Seeking Substack alternatives to grow your newsletter in 2024?
Discover platforms that offer better monetization, audience engagement, and publishing tools. In this guide, we compare top contenders to help you make the switch.
What we will explore together:
The creator economy is rapidly growing and could approach half-a-trillion dollars by 2027, and creators increasingly need platforms that align with their content style and monetization preferences; popular platforms such as Substack offer an integrated solution but have limitations that may prompt creators to explore alternatives.
While Substack provides a solid infrastructure for newsletter creation and monetization through paid subscriptions, earning substantial revenue requires continuous content delivery and significant subscriber growth, which may not be feasible for all creators.
Numerous platforms offer varied features including learning experiences (Disco), broader audience exposure (Medium), customizable design (Ghost.org), flexible memberships (Patreon), focused newsletter growth (Beehiiv), sophisticated email marketing (ConvertKit), and user-friendly interfaces with free plans (MailerLite), serving as potential alternatives to Substack for content creators.
Exploring the Creator Economy and Its Platforms
The creator economy is a thriving ecosystem of individuals leveraging their creative talents to earn money. This economy has experienced significant growth, with approximately 50 million people identifying as creators and a value estimated at $104.2 billion as of mid-2022. In 2027, it could approach a half-a-trillion dollar industry.
The selection of an appropriate platform for content monetization significantly influences the way you sell your content or your audience to users or advertisers.
Creators need to align their monetization models and platforms with their content style and audience preferences to generate sustainable revenue. In this context, finding the only platform that suits their needs becomes crucial for success.
What is Substack? Features and Limitations
Substack has emerged as a popular platform for independent writers to create and distribute newsletters and other written content.
However, some creators might be looking for a substack alternative that better suits their needs. Offering different subscription plans to readers, Substack has played a significant role in the creator economy by providing a platform that supports paid subscriptions and a referral program, offering a viable monetization path for creators.
Substack's Key Features
Substack is an all-in-one publishing solution for creators. It offers:
Email newsletter distribution
Community features such as ‘likes,’ comments, and discussion threads
Analytics to monitor readership and subscriber activities
Substack is designed to simplify the creator’s journey and foster community engagement.
In addition, Substack simplifies the technicalities of payment processing with secure transactions made through Stripe, providing creators with quick access to funds and subscription management tools.
Analyzing the Pros and Cons of Substack
On Substack, writers retain 90% of their revenue, excluding credit card fees, making it a creator-favorable earning model. The platform also offers a start without upfront costs, benefiting writers looking to quickly launch a newsletter and share content.
However, Substack has some drawbacks to consider:
❌ 10% commission rate. Substack takes a 10% cut of subscription revenues, which can impact overall creator profits.
Consider a scenario where you have 100 enthusiastic subscribers each paying $50/month for an annual subscription. That's a tidy sum of $5,000 in monthly revenue.
However, Substack's commission slices off $500 each month. Essentially, for every 100 subscribers, you're not just sharing your content; you're also sharing a significant portion of your earnings for the platform's services, which may offer fewer features than you'd like.
❌ Platform Dependency. Relying on Substack for your newsletter business means you're essentially renting digital space rather than owning it. This can lead to a precarious situation where long-term growth is tethered to the whims of the platform.
With Substack, you're at the mercy of their evolving policies, features, and fee structures, making it a less ideal choice for creators who aim to build an enduring, scalable business with complete control and independence.
❌ Hard to build a self-sustaining community. While Substack encourages a strong creator-follower dynamic, it falls short in facilitating a community that thrives independently. Creators find themselves in a perpetual cycle of content production to keep their subscribers engaged.
This constant demand for fresh material can be a formidable challenge, especially for individual creators or small teams looking to scale their operations.
The platform's design is more conducive to a one-to-many broadcast model rather than fostering a many-to-many community dialogue, which could lead to a more self-sustaining ecosystem that grows organically through subscriber interaction and content co-creation.
❌ Limited offering other than newsletter platform. Although you can build your community in Substack though group messaging and public threads, there's no way you can create other educational products than the newsletter.
If you want to create courses or community, then you need an LMS like Disco.co to manage these products and grow your business.
