Dornubari Vizor - Sep 5, 2021
Top 10 Substack alternatives for your newsletters
The invention of the Internet made it possible for many creative people to earn a living by digitalizing their work and monetizing it online, writers being one of them. This lead to the creation of various platforms for different niches where people can post content.
In the last couple of years, there has been an unexpected resurgence of email marketing and newsletter subscriptions. Email marketing helped big media outlets to gain even more subscribers, but it also made it possible for individual creators to connect with their audience and build a community. One of the platforms that made this type of content more uncomplicated to share is Substack.
So many creators flocked to Substack to share their paid newsletters because it was a free and straightforward option for monetizing their work. However, after a couple of years of constant use, many people started to notice plenty of downsides this platform has.
The good news is, Substack isn’t the only platform created to share your content. There are plenty of alternatives available and were here to help you choose.
The objective of this article is to educate you about what Substack is, why you should and shouldn’t utilize it for your newsletters, what are its best alternatives available online and to help you define which one is the most adequate for you.
Substack is an online publishing platform for subscription newsletters founded as a startup in 2017 in San Francisco, California. The founders are Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi and Hamish McKenzie.
It gained immense popularity in 2018, when it became the best platform for writers to share their content, as social media popular at the time didn’t have the proper support for them. Substack became a place for all creators, especially writers, who wanted to share their written content and make money from it.
The focus on monetizing that written content was what made Substack stand out. It all seemed great initially, but after some time, users started to notice some problems. Even though it provided independent creators with freedom, Substack made it hard for them to grow.
As we all know, every website has its pros and cons depending on the user’s requirements. Before we get into the alternatives that you can use instead of Substack, let’s first investigate the advantages and disadvantages of this platform.
- Simplicity — it’s both simple to create an account on Substack and to use it.
- Automatic publishing — you can easily automate the publishing of your newsletters.
- Free to use — Substack is free to use if you don’t have paying subscribers for your newsletters.
- Stripe integration — subscription payments are made easy with this integration.
- Comments — your followers can comment on your posts, making it simpler to build an audience.
- Third-party advertising integrations — you can utilize them to track performance.
- High priced for monetized content — if you choose to monetize your newsletter, you have to give 10% of your earnings to Substack.
- Focused on writing – even though this can be a good thing, creating a platform that doesn’t focus on building a community is harmful to creators in the long run.
- Low customization available — while you can edit colors and fonts, there aren’t any advanced customization options, which makes all newsletters created in Substack look similar.
- No content exporting — if you want to switch platforms, you’ll have to move your content manually.
- No available integrations or plugins — using apps or tools like Zapier is impossible on this platform.
- No analytics — analytics is one of the most helpful tools in digital content creation, but Substack lacks this option, unfortunately.
- No API access.
- No multiple payment currencies — the payment is only available in USD.
In case these aspects made you realize that you want to use a different platform instead of Substack, we’re here to help you with the list of some of the best Substack alternatives.
Of course, some creators abandon the hosted platforms altogether to focus on what they can do by themselves, but we find it simpler and more efficient to go with one of the alternatives.
GroupApp is an online membership-based platform where creators can host their digital content, create a community and monetize the whole process. The advantage that GroupApp has is that it wasn’t created just for writers, but plenty of creators and influencers can use it as a platform.
GroupApp’s goal is to establish a place for online community building where creators and audiences can freely engage with each other and build stronger relationships.
GroupApp lets you charge subscriptions to access your work and create different membership tiers and channels for various subscribers. You can also set up one-time payments if you want to monetize some of your work independently. It also boasts marketing tools such as trial periods and coupon promotions.
Even though it doesn’t work as a regular email publishing platform, you can integrate it with your favorite tools like Zapier or MailChimp to curate the mailing list for your paying members.
Other upsides of GroupApp compared to Substack include the available custom domain name and theme customization, so you can make yourself stand out from the rest. However, this platform is established to better the relationship with your audience, but you’ll have to build that audience somewhere else.
The pricing is the upside, as GroupApp doesn’t take any fees based on subscriber count but has fixed pricing that is affordable in comparison to other platforms on this list.
Patreon is another membership-based platform where creators can monetize their work. It doesn’t have a free option for subscribers, which means that you’ll always get paid for your content. You can make different subscription levels that include various bonuses.
