Last updated: 17 November 2022


Ahmed Chougle

WordPress writer.

Best Substack alternatives

If you’re a writer or publisher looking to start your own newsletter, Substack is a great option. It’s easy to use and allows you to build your audience for free.

But as your newsletter starts to grow in popularity, you may want to look for alternatives that offer more customization, better workflow, better SEO – for a lower cost.

In this article, we’ll look at some Substack alternatives that are worth considering if you’re serious about your newsletter.

Why Substack is so popular among independent writers and publishers

Substack

Substack is a popular platform among independent writers and publishers looking to start their own email newsletter. The following are the features that contribute to its popularity:

Recommendations: Substack give writers an option to select other newsletters to recommend when a new reader subscribes to their publication. It is a simple cross-promotion feature that help other writers gain new readers and subscribers.

Editor’s note: In my opinion, this is the biggest reason a writer should use Substack over any other publishing platform. This feature is so effective at promoting a Substack to other Substack readers, it allows writers to focus on writing, rather than worrying about marketing or growing their audience.

On the flip side, this is limited to promotion within Substack itself, and if a publication already has its own effective marketing channels, this feature is less important.

Free: It’s free to use and there are no monthly or subscription fees associated with it. This makes it an excellent choice for those who want to start a newsletter but don’t want to spend any money.

User-friendly: It has an extremely user-friendly and minimalist interface that allows anyone to easily create and publish a newsletter. Unlike other email marketing tools where you get a drag and drop editor, Substack gives you a clean classic editor to focus more on writing.

List management: It takes away the hassle of managing a mailing list. Substacks let writers focus on creating content while it handles the rest.

Paid newsletter: Substack lets you monetize your newsletter without you having to deal with setting up payment gateways. You can set up a paid newsletter where people pay to read your newsletter.

Now that we’ve covered the benefits, let’s take a look at the features that Substack lacks.

The cons of using Substack

No customization: All Substack newsletters look the same. You can’t change the look and feel of your newsletter and you’re limited to what the platform has to offer.

Writing experience: Because Substack uses a basic text editor, you are limited to text formatting and cannot create advanced sections with complicated designs. If you’re used to writing in a more advanced editor, like the one that comes with WordPress, you may find the Substack editor to be very basic.

SEO: Even though Substack allows you to publish your newsletter on the web, you cannot optimize it for SEO as you’d for a blog.

Custom email: Substack does not allow for much branding. The platform doesn’t let you use a custom email address to send newsletters. This can be a big downside if you’re trying to build a brand and get people to recognize your newsletter.

Revenue sharing: If you start a paid newsletter, Substack will take 10% of your revenue. If you’re just starting out and make $1,000/month, paying $100 to Substack each month seems reasonable.

However, if you earn $10,000/month, giving Substack $1,000/month makes no sense. And if you earn $100,000/month, instead of paying Substack $10,000/month, you could hire an entire dev team with that money.

As there are both pros and cons of using Substack, let’s take a look at some alternatives that might be a better fit for your newsletter.

5 alternatives to Substack for independent writers and publishers

There are a number of different platforms that offer similar services to Substack, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Here are 5 alternatives to Substack for independent writers and publishers.

1. Newsletter Glue

Newsletter Glue homepage

Newsletter Glue is an email builder for WordPress. It integrates with various email marketing services and allows you to send newsletters directly from your website.

It gives you full control over the look and appearance of the newsletter and you can customize it however you want by using one of the thousands of free WordPress themes available.

Key features

  • Custom domain – Because you’re using WordPress, you get all the benefits of using a full-featured content management system. This includes hosting your newsletter on your own domain and sending out newsletters using a custom email address.
  • Rich editor: It uses the WordPress block editor allowing you to create and customize the content using the different Gutenberg blocks. The WordPress editor is simple yet intuitive, and it gives you the impression that you are writing a blog post.
  • SEO friendly – You can install any WordPress SEO plugin and optimize your newsletter issue for search engines.
  • Sign up form – Newsletter Glue comes with a custom subscriber sign up form that you can customize to match your branding and place it on any page of your website.
  • Template Library – Newsletter Glue comes with a template library full of professionally designed newsletter templates that are fully responsive with clean, heavily-tested HTML and look great on all screen sizes and email clients.
  • Custom newsletter blocks – It includes a variety of custom blocks, including author byline, social follow, post embed, container, and metadata to help you easily design custom newsletter.
  • Curated newsletter – You can easily create a curated newsletter from various web sources using the post embed block.
  • Ownership – You own the platform, which means there are no monthly fees or commissions to pay to run a paid newsletter.
  • Integrations: It not only integrates with various ESPs, but you can also use it with various tools that support the WordPress block editor.
  • Automation & Analytics – You can use Newsletter Glue to create newsletters while your ESP handles subscriber lists, analytics, and automations.
  • Custom website and membership site – Using WordPress, you can build any site design you want. You can also use membership tools like Memberful and Paid Memberships Pro to customize your membership tiers and features.

