Navigating Instagram and Substack: Insights into Content Algorithms and Moderation


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 28, 2023

4 min read


Navigating Instagram and Substack: Insights into Content Algorithms and Moderation


In the era of social media dominance and the need for trustworthy content, platforms like Instagram and Substack have become integral to our daily lives. However, understanding how these platforms work and how content is prioritized can be a challenge. In this article, we will shed more light on the inner workings of Instagram's algorithms and Substack's unique approach to content moderation. By exploring these two platforms, we can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities they present.

Instagram: Unveiling the Complexity of Algorithms

Instagram, with its vast user base and diverse content, employs a complex network of algorithms, classifiers, and processes to determine what users see on their feeds. It is important to note that Instagram does not have a single algorithm overseeing the entire app. Instead, different algorithms are used for various sections, such as Feed, Stories, and Explore. This tailored approach ensures that users can find content they care about most.

The algorithms take into account various signals, including information about the post, the person who posted it, and the user's preferences. For the Feed, interactions such as spending time on a post, commenting, liking, saving, and tapping on profile photos are closely analyzed. The more likely a user is to take these actions, the higher they will see the post. Similarly, in Explore, signals like likes, saves, and shares play a crucial role in predicting user interest.

Reels, Instagram's feature dedicated to entertaining content, operates on a similar principle. The algorithms prioritize predictions based on the user's activity, their history of interactions with the person who posted, and information about the reel itself. By understanding these signals, Instagram aims to provide a personalized and engaging experience for its users.

Substack: Prioritizing Trust and Writer Revenue

Unlike Instagram, Substack takes a unique approach to content moderation. While engagement is often the holy metric for many platforms, Substack focuses on trustworthiness and writer revenue. Their key metric is the success of their writers, as Substack only makes money when writers do. By taking a 10% cut of the revenue generated from subscriptions, Substack aligns its success with the success of its writers.

One of the distinguishing factors of Substack is that readers have control over the content they see. They actively choose which writers to invite into their inboxes and support financially. Substack's entire business model relies on maintaining writers' trust, which is evident in how easy it is for a writer to leave the platform. Substack aims to subvert the power of the attention economy, putting people in control rather than engagement-driven algorithms.

Furthermore, Substack believes in the power of subscriptions over advertising. They prioritize allowing individuals to choose whom to trust, rather than having algorithms decide for them. They are committed to hosting a broad range of views, recognizing the importance of diverse perspectives in fostering a healthy democracy. These principles guide Substack's design choices, such as the absence of advertising and the refusal to use algorithms that optimize for engagement.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. For Instagram users: Engage with posts that genuinely interest you by liking, commenting, and saving them. This will increase the likelihood of similar content appearing on your feed.
  • 2. For Substack readers: Take control of your content consumption by actively subscribing to writers whose work resonates with you. By supporting the writers you trust, you contribute to a healthier media ecosystem.
  • 3. For content creators: Prioritize building trust with your audience. On platforms like Substack, where writer revenue is key, focus on producing high-quality, engaging content that resonates with your readers. This will ultimately contribute to your success and the success of the platform.


Understanding the inner workings of content algorithms and moderation is crucial in navigating platforms like Instagram and Substack. While Instagram employs a complex system of algorithms to personalize users' experiences, Substack prioritizes trustworthiness and writer revenue, empowering readers to choose the content they consume. By taking actionable steps to engage with content and support trusted writers, users can have a more meaningful and rewarding experience on these platforms. Remember, it's not just about the algorithms, but also about the active choices we make as users and creators.

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