The upside of this platform is that it wasn’t created just for writers. It can host a plethora of creators from many different categories. It’s used by artists, musicians, podcast creators, influencers and many similar people. Writers can also use it.
Patreon makes it easy to create a community and stay in touch with your audience. It establishes a newsfeed that only your subscribers can see, along with comment sections, allows direct messaging and has an excellent variety of file types you can upload, not just simple text newsletters.
The content you post on Patreon is very secure and your subscribers can’t download it or share it with other people.
The biggest downside of Patreon is that it wasn’t created to help you grow an audience. New members can’t discover you on Patreon, and you have already had an established audience on other social media. Even though Substack has poor SEO, Patreon has none. There are also plenty of Patreon alternatives.
On Patreon, you pay 5% to 12% from subscription fees, depending on what available tools you use for your page.
Ghost is similar to Substack because it’s also only focused on publishing. However, where Substack was rigid and lacked some valuable functions, Ghost came through with a better concept.
Using this platform, you can send email newsletters to both free and paid members.
Ghost is a WordPress alternative and it was created to be open-source. This makes it highly customizable, which means that you can create a custom domain, your own server and beautiful newsletters based on HTML, all for free.
Other upsides of this platform include that you can create a membership-based service, automate and schedule your newsletters, create a custom email address and make your own referral program. It also has plenty of available integrations and API access.
Unlike some other alternatives to Substack on this list, Ghost doesn’t suspend accounts, so you won’t have to worry about your writing being censored.
When it comes to pricing, Ghost will cost you at least $9 every month. This is the lowest amount for 500 members. The fixed monthly payment can be a downside for some people, but if you consider that Substack takes 10% of your income, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Revue is a platform most similar to Substack in the sense that it was created exclusively as a newsletter platform. It used to be independent, but now it’s owned by Twitter, making it possible to gain better reach and provide plenty of benefits that this significant social media site can offer.
Although they’re similar, Revue is better than Substack in many ways. First of all, it ket’s you customize your domain to create your personal branding effortlessly. The customization options don’t end there. It also provides you access to an excellent newsletter editor where you can make beautiful content. The interface is elegant and straightforward to use.
One of the most significant advantages that Revue has is its partnership with Twitter. Twitter, one of the leading social media websites, will promote this platform, making it easier for creators to gain new followers.
Also, Revue is free to use, regardless of how many people follow your paid or free newsletter. This is what makes it one of the best Substack alternatives for writers who are just starting.
The downsides of Revue are that it doesn’t boast as many users as some other alternatives on this list and its community-building features are lacking.
It costs less than Substack, with a 5% transaction fee.
HubSpot is one of the more complicated platforms out of all the ones listed here, but it’s also mighty and efficient. If you’re really looking to build your newsletters business, this is the right website for you. This platform is mainly used for marketing and sales, which is visible through its elements.
It has plenty of features that can help you analyze your content and define what works best, like Service Hub, Marketing, Sales and CRM. You can follow all the analytics and data in real-time, with required adjustments made effortless. This may sound too complex for a simple newsletter, but that’s what makes it so powerful.
Even though the number of features should make it complicated, HubSpot has a surprisingly simple, beautiful and intuitive interface.
The downside of HubSpot is that if you don’t plan on using all of its advanced features, like CRM, you’re probably wasting time and money. These features make the platform stand out and if you don’t want to use them, you should probably abandon this alternative.
When it comes to pricing, the amount of funds you’ll spend on HubSpot depends on the features you decide to use, but it can be free or cost you up to $1200.
Medium is one f the most famous platforms for writers. Here, bloggers and journalists, or any amateur who wishes to, can post articles and make money from them. The best part is that it’s free.
This Substack alternative is practically a social media website for writers. The efficient blogging platform also lets you grow an audience and create a community. Medium makes it easy to gain followers and monetize your content. Creators on Medium can make money through a partner program that pays them based on article read time.
Although it has all the features you may require, the interface is elegant and straightforward to use. The articles are easily created with precise formatting tools. The particular newsletter feature was added because customers demanded it, and it’s also free to use.
The best element Medium boasts is fantastic SEO, making it easier for writers to gain new members for their audience. However, even though it can gather people, it’s an inadequate platform for building a community and staying in touch with followers. You can also get suspended if you violate rules.
