You’ve probably heard about Substack by now, and perhaps you are already using it. If not, in a nutshell, Substack is a popular online platform that allows writers, journalists, and content creators to publish and distribute newsletters and other forms of written content to a subscriber base. It was founded in 2017 by Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi and it provides a user-friendly platform, with a few words of warning.
We all know there are new options and new technology to consider all the time. The question is, will this help me, or be a complete time suck? How do I know if Substack is something I should use? As is often the case, there are pros and cons to using it.
The pros of using Substack
Simplicity: Substack offers a user-friendly and streamlined platform for creating and distributing content. You don’t need to worry about setting up and maintaining a website, managing hosting, or dealing with technical issues. This simplicity can be appealing, especially for those who want to focus primarily on content creation.
Monetization: Substack makes it relatively easy to monetize your content through subscription-based models. It handles payment processing and billing, which can save you time and effort compared to setting up your own payment system for a newsletter or blog.
Built-In Audience: Substack has a built-in audience of readers who actively seek out and subscribe to content on the platform. This can make it easier to attract subscribers compared to starting from scratch with your own blog or newsletter.
Discoverability: Substack has features that can help your content get discovered by a wider audience, such as recommendations and featured newsletters. Building an audience for your standalone blog or newsletter can be more challenging and time-consuming.
Community: Substack provides tools for fostering a sense of community among your subscribers, including comment sections and discussion features. This can enhance reader engagement and interaction.
Brand Recognition: Substack is a known platform, and some creators may benefit from the credibility and recognition associated with publishing on it. This can be especially helpful for writers and journalists looking to establish their brand.
Technical Support: Substack offers technical support, including assistance with formatting, design, and other technical aspects of content creation. This can be valuable if you’re not tech-savvy or prefer not to deal with technical details.
This all sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes it does. However, as with all things in life, there are some drawbacks you must be aware of in order to make an informed decision.
The cons of using Substack
Fees: Substack takes a percentage of your subscription revenue as a fee. While this fee covers hosting and payment processing, it can impact your overall earnings compared to running your own monetized blog or newsletter. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but there is more…
Dependency: By using Substack, you are dependent on the platform’s policies and infrastructure. If Substack were to change its terms or shut down, it could affect your ability to reach your audience. (Personally, this is a deal breaker for me. It’s one reason I stress having your own website and blog because you own it.)
Limited Customization: Substack templates offer some customization options, but they may not provide the level of control and design flexibility you would have with your own blog or website.
Subscriber Ownership: While you retain ownership of your content, Substack retains ownership of your subscriber list. This means that if you decide to leave the platform, you may lose direct access to your subscribers. (Personally, another deal breaker. One of the main reasons for having an email list is so you can continue to communicate to your own list.)
I think it’s important with decisions such as this one that you be aware of all the pros and cons. As you can see, there is much to consider and using it or not using it depends entirely on you and your situation. Substack has gained popularity among writers and journalists, experts and thought leaders, and authors and content creators looking for a more direct way to connect with their audiences and monetize their work. Now you’re more informed on what you will gain, and what you will give up using Substack.
P.S. I work in media every single day and am aware of the changing trends. If you would like help securing media interviews, let’s talk. Meanwhile Should I Stay or Should I Go?
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