What is Substack?
Substack is a subscription email newsletter platform designed for small publishers, who want to option to charge readers for access to certain content in their newsletter.
There are numerous benefits to publishing on Substack, as opposed to your own self-hosted blog or another digital publishing platform.
What Are the Benefits of Publishing on Substack?
When writers create an account on Substack, they gain access to several custom publishing tools, all of which are free.
Writers get a content management system (CMS) built for publishing email newsletters, integrated payments through Stripe, and a website that can host free and subscriber-only content.
It is very hard to find all of these tools in a single publishing platform. Substack seamlessly connects these features into one integrated platform, and offers it to writers 100% for free.
Connect Directly with Readers
One of the main limitations of most free blogging platforms is that they serve as a middleman between you and your readers. For example, on Medium, you may have thousands of followers, but Medium provides writers with no reader contact information.
Not being able to communicate directly with your readers is a major disadvantage as a writer. However, Substack solves this problem by acting as a content publisher while still allowing writers to maintain independence by maintaining an email list. In fact, Substack actually makes it very easy for writers to collect emails (you can even export these emails from Substack). This provides writers with true freedom.
Substack allows writers to easily charge for subscription access to your Substack newsletter, on an ongoing basis. They entice readers with an incredibly simple sign up form for your Substack newsletter. The writer only needs to link their Stripe account to enable monetization.
Although this feature is less critical, it is also cool that Substack processes payments within 1-2 business days, utilizing Stripe. For comparison, Medium delays payment 7-8 business days after the calendar reporting period is over. Amazon KDP makes writers wait a staggering two months to claim their earnings. Substack pays writers as you receive payments in real-time, with only a one or two day delay. There are no minimum payout thresholds, further making Substack a favorite for writers.
Many blogging platforms that I have compared have a sleek user interface. Medium is probably the best-known example of this and this is a major part of their marketing to writers. However, Substack also has a very similar and equally simple interface.
What’s nice about Substack is that in addition to being user friendly, it does allow for some writer customization that platforms like Medium don’t allow. For example, Substack allows writers to add buttons anywhere in an article. Writers can also edit the color of hyperlinks, include a template image below the headline of posts, and create custom email preambles which can save writers time.
Is Substack Right for You?
Substack is an amazing free tool. But is it the right platform for you? There are also many great options, such as Medium.
If you were deciding on whether Substack is right for you, I would suggest you pick based on the following questions:
- How much time do you plan to invest? — if you are looking to make money by writing the occasional article (1–2 articles per month), Medium may be the better platform. Substack subscribers generally expect several high quality/useful posts per week.
- Do you have an existing following or fan base? — if you have an existing fan base, Substack is a great way to provide value to this audience. Medium is generally better for those who are trying to build a following. That said, building a following on Medium is not easy, but your content is much more likely to be featured or reach new readers on Medium.
- Are you writing about a really niche topic? — if you plan to write about the migration patterns of a specific type of animal or cover breaking news from Azerbaijan, Substack is probably a better bet. There is little chance that either of those topics would earn any money of Medium. However, if you are writing about multiple topics or topics that are more broad (personal finance, health, relationships, etc.) Medium will likely be an easier platform to monetize your writing.
- Are you comfortable advertising your writing? — If you absolutely refuse to market your writing, than Medium is probably a better platform, as it does have a large built in audience. Substack cuts through the noise by leveraging the enormity of the internet and connecting you with potential fans, but you must identify and convert these fans to subscribers in order to make any money.
- Are you hoping to benefit from organic search engine traffic? — While Substack does better than most platforms SEO-wise, it is hard to beat Medium if your goal is to drive visitors through organic search traffic. There are very few platforms on the internet that have higher Domain Authority than Medium. And almost none of those that do rank higher allow guest posts from any person.