Substack is an amazing platform for publishing a subscription based newsletter.
Substack | Blogging Guide
Substack makes it simple for a writer to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. Substack is…
However, there are a number of platforms that offer a similar service. Some have distinct advantages over the platform, depending on what your publishing goals are. Some simply serve as a comparable service. Below are 10 alternatives to Substack.
For more platform comparisons, be sure to check out the new Blogging Guide website. In no particular order:
Buttondown bills itself as the “easiest way to run your newsletter.”
The minimalist interface makes it easy for you to write great emails; the automation acts like the editorial assistant you wish you had, by checking for typos, broken links, or malformed images; the portable subscription widget makes it really easy to grow your audience from wherever.
And then Buttondown gets out of your way. Buttondown’s emphasis is on speed and ease of use over complex feature-sets or powerful automation.
Buttondown offers two plans: Simple and Professional.
- Buttondown is free for your first thousand subscribers.
- It costs $5 / thousand subscribers / month after that.
- Simple, reasonable pricing for folks who just wanna send newsletters.
- Fancier features like custom domain support, whitelabel branding, and subscriber information.
- This is the plan for folks who want to extend Buttondown into a professional tool.
- 24/7 concierge support.
Main Difference Between Buttondown and Substack
- Substack collects 10% of your revenues generated from paid subscriptions, while Buttondown collects 0% of paid subscription revenue.
- Buttondown has some of the features required to make an easy, technically-inclined newsletter, like support for scheduled emails, analytics, and an API.
- Buttondown is a model of transparency with a clear public product roadmap and contributing funding to the open source projects on which it relies.
TinyLetter is a personal newsletter service brought to you by the people behind Mailchimp. People use it to send updates, digests, and dispatches to their fans and friends.
Though they’re built on the same infrastructure, TinyLetter is for people who don’t need all the business features that come along with Mailchimp. Notably, unlike Mailchimp, TinyLetter is a completely free service.
TinyLetter is a completely free service (up to 5,000 subscribers). After you exceed 5,000 subscribers, they will prompt you to upgrade to their parent company’s software, Mailchimp.
Main Difference Between TinyLetter and Substack
TinyLetter cannot be monetized directly (while Substack makes this process very easy). In order to actually charge for access to TinyLetter, you would need to use some third party system to process payments. That said, TinyLetter is popular, and since its acquisition by Mailchimp, there is a possibility that direct monetization will be enabled in the future.
Revue allows writers to start a standalone newsletter subscriptions with our all-in-one membership solution or add newsletters to your subscription package. Revue allows writers to build a more direct relationship, foster loyalty and offer membership or events.
Main Difference Between Revue and Substack
Revue, which has a sophisticated suite of editing tools, and is aimed more at publishing teams or “thought leaders,” is free up to 50 subscribers and then charges a variable fee based on audience size ($5 a month up to 200, $8 up to 750, $10 up to 2,000, and so on).
MailerLite is great if you’ve got a dash of tech savvy and/or the desire to possibly scale your newsletter efforts, (since it allows you to host your newsletter on your own domain). This no-code tool is popular among writers. MailerLite has some key features that will enable connectivity to your website and enable you to scale your newsletter, including:
- Templates (to customize your email)
- Landing pages (to collect new email addresses)
- Tagging and segmentation (to classify your subscribers)
- Automation (to create automated emails)
- Detailed reporting (click maps, surveys)
Main Difference Between MailerLite and Substack
MailerLite allows for more customization and control over your newsletter, when compared to Substack. However, MailerLite is not free, whereas Susbtack is free regardless of your mailing list size.
HubSpot offers a full stack of software (of the same name — HubSpot) that includes a CRM, a Marketing Hub, a Sales Hub, a CMS hub, and a Service Hub.
Although I would not recommend using HubSpot just to manage your newsletter, if you are already using HubSpot, it can be a great use of this powerful tool.
As a ‘system of engagement’ — HubSpot’s tools are excellent. They very easy to use and all integrated with each other. As a ‘system of record’ — having your marketing and sales emails coming directly from your CRM gives you an ability to be smarter on targeting and personalization. As a reporting system, you can see what ‘s happening live, alerting sales to lead activity in real-time, as well as attribution reporting across your entire marketing and sales activity.
Main Difference Between Hubspot and Substack
Substack offers some reporting analytics, but it is not a full fledged CRM tool like HubSpot. Hubspot is similar to Mailchimp in that it offers a whole suite of customized email marketing tools. Send out a newsletter is one of the function it can perform, but it is perhaps too powerful for this use alone.