Pricing

If you want to test how Newsletter Glue works, you can get a free demo from the website.

For paid plans, it has three distinct packages:

Writer, $99. Best for independent creators, bloggers, and newsletter writers.

Publisher, $169. Best for professional publications and online businesses.

Newsroom, starting from $1,425. Best for large newsrooms with editorial teams.

Cons

  • If you don’t have a technical background, you might need help from a dev agency for constant maintenance and updates.
  • You will need your own email service provider to use Newsletter Glue. For some, this might be a good thing as you benefit from the advanced features of an ESP like segmentation, automations, and more. However, if you’re looking for something more basic, this might prove too many steps.

Best for

  • Big Substack writers who earn five figures and more. Substack charges 10% of revenue, so if 10% of revenue is more than the cost of hiring an agency, you should definitely switch to WP + NG because you get so much more for the price you’re paying.

2. Ghost

Ghost for Newsletter

Ghost is an open-source newsletter and blogging platform with many key features that makes it a good Substack alternative. Even though it is open source, it is not a free tool and charges a monthly subscription fee.

It comes with a minimalist interface that makes for a good writing experience. It supports rich media & dynamic cards, so you can make your newsletter stand out.

You can also customize it to your needs by using one of the many free themes available in its marketplace.

Key features

  • Custom domain – It lets you host your newsletter on your own domain and send them from a custom email address.
  • SEO friendly – It comes with built-in support for XML sitemaps, AMP pages, canonical tags, pretty URLs, and social cards. 
  • No fee cut – It charges a fixed monthly fee and you don’t have to share a percentage of your earnings or pay any transaction fees.
  • Integrations – It integrates with many popular services such as Zapier, Slack, Google Analytics and more.
  • Multi-tier membership – You can use it to create a multi-tiered paid newsletter having different charges and access to content.
  • Powerful editor – The editor is rich and has a toolbar that performs all of the formatting tasks. It also supports cards and blocks, allowing you to add images, markdown, HTML, galleries, email-only content, and embeds.

Pricing

Ghost pricing starts at $9/month when paid annually for up to 500 subscribers.

The pricing goes up as your audience grows. It does not take any cut from your earnings if you run a paid newsletter.

Cons

  • Similar to Substack, there is limited customization. Also, unlike WordPress, there is no rich ecosystem of plugins to extend your site.
  • At a lower end, it’s more expensive than Substack.

Best for

  • People who have started making money from their newsletter and want to have an archive of it. It is also a good option for people who don’t want too many features or the support overhead of WordPress but want a nice modern design.

3. Revue

Important note: Revue is scheduled to be shut down after Elon Musk acquired Twitter. This is an evolving situation (and it might turn out that Revue will continue to operate), but there is legitimate platform risk to consider before moving to Revue right now.

Revue for newsletter

Revue is another Substack alternative that allows writers and publishers to send newsletters and publish their content online. It was recently acquired by Twitter, which has enabled deep integration that allows gaining new subscribers from your Twitter profile very easy.

Revue is very much like Substack. It is free and lets you easily monetize your content by adding the option of a paid newsletter. 

Key features

  • Custom domain – Revue lets you host your newsletter on a custom domain for free.
  • Custom email – You have the freedom of sending newsletters either from [email protected] or [email protected]
  • Integrations: It integrates well with Twitter, Zapier, Facebook, Pocket, Instagram, Medium, RSS Feed, and WordPress.
  • Sign up form – Users can add a sign up using custom HTML, iframe, or integrations with website builders. The Twitter integration lets you easily add a sign up button to your profile and provide one-click subscriptions.