Earnings on Substack: A Reality Check
Substack enables writers to transform their words into a stream of income by offering paid subscriptions for their insightful newsletters. Picture this: a dedicated Substack writer with a following of 1,000 subscribers, each paying $5 per month, stands to earn an annual income of $60,000. This presents an enticing opportunity for creators to monetize their passion for writing.
However, there's a catch. Substack claims a 10% commission, which would amount to $6,000 from your $60k pot of gold. While pocketing $54k is nothing to scoff at, it's worth noting that a chunk of your hard-earned cash is lining the pockets of your publishing platform.
It's imperative for creators to grasp the nuances of newsletter monetization fully. To thrive financially on Substack, one must consistently churn out high-quality content, maintain a regular publishing schedule, and foster active subscriber engagement among their non-paying and paying subscribers.
With these insights in hand, let's delve into the 5 best Substack alternatives that have been meticulously selected to bolster your online business endeavors.
7 Best Alternative to Substack (2024)
#1. DISCO - Beyond Newsletters. Building Learning Communities
Looking beyond newsletters, Disco.co emerges as a versatile platform, a perfect Substack alternative, designed for delivering transformative and collaborative learning experiences. It combines robust learning capabilities with community building and engagement tools, offering a comprehensive solution for creators.
Why Choose Disco Over Substack?
Disco provides a more holistic learning and community experience, not limited to newsletters like Substack. It supports different interactive and community-driven learning formats, expanding the possibilities for creators beyond Substack’s newsletter model.
Disco’s ecosystem, which integrates AI-enhanced member management, promotes a dynamic and scalable approach to community engagement.
Creators seeking a platform that combines learning delivery with community and productivity tools might find Disco a better fit than Substack.
✔️ White-label and Branding: Disco gives creators the power to brand their online presence. With white-label LMS capabilities, users can personalize their platforms with logos, color schemes, and domain names, offering a seamless brand experience that resonates with their audience and enhances recognition.
✔️ Customization Options: The platform offers expansive customization options, allowing creators to tailor their online space to their unique needs. From the layout of the learning environment to the features available to members, Disco ensures that every aspect of the platform can be adjusted to fit the creator's vision.
✔️ Community Engagement and Management Tool: Disco excels in community engagement, providing a suite of tools in one platform that helps creators manage their communities efficiently. This includes features for discussions, feedback, and collaborative projects, all designed to foster a strong sense of community among members.
Aside from that, Disco boasts innovative features like its Slack integration, complete with an AI co-pilot that acts as your virtual community assistant, ensuring you're not left to manage your community's dynamics alone.
This cutting-edge tool can help streamline community interactions, making it easier for creators to keep their fingers on the pulse of their audience's needs and maintain an engaging, thriving community without being overwhelmed by the small details of day-to-day management.
✔️ Diverse Product Offerings: Unlike platforms limited to newsletters, Disco enables creators to diversify their product offerings. They can design courses, workshops, and other educational products, providing a richer array of content to their audience and opening up additional revenue streams.
Medium stands out as a user-friendly publishing platform, recognized for its clean interface and emphasis on quality content. Medium allows writers to cultivate a loyal readership and reap the benefits of community support and collaboration opportunities, positioning it as a formidable competitor to Substack.
The Medium Partner Program offers the following benefits for writers:
Monetization of content through a revenue-sharing model that includes paywalls and member subscriptions
Exposure to a broader audience
Intuitive blogging and engagement tools
Potential for earnings without requiring a personal subscriber list
Earning Potential on Medium
The earning potential on Medium is quite flexible and can vary widely among writers. Through the Medium Partner Program, writers earn money based on the engagement their stories receive from Medium members.
The more claps, reading time, and interaction a story garners, the more the writer earns.
Some writers may only earn a few dollars a month, while others with a strong following and high engagement can earn thousands.
For instance, top writers on Medium have reported earnings exceeding $10,000 per month. However, such success typically requires consistently producing high-quality content that resonates with a large audience and effectively leveraging Medium's algorithm.
#3. Ghost.org: Customizable Blogging and Subscription Service
Ghost.org serves as an appealing blogging platform, emphasizing design customization and enabling users to craft unique destinations compared to Substack.
Ghost offers design settings that include brand elements such as logos, site icons, and cover images, allowing creators to optimize display across devices for a personalized user experience.