Gumroad is an online platform that enables creators to sell products or subscriptions directly to consumers. With Gumroad’s Subscriptions, you can give your audience the opportunity to pay a recurring amount for something you create. You can use Subscriptions to power a course with daily lessons, a weekly newsletter, or anything else you think your audience will be excited about.
When you add a product on Gumroad, you can immediately select to sell it as a subscription. Unlike traditional Gumroad products, subscriptions don’t require an initial file — simply specify an incremental monthly (or yearly) price to begin selling the subscription to your audience.
While adding a product, click Subscription to begin setting up a subscription product.
You can choose to offer subscriptions on a monthly or yearly basis.
Once you have subscribers, you can send updates at whatever frequency you choose. Updates are emails with (optional) file attachments that go out to your subscribers.
There are many possibilities for what you can attach to these updates — you can send your subscribers book chapters, film episodes, songs, or other digital content, all downloadable directly from the update email.
This update email can function as a newsletter, with the added bonus of facilitating digital product downloads for your readers.
Main Difference Between Gumroad and Substack
Substack and Gumroad are both free, but they offer different core services. Gumroad facilitates a very broad range of services for digital content creators (similar to Patreon), whereas Substack is used solely for creating a subscription newsletter.
Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service. It allows creators and artists to earn a monthly income by providing exclusive rewards and perks to their subscribers, or “patrons”.
Patreon charges 5–9% of your subscription revenue (depending upon your plan).
Main Difference Between Patreon and Substack
Substack is a publishing platform that’s designed for writers. You can manage an email list, email posts to your subscribers, publish your posts on the web like a blog, create discussion threads, and publish podcasts and audio posts.
Whereas Patreon is a membership platform that supports a wider range of creators, Substack provides a clean, simple writing experience with the ability to easily add paid subscriptions anytime.
Mailchimp is the most used email marketing system. The generous free plan of up to 2,000 contacts has attracted millions of users, and in 2017 the chimp was getting 14,000 daily new customers.
Mailchimp offers everything you need to collect emails and send email newsletters:
- email list management
- Easy to use, simple email builder
- Nice looking email templates
- A simple form builder
- And basic contacts segmentation
- Free plan with up to 2,000 contacts.
- Good looking website forms.
- Easy to use email template builder.
- Lack of sophisticated event-based triggering.
- Clunky and hard to use user segmentation.
- Clunky and hard to use marketing automations.
- Lack of a visual flow builder.
- Lack of deep integrations with several essential apps.
Main Difference Between Mailchimp and Substack
Mailchimp is probably one of the most frequently left platforms (with users moving toward Substack) but this is not a total reflection of Mailchimp as a platform.
Mailchimp offers email list management, a form builder, custom landing pages, contact segmentation, and many other features included with a full fledged Email Marketing Service.
Substack is attractive to Mailchimp users since it is free (Mailchimp becomes more expensive as your email list grows), it is much easier to use, and it posts your newsletters automatically as corresponding blog posts.
Medium is one of the better known free blogging platforms. The site features amateur writers alongside well known writers for major media publications. Medium writers are paid through the platform’s Partner Program, which distributes money based on total article read time. The site is popular among bloggers because it is free for writers, requires no web design or technical expertise, and its posts are beautifully formatted.
Medium recently introduced a newsletter feature, which allows writers with a publication to send email messages to their publication followers.
Medium Introduces Newsletters
I was right predicting Medium’s pivot from letters to a proper newsletter function!
Medium’s newsletter (and publishing features, in general) are 100% free for writers.
Main Difference Between Medium and Substack
The main difference between Medium’s Newsletters feature and a Substack newsletter, is that Substack allows users to import contacts to send your newsletter to. Medium publications actually send nicely formatted emails to publication followers, however, writers still don’t have direct access to the emails or other data of their followers.
Ghost is ideal if you’re planning on building a serious membership business and a unique brand because, of all the options on this list, it allows you the most technical customization.
When it comes to the user experience, Ghost has been built as a simple and beautiful platform for creators, like you, without limitations on how you run your business.
Ghost is explicitly focused on doing one thing really well: Publishing. So you can focus your time on the most important things, creating unique content and building a direct relationship with your audience to generate sustainable recurring revenue.
Main Difference Between Ghost and Substack
Using Ghost, the fee structure is simplified into a single monthly cost based on the scale of your publication and there are zero transaction fees. No matter how large your audience or how many features you use — you keep all the revenue you make. You choose your domain, pick your own design and add your own branding. Each Ghost site is unique, and reflects the personality of its creator.
Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions, and if you want to learn more about blogging, content marketing, and social media strategy, be sure to sign up for the Blogging Guide Newsletter!
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Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.
Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, a Super PAC dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.