Pricing

Revue, like Substack, is a free newsletter platform. However, if you decide to run a paid newsletter, it deducts 5% from your earnings.

Cons

  • Similar to Substack, there is limited to no customization available. If you are just starting out, Revue has fewer readers.

Best for

  • People who have large followings on Twitter and would like to share long form content with their audience.

4. Buttondown

Buttondown

Buttondown is a great newsletter tool that comes with a minimalist user experience. Compared to other tools in this list, Buttondown is run by a single person that’s passionate about the product.

It is a great tool for someone who likes to focus more on writing and doesn’t want to get distracted by the flashy interface. It is flexible, user-friendly, and can be easily customized with custom CSS and HTML.

Key features

  • Markdown editor – It uses the markdown editor with options for embedded Tweets and photos.
  • Integration – It integrates with other publishing and site builder tools such as Zapier, Squarespace, Ghost, Webflow, Medium, and more.
  • Custom domain and email – It allows you to host your newsletter archive on your own domain and send out the newsletter using a custom email such as [email protected]
  • Paid newsletter – You can easily run a paid newsletter, and Buttondown takes no cut of your earnings. It allows you to charge your subscribers in any currency you want.
  • Pay what you want – It let’s you run a paid newsletter and allow your subscribers to decide how much they want to pay.
  • Multiple newsletter – You can use a single account to host multiple newsletter.

Pricing

Buttondown has pricing plans based on the number of subscriber:

  • The free tier is limited to 100 subscribers, which is good enough to test the platform and get yourself familiar with it before commiting to a paid plan.
  • The Basic plan starts at $9/month and allows you to add up to 1000 subscribers.
  • The next plan is the Standard plan and it costs $29/month for up to 5000 subscribers.
  • The last is the Professional plan and it costs $79/month and allows you to send a newsletter to up to 10,000 subscribers.
  • If your subscriber base is more than 10k, you can email the developer for a custom pricing.

Cons

  • The number of subscribers on the free tier is very limited. 
  • There isn’t much customization as it focuses on simplicity.

Best for

  • People who prefer to focus on the writing aspect of newsletter creation rather than the flashy design.

5. Medium

Medium

Medium is a popular blogging platform that enables anyone to publish content on the internet for free. 

It recently launched the newsletter features that allows publishers to write blog posts and send those as emails to their readers. The editor has a very minimalistic design with lots of white space and offers basic formatting options to allow the focus to be on writing.

Key features

  • SEO – Medium has a high domain authority and a great built-in SEO that allows writers to easily rank high on Google and gain new audience from the web.
  • Monetization – You can join in the Medium Partner Program and earn money based on how many minutes your articles are read by paying readers.
  • Curated newsletter – Send a curated list of articles to your readers inbox as a daily or weekly digest.

Pricing

Medium is completely free to use. 

Cons

  • You have no control over the platform, and Medium moderators may remove your content if they deem it inappropriate for the platform.
  • You won’t be able to earn much from the platform.

Best for

  • It is best for people who want to start writing and get their content in front of a larger audience.

How to choose the right Substack alternative for your needs

Newsletter Glue – It is best for writers and publishers who already have an established audience and would like to build their unique brand. It is also perfect for those who want to keep 100% of their earnings. You can pair it up with a membership platform such as Paid Membership Pro or Memberful to create a paid newsletter inside WordPress and keep 100% of your revenue.

Ghost – It is best suited for writers and publishers who want more customisation than they can get on Substack, but don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of building their own newsletter platform.

Revue – It is best suited for writers and publishers who have a large Twitter following and want to convert it into email subscribers and send newsletters. Note there is significant platform risk in starting with Revue today as it is scheduled to be shut down.

Buttondown – It is best for writers and publishers who like minimalist interface but also don’t want to sacrifice on features such as analytics, custom domain and email, customization, third-party integrations and more.

Medium – It is best suited to writers and publishers who want to get their content in front of a larger audience and rank higher on Google.

Wrapping up: The best Substack alternatives

Substack is a great tool for starters but it may not be a great fit as your audience starts to grow and you start earning from it.

We’ve looked at different Substack alternatives, catering to different use cases. You can read through the article and choose the one that works best for you.


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