Substack is a platform that has revolutionized the way independent writers and journalists monetize their work by allowing them to create and distribute newsletters and other written content. It was founded in 2017 by Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi and Hamish McKenzie, with the goal of providing a space for writers to directly connect with their audience and monetize their content.
On Substack, writers can set up their own publication and offer different subscription plans to their readers. These plans typically include free, paid, and premium options. Subscribers receive regular updates and exclusive content from their favorite writers via email, allowing for a more intimate and personalized reading experience.
The substack.com home page © Substack
The platform gained significant attention for its simplicity and user-friendly interface, attracting numerous established and independent journalists and creators. Many prominent writers have migrated to Substack, drawn by the potential for financial independence and creative freedom.
Substack offers a range of tools and features to assist writers, including a built-in payment system, subscriber analytics, and the ability to customize the appearance and branding of newsletters. However, it is certainly not the only platform of its kind, and there are several Substack alternatives that offer similar features.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the main alternatives to Substack and compare their features and capabilities. We’ll dive deep into various newsletter software products, so you can best determine what suits your individual needs. We’ll also include the pricing of each platform.
What is Substack's pricing model?
There’s no cost to publish on Substack, no matter how many subscribers you have. If you activate paid subscriptions and start charging your audience, Substack takes a 10% fee on each transaction and their payment processing platform Stripe charges 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction.
Ghost - great for blogging
One alternative to Substack is Ghost, an open-source blogging platform. Ghost is similar to Substack in that it allows users to create and publish content, but it includes additional features that Substack is missing that might make it an appealing option for more established independent bloggers or small publications.
The ghost.org home page © Ghost
One of the main differences between Ghost and Substack is the level of control users have over their content. Ghost lets users do more ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to customization, offering custom themes and templates to fully edit the look and feel of their publications, while Substack has a more limited set of options. Ghost also offers multi-author support, which allows multiple users to contribute to a single blog or website, making it a good option for teams.
What is Ghost's pricing model?
Ghost costs from $11/month or $108/year for the Starter plan, including one staff user, free Ghost website themes and standard built-in integrations, and a maximum of 500 members. There are three higher tiers starting with the Creator plan at $25/month for 1,000 Members and extra functionality such as custom integrations.
Medium - great for community publishing
Medium is another platform that offers features similar to Substack. It's a blogging and writing platform that allows users to share stories, and it has a large community of readers and writers. Medium is known for its clean, easy-to-use interface, and its emphasis on quality content. It encourages readers to discover stories, thinking, and expertise on any topic.
The medium.com home page © Medium
Medium is an ideal platform for writers and journalists looking to reach an engaged audience, and so easily qualifies as one of Substack’s top competitors, as it has a loyal built-in community of readers – but the readership is focussed online or on the app, not in email newsletters. Medium's membership program and paywall options allows writers to monetize their content.
What is Medium's pricing model?
There’s no cost at all to publish on Medium, for any number of members/subscribers you may have. Medium makes its money by charging people to read your stories and other people’s stories, at $5/month or $50/year.
In fact, writers on the Medium Partner Program can earn money through referrals. Successful referrals bring in half of a new member’s subscription fee for as long as they remain a paying member, minus the standard 2.9% + $0.30 in payment processing fees. So, if you got 100 readers to sign up for a monthly Medium membership, you’d receive $227 per month.
ConvertKit - great for automation
ConvertKit is an email marketing and automation platform designed for creators such as bloggers, journalists and podcasters. It's designed to help users build an email list, automate email sequences, and segment audiences for targeted marketing. ConvertKit offers functionality such as opt-in forms, landing pages, and email comms like other Substack alternatives.
The converkit.com home page © ConvertKit
One of the main focuses of Convertkit is to automate the process of connecting with new potential subscribers and nurturing them into customers. It also has a visual automation builder which allows you to create complex automation flows without coding. It also includes tools for managing affiliate relationships and providing exclusive content to paying subscribers.
What is ConvertKit's pricing model?
For new creators, ConvertKit is free for up to 300 subscribers. For creators with growing audiences, ConvertKit costs from $15/month or $108/year, again for up to 300 subscribers, but also with access to email sequences, automation builders and third-party integrations plus an additional team member.
MailChimp - great for email
Mailchimp is an email marketing service that allows businesses and organizations to create and send email campaigns to (often large) audiences. Mailchimp offers the ability to create custom email templates, segment and target your audience, track the performance of your campaigns, and integrate with a variety of other tools and services to replicate a Substack competitor.
The mailchimp.com home page © Mailchimp
With Mailchimp, you receive analytics and tracking tools to help you understand how your campaigns are performing and make data-driven decisions. It’s less focussed on publishing and more for email CRM or ecommerce; as such it provides integrations with website builders, e-commerce platforms, and other tools that automate creating and sending email campaigns.
What is MailChimp's pricing model?
Mailchimp offers a free plan, which allows you to use most of the basic features for up to 2,500 email sends to up to 500 people with basic reporting. Paid plans for larger lists and more advanced features start from $20/month for up to 6000 sends to up to 500 people.
