Alert: Breaking Smart Billing Problem

Your subscription may have expired without you intending it to

A couple of weeks ago, I began receiving a flood of “subscription expired” notifications for this newsletter, and the paid-subscriber graph began plummeting. Over just 3 weeks, 529 Breaking Smart paid subscriptions fell to 450 (not counting comps)! Wtf? A year’s worth of subscriber gains erased in weeks?? Was there a secret conspiracy afoot to cancel me???

Fortunately a few readers alerted me that their subscriptions seemed to be mysteriously expiring without them canceling, so I smelled a bug, which I have now worked with Substack support to resolve.

Turns out it it was a billing bug, and if you think you’re a paid subscriber (this email is going out to the full list), it may have affected you, and you may need to resubscribe. Here’s what happened.

Basically, a bug in the Substack “pause billing” feature resulted in all active subscriptions being marked for expiration rather than for resumption of billing when I took my 6-week break in October last year (was I the first Substack newsletter writer ever to give myself an unpaid vacation?? Wow those other guys are committed!) As a result, once I unpaused, when the next credit-card billing date came up, the subscription simply expired instead of being renewed.

This led to 100 subscriptions lapsing before we finally figured it out (the holiday break led to it taking more time to resolve). Yikes!

So if you were a paid Breaking Smart subscriber, and want to remain one, check your subscription status on your account page. If it has expired and you didn’t intend it to, you can simply resubscribe. Some of you have already done so.

Of course, if you intentionally unsubscribed, this doesn’t apply to you. Also if you were already intending to unsubscribe and this bug has saved you the hassle of doing so, consider the unsubscription my New Year’s gift :)

I’m actually curious to see how many of the 100 lost subscribers I gain back. It’s a good test of re-opt-in, and will give me an interesting data point about what percent of subscribers are just allowing autopilot billing to lazily continue as opposed to actually wanting to pay for this newsletter. The recovery graph will be interesting to track in the next few weeks. Lemonade from lemons ftw! I’m kinda glad this happened to me first, rather than to a more financially precarious writer, more dependent on newsletter income, for whom this might have been a serious crisis.

Substack support has fixed the bug going forward, so billing will resume as normal for those who hadn’t yet been affected.

I’ll be sending out a regular newsletter tomorrow as usual, to the paid subscriber list, so if you expect to receive it and don’t, you’ve likely been affected by the expiration bug.

This issue affected my other newsletter, Art of Gig as well, so I’ll be sending out a near-identical alert on that list, so if you’re on both, you will receive an alert there too.