack Subscription Pricing

Published January 29, 2024

tl;dr go to /subscribe?coupon=foo on a Substack publication to see pricing tiers.

Over the past few years I’ve found Substack has gained more popularity. They seem to have started as mostly a newsletter platform but seem to have expanded to the general creator demographic. In essence, a (paid) community for content. It’s not immediately obvious to me how it differs from Patreon, perhaps the distinction of written content being the primary media.

I ultimately consider Substack a mix between Medium & Patreon. I digress.

Recently, Berm Peak (a mountain biking YouTube channel) announced moving towards Substack1 with videos launching there earlier along with having more written content. I like their content and was curious what the pricing model was like, but as has been the dark UI/UX pattern2 for years, Substack doesn’t provide this information up front before signing up. Or so I thought.

Gergely Orosz’s The Pragmatic Engineer newsletter was one of my first large scale” introductions to Substack that seemed to be a good fit for the platform: the occasional free article flanked by subscriber-only content. Gergely is aware of problematic UX around (not providing) transparent pricing and explains it clearly on the About page.

I was curious how the student discount was implemented and I noticed a ?coupon query parameter was added to the /subscribe page. On a whim, I tried changing this to an obviously-invalid coupon: https://newsletter.pragmaticengineer.com/subscribe?coupon=foo which correctly shows the normal pricing.

Using this logic, I tried the same on the Berm Peak publication: https://bermpeak.substack.com/subscribe?coupon=foo and hurrah it shows the price too! As of writing, January 2024, Berm Peak is $7/mo or $70/yr and Pragmatic Engineer is $15/mo or $150/yr.

I’d prefer if there was a /pricing URL instead.

  1. 2024-01-29: There’s also now a video explaining the change: ↩︎

  2. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it refers to deceptive UI/UX design decisions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_pattern↩︎

Last modified January 29, 2024  #ui   #ux   #opinion   #words 

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