As mentioned before, the absolute best element of this website is that it’s completely free to use for creators. This is what makes it a better option than Substack.
MailChimp is essentially an online email marketing tool. It’s one of the most used platforms for email marketing. This platform can make it simple for you to send newsletters to your subscribers through an email list.
MailChimp has plenty of advantages compared to Substack, but we have to notice that it isn’t the best alternative out of all the ones on this list. MailChimp is a good option for new businesses because it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers.
Creating and publishing emails is effortlessly done with MailChimp’s email template builder, so you never have to worry about wasting extra time on formatting your newsletter. One of the most significant advantages this tool has is excellent analytics and statistics, which Substack doesn’t boast at all.
This platform has been around for a while, so some features may seem old-fashioned or hard to use and it lacks integrations with some of today’s leading apps.
The pricing depends on the number of subscribers the creator has. For example, if you have up to 2,000 subscribers for your mailing list, using MailChimp will be free. Other fees depend on the number of subscribers and any advanced features you may utilize, starting with $53 per month.
Buttondown is a platform used for creating, formatting and publishing emails. Many creators like this platform because of its minimalist design that still incorporates plenty of useful features. The email creation feature is filled with helpful tools, one of them being a grammar checker.
Buttondown has various advantages in comparison to Substack. Firstly, it has analytics to see how well your content is working and adjust it accordingly. It also has scheduled automation and ensured privacy.
This platform also has many possible integrations and marketing tools that you can use to grow your business. However, it doesn’t possess an adequate community-building environment, essential for both new and established creators.
You can both use this platform for free and as a paying member, although the free plan has limitations, like no API support, Zapier or a custom domain. You can only use the free plan if you have up to 1,000 subscribers for your newsletter, and after that, you have to pay $5 for every new 1,000 paying member. On the other hand, the Professional payment plan will cost you $29, but it has additional features that you’re going to need.
The TinyLetter tool was created by the founders of MailChimp, the email marketing program mentioned earlier in this article. The main difference between this tool and MailChimp is that TinyLetter was created just to send newsletters. The other differences include simplified elements and features, considering that MailChimp was built for marketing.
TinyLetter has a simple interface and is incredibly effortless to use, especially in comparison to MailChimp. It makes creating and publishing newsletters a breeze and enjoyment. However, as with any other platform, it has downsides.
Even though it’s free to use, this platform’s most significant disadvantage is that the content that you post can’t be monetized on the platform itself. Instead, if you wish to monetize your work, you’ll have to utilize third-party apps and tools for patent processing.
On the other hand, TinyLetter is more similar to Substack than it is to MailChimp. An excellent advantage is that it’s free up to the first 5,000 subscribers, which is similar to MailChimp and a significant number.
Unfortunately, if you exceed this number, you’ll get the offer to sign up for MailChimp instead of continuing with TinyLetter. In our opinion, they could have worked on TinyLetter to make it more accessible to those with significant growth.
Out of all the alternatives listed here, we could say that MailerLite is most similar to HubSpot. It’s also an email creating and publishing platform with a mighty engine. This is an excellent option for those with more significant subscriber counts.
MailerLite is better than Substack as it lest you create a custom domain and even add it to your website.
The email creating tool comes with different templates and customizations, making it better than Substack. On this platform, you get a landing page with all your subscribers and schedule automated emails, and it’s completely no-code.
The best advantage that MailerLIte has is its analytics, something that Substack also doesn’t have. Powerful analytics can help you realize what’s working for your newsletter and what’s not so that you can improve in problematic areas.
It wasn’t created to be monetized, but you can easily do that using Stripe integrations and landing pages for your subscribers.
The downside is that this platform isn’t free. The pricing is flexible, with up to $50 per month depending on the number of subscribers and available features.
Our final verdict is that Substack is an adequate option if you’re a beginner or if you don’t want to monetize your content just yet, but there are so many better and more efficient platforms available online.
Writers today are exposed to a plethora of opportunities for online work and creating your own brand has never been easier. However, one of the downsides of Substack is how hard it is to build a community around your writing.
This is why we recommend GroupApp as the best Substack alternative available online. GroupApp is a membership-based platform where you can post multiple media types and, most importantly, stay in touch with your audience.
On GroupApp, you can publish your written work effortlessly, handle your community well and monetize your content easily! Sign up for GroupApp to make the best out of your writing today!