Ghost.org empowers creators to implement monthly subscription fees without taking a cut from the revenue, thus offering an enticing monetization model. The platform’s subscription fees are attractively tiered, and it offers a unique advantage of zero transaction fees for creators who host the service on their own server.
Earning Potential on Ghost:
Unlike Substack, Ghost does not take a percentage of the subscription revenue, allowing creators to retain the entirety of their earnings.
The platform offers various pricing tiers, starting from the Starter plan at $9 per month, to the Creator plan at $25 per month, and up to the Business plan at $50 per month, each with its own set of features and capabilities.
#4. Patreon: Ideal for Membership Monetization Model
Patreon is a platform that supports creators in offering various membership tier structures, providing flexibility in pricing and benefits. Creators can start with an affordable single membership tier and expand to multiple tiers as they understand their audience preferences better.
Patreon members enjoy a variety of perks including early access, ad-free content, digital downloads, and member shout-outs, these vary depending on the content type and the offerings of the creator.
Community-building experiences are key to Patreon’s approach, where creators can engage members through community forums, live events, and exclusive spaces on platforms like Discord or Slack.
Earning Potential on Patreon:
Creators on Patreon can leverage the platform's tiered membership model to generate income, offering exclusive content and experiences to subscribers. However, the platform deducts fees ranging from 5% to 12% of the earnings upon withdrawal, which can become significant as a creator's income increases.
Additionally, Patreon charges payment processing fees, including an extra 2.9% plus $0.30 for every successful payment exceeding $3, which can further reduce the creator's net revenue.
Comparing Other Noteworthy Substack Alternatives
There are a multitude of options available for writers seeking an alternative to Substack, each offering unique features and functionalities to cater to various content publishing needs, including support for multiple users.
#5. Beehiiv: Tailored for Newsletter Growth and Monetization
Beehiiv is not just a newsletter platform; it also serves as a membership platform with its interesting feature of a minimalist interface, allowing creators to focus on content.
A dedicated sponsorship network provides them with a pathway to monetize their newsletters using essential business tools and even create their own website.
Beehiiv also provides a customizable, code-free setup referral program to encourage growth driven by readers.
#6. ConvertKit: Automation Workflows and Landing Pages Mastery
ConvertKit emphasizes email marketing automation with a visual builder that simplifies the creation of sophisticated workflows, directly impacting subscriber engagement and list growth.
Creators can map out detailed subscriber journeys using ConvertKit’s visual automations, with features such as pre-built templates, and sequences that react to specific subscriber actions.
The adaptability of ConvertKit’s landing page builder allows creators to craft a variety of effective pages to capture leads and grow their subscriber base. Advanced features such as A/B testing and detailed analytics, along with integrated RSS feed broadcasting, support creators in growing and analyzing their audience.
#7. MailerLite: A User-Friendly Interface With Generous Free Plan
MailerLite, an email marketing platform, offers a free plan that supports up to 1,000 email subscribers and includes features beneficial for growing audiences, such as email automation and A/B testing, without any cost.
The platform’s automation features allow for sophisticated email campaigns with personalization based on subscriber behavior.
Aiming for user-friendliness, MailerLite offers a drag-and-drop editor, pre-designed templates, and extensive learning resources that cater to both novice and seasoned marketers.
Furthermore, MailerLite offers a completely free plan with the option to upgrade to paid plans for added features, with clear conditions for when an upgrade is necessary.
Supercharge Your Learning Community
A step-by-step guide to build and grow a thriving learning community.
In conclusion, while Substack has significantly influenced the creator economy, numerous alternatives offer unique features and functionalities catering to different content publishing needs.
Start with DISCO's 14-day free trial to start and accelerate the growth of your business, not just offering a newsletter, but offering diverse products from self-paced courses, cohort-based, paid events, memberships, and one-time payment products.
The power to accelerate your revenue is in diversity of your digital assets and ensuring you're not paying a large cut to your platform from your revenue. Get ready to build and grow with Disco!
The Learning Community Playbook delivers actionable insights, innovative frameworks, and valuable strategies to spark engagement, nurture growth, and foster deeper connections. Access this resource and start building a vibrant learning ecosystem today!