Scribbble's identity crisis?
"Why has no one created this?" - the question I was asking myself while working on Scribbble.
Last night, I tried to answer that question.
I opened up the App store and searched for "writing apps".
One app came up that looked exactly like Scribbble AND it won the editor's choice award.
Ok, now I'm intrigued.
This app is called Ulysses and in many respects it looks very similar to Scribbble, but with additional functionality.
I download it.
Opening up, I see a paywall for 39.99 a year. Ok...
After a brief, but interesting onboarding, I get to the main app. A bunch of tutorial docs try to guide me, explaining how to use the app.
I try to publish, but it doesn't work - I need to sign up for the trial.
Then, I see something - a button that looks like the upload icon.
To my surprise, Ulysses allows you to publish your writing to a number of apps, including Medium, WordPress, and some others, including HMTL.
It seems the app I imagined ALMOST exists.
One thing it doesn't let you do is publish without having to connect to another platform - which to me is a huge bonus as I can just focus on writing as I am now.
Scribbble has built-in publishing on the subdomain, but will potentially also allow for custom domains.
This made me wonder if Scribbble is having an identity crisis?
Does it want to be a writing app, or a publishing platform? Or both?
Having dug around Ulysses' reviews, I came to realize this was a writing-first app and not so much a publishing tool. If anyone publishes, it's likely an afterthought feature. The app itself focuses on document management and easy writing. Some of their customers include writers, lawyers.
Scribbble does some of the things Ulysses does, but it doesn't handle folder management and file tagging. We could add this, but that would mean Scribbble will take the path of a writing tool. Professional blogs require more than such features.
Medium is a publishing platform. What made Medium popular is the ability to blog and distribute content all in one place. One of the problems in blogging is having the eyes to read your content. Medium solved for this.
Medium is a bit more in line with Scribbble - it focuses on single users and the ability to publish easily. However, what advantage would Scribbble have against medium if we are not solving for the distribution problem? Do we build the distribution in as a discovery engine? Why follow in the exact same steps as Medium? It doesn't make too much sense.
Substack is a newsletter tool powered by subscriptions. The concept is simple - write, get subscribers, get paid, everyone gets a cut.
Scribbble can most certainly become a Substack. We'd need to build out the email subscriptions and payment functions which is a lot more technically involved. The question then is: what advantage would Scribbble have over Substack.
Substack grew by attracting prolific content creators. For Scribbble to grow in a similar fashion, we'd need to attract some of the top writers or content creators while having them test out our newly developed features. This begs the question - why would they go with Scribbble when they already have Substack which is free to start on and just works? Following in Substack's footsteps would be a tough feat.
What if Scribbble pivoted to the SEO industry and developed some tools to automatically score your content and make suggestions on how to improve it for SEO? This has certainly crossed my mind.
One player in this space is Clearscope, and it's clear that they make money and the tool works. I have friends who use Clearscope.
The biggest issue with this path is that I've personally grown to despise the SEO industry. I would have a difficult time working in this space and would be discouraged from growing the product. It seems a no-go for Scribbble.
It's also worth mentioning that the SEO tools most likely have high churn, so you'd always be struggling uphill to retain customers. With a publishing platform people are more or less locked in - resulting in lower churn.
Ghost is a popular website builder platform that makes it super easy to manage content. I have not tried Ghost personally but it seems to have many good features and integrations. The price is not too terrible given all of the things you can do with Ghost - memberships, subscriptions, it seems to handle everything!
There in lies the problem - the ability to do so much is a huge scope for 2 indie hackers. This seems to be one of those things that must be built out over a long time, gradually, step by step.
Again, my question is - why Scribbble when you can Ghost? Besides, Scribbble is not as suitable for multi-author publishing and lacks some of the better organizing features of Ghost. We'd need to change the UI quite a bit and add more functionality to go down the Ghost path. Not to mention the variety of themes that would need to be created to stay competitive.
This is the dilemma that is currently on my mind. What should Scribbble be? Can it remain to be both?
I guess only acquiring paying customers to tell. For now, we don't have any of those and don't have a way to charge yet. I'll be thinking more about this in the coming days, but if you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them!