Patreon - great for creators
Patreon allows independent creators such as writers and musicians to receive financial support from their audience, to fund their work and continue to produce new content. Creators set up a page on the Patreon platform, and their fans, or "patrons," can choose to support them with a regular monetary contribution. In return, patrons receive exclusive content and/or perks.
The patreon.com home page © Patreon
Patreon operates on a subscription model, so patrons are charged a set amount on a recurring basis (usually monthly). Creators can choose to offer different levels of support with different rewards for each level, so patrons can choose to contribute a little or a lot depending on their budget and the level of engagement they're looking for. This allows for independent creators to continue producing content without being beholden to advertisers or traditional gatekeepers.
What is Patreon's pricing model?
Patreon Lite costs 5% of the monthly income you earn on Patreon, plus payment processing fees,and offers a creator page, communication tools and access to Patreon workshops. The Patreon Pro plan takes 8% of the monthly income you earn plus payment processing and offers in additional membership tiers, analytics and insights and a tool to run promotions.
SendFox - great for campaigns
Sendfox is a software platform that allows users to create, send, and track email marketing campaigns. It provides a range of features including email templates, automation, segmentation, and analytics. Sendfox is designed for businesses of all sizes and can be used to promote products and services, grow customer relationships, and increase conversions.
The sendfox.com home page © SendFox
There’s a free version of SendFox which allows sending newsletters to 1000 contacts with SendFox-branded emails and no automations. The Lifetime Plan costs just one payment of $49 (not recurring) and allows up to 5000 members, reduced SendFox branding and unlimited automations. This could be the cheapest of all Substack competitors.
What is SendFox's pricing model?
The Sendfox free plan allows for unlimited sending to up to 1,000 members but emails have SendFox branding. The Lifetime Plan costs just $49 for a single payment - that’s currently down from $480 – and allows up to 5,000 members and improved deliverability.
Beehiiv - great for scale
Beehiiv is a platform for writing, monetizing, and distributing newsletters. Beehiiv's founder Tyler Denk believes that while social media may have been where writers and creators established their names, email remains the most lucrative channel for audience building. The network powers over 7,500 active newsletters.
The beehiiv.com home page © Beehiiv
Beehiiv's biggest product plans seem to be in the area of advertising, building a programmatic ad network for newsletters. They're working on matching brands and advertisers to newsletter topics and offering a widening array of formats to insert ads natively.
What is Beehiiv's pricing model?
Beehiiv's approach is somewhat different from the other platforms here. For instance, they don't plan to take a cut on subscriptions if creators decide to implement paywalls (though Stripe fees still apply) and ad dollars still seem to be a key feature in their revenue model. But it charges its customers monthly fees, with three usage tiers: free, $42/month, and $84/month.
Smore - great for education
Smore is an online platform that simplifies the creation of newsletters and presentations, and focuses in particular on education and training materials. It provides a variety of visually appealing templates, allowing users to build multimedia content quickly and easily. If used in an educational setting, it's recommended to purchase the education version for access to education-themed clip art and in-depth features.
The smore.com home page © Smore
Smore is particularly praised for its user-friendly interface and versatility. Users can easily customize their newsletters with different background images, colors, and fonts. It's possible to add a wide array of content to the newsletters, including text, images, video content, attachments, forms, audio, and calendar options. Once created, these newsletters can be easily shared on social media or via email through a copied link. Smore also provides analytics, allowing users to track how many views their newsletters have received.
What is Smore's pricing model?
Setting up an account is straightforward with just an email address. You can try the product for free before purchasing. Free accounts come with 5 free 'smores' (creations), while Educator accounts come with unlimited smores. Smore Educator Basic costs $99/year, Smore Educator Pro costs $179/year and Smore Educator Premium costs $299/year.
Memberful - great for membership
We would be remiss if we didn't mention ourselves! Memberful is membership management software that lets creators manage membership programs with custom price tiers and access levels in order to monetize their content. Memberful works well for online course (eCourse) creators, podcast hosts, and other content creators who want to grow their audience.
The memberful.com home page
Particularly relevant here is our Posts feature, which replicates Substack’s ‘combined email and online’ approach! Memberful allows you to publish members-only content via newsletter as well as a Memberful-hosted website. You can add text and images, select which of your members to target, and publish the post or schedule it for later. Go to our help docs for more information.
What is Memberful's pricing model?
Our Starter plan is free with a 10% fee on transactions. You can create two membership plans with unlimited members, and website-only integrations. To use our Posts feature, you’ll need the Pro plan at $25/month (or the Premium plan for $100/month but the transaction fee reduces to 4.9%. This also allows for unlimited plans and unlimited members, plus all integrations as well upgrades such as the ability to sell private podcasts.
Conclusion - What is Substack and who are Substack's competitors?
There's a great choice for someone looking for Substack competitors: there's raft of platfroms that let you publish and distribute email ewsletters to an audience, and to create revenue for doing so.
Whether you're more interested in a platfrom that focuses on email, or community publishing or membership, or something else, will depend on the type of content you want to create, as well as factors such as the frequency of your publishing and your desired level of customization.
We hope that this helps - happy publishing!
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