10 Best Substack Alternatives To Try in 2024

10 Best Substack Alternatives To Try in 2024
05 February, 2024 • ... • 108 views
Natasha Zack
by Natasha Zack

If you are a writer or a blogger looking to increase your following and monetize your content, you are probably familiar with Substack. Moreover, you also likely know about the situation this popular publishing platform has found itself in recently. But even if you haven’t heard anything of that sort, you might still be on the lookout for some Substack alternatives that could better suit your specific goals and needs. 

If so, we’ve got you covered. In this article, you’ll find some best Substack alternatives that are just as good as this popular platform — or even better.

So, what is Substack?

Substack is an online platform that allows bloggers and writers to publish, distribute, and monetize their newsletter content. Founded in 2017 in the US, the platform has gained traction due to its functionality, simplicity, and user-friendliness. 

Technically, Substack is a blogging platform that allows creators to publish their content online effortlessly. On the other hand, it is also a newsletter platform similar to email marketing tools — it allows users to build email lists and offer newsletter subscriptions. When people subscribe to a writer’s newsletter, they get email notifications whenever that writer publishes something.

Substack also has a built-in monetization model praised for its convenience and ease of use. When the writer’s followers opt for a paid subscription, they get exclusive content in their newsletters and can access subscriber-only pieces published on the platform. For content creators, using the platform is free of charge as long as they don’t offer paid subscriptions. If they do, Substack deducts 10% from their earnings on the platform.

Substack main page screenshot

However, the platform has found itself at the center of a scandal lately. In short, it’s been called out for not banning the usage of some Nazi symbols by its content creators. Moreover, Substack refused to take radical action even in the wake of the scandal — although the company did agree to make a few changes to its policies. However, it seems they were not enough. As a result, some content creators began looking for Substack alternatives. Luckily for them, there are several platforms and tools that can be just as good — or, in some cases, even better. 

While we are not going to delve into the ethical aspects, we can help you make an informed choice by providing a list of the best Subsctack alternatives you can try in 2024. Whether you decide to go/stay with Substack or not, it is always good to know there are more tools than one that can help you benefit from your content.

Pros and cons of the Substack approach

Despite the platform’s convenience, it has some technical drawbacks. Here’s why you might want to start searching for Substack alternatives:

  • Limited customization. Substack might not be the best choice if you need custom design options or plan to produce branded content. Here’s what a typical Substack newsletter looks like, for example.
a Substack email newsletter example. The email has a super-minimalistic look with practically no design elements, which makes it seem very generic.
The problem is, you can’t really change a lot in this design, so fancy branding is not possible. Source: Substack
  • High competition and discoverability issues. As the platform is becoming more crowded, it’s getting increasingly difficult for creators to stand out. Besides, readers often find the abundance of content on Substack overwhelming. The platform has some in-built features to combat this: a separate discovery page, recommendations for cross-promotion, and more, but they don’t help a lot. That is not to mention search engine discoverability that leaves much to be desired in the case of content published on Substack. 
  • Limited monetization. Substack’s monetization model is clear and simple, but it is also somewhat constrained. For those looking for more options to earn money with their content — for example, through ad revenue — other platforms might be more attractive. 
  • Lack of advanced email features and analytics. Growing and nurturing an email list is crucial for monetization on Substack. However, email analytics provided by the platform are not as advanced as those offered by professional email marketing platforms. You can only track open and click-through rates in Substack, and that’s it. Also, advanced email features like A/B testing and automation are not available. So, for those willing to learn some email marketing, Substack’s lack of functionality on this part can be a hindrance.

On the other hand, there are some definite pros to the Substack approach, namely: 

  • The platform is beginner-friendly and easy to use. You don’t need advanced knowledge to join it and start publishing. This is often crucial to Subsctack’s target audience — bloggers and writers who don’t have much experience with software platforms. 
  • Substack is a laser-focused solution primarily aimed at writers. As such, it offers just as many features as they need and nothing more. Also, the audience knows what to expect from content on this platform — you don’t have to compete with creators that do, for example, music or videos. 
  • Substack is good for fostering a community of your own because it provides comments and discussions on the platform. 
  • Substack has a convenient monetization model, according to many creators — it is seamlessly integrated into the platform and you don’t have to take additional steps to start a paid newsletter.

With that in mind, let’s move on to the list of some best Substack alternatives available on the market.

Best Substack alternative platforms to explore

From beginner-friendly email marketing software like Selzy to multi-functional platforms such as WordPress, here are 10 best tools for your audience growth and monetization needs. 

Selzy

Selzy analytics page screenshot, the Recipient behavior tab, the diagram shows the campaign’s dynamics over time, both opens and clicks
Selzy offers a detailed rundown on when subscribers open your emails — for free!

Selzy is a professional email service provider for small to medium-sized businesses. It’s a great fit for beginners with little to no experience in email marketing, and flexible pricing is an added benefit for content creators and solopreneurs. It is also an ideal email marketing service for nonprofits due to its affordability and the 50% discount it offers to registered charity organizations. With a simple but powerful built-in email editor, you can create custom designs in a matter of minutes. Email automation and detailed analytics will help you deliver your emails and provide you with insights for growth. With a choice of integrations, you can also use Selzy in concert with a traditional website blog, social media accounts, or an e-commerce store.

Selzy’s free plan allows up to 1K contacts on your list and includes personalization and automation features. Thus, you can start a paid newsletter at no cost at all: you just need to integrate Stripe via Pabbly and start receiving payments. That is not possible on Substack — it deducts a commission from every monthly payment made by subscribers. Paid plans start at $7 per month, making Selzy one of the most affordable email marketing solutions among its competitors.

Free plan: Yes

Paid plans: Starting at $7/month (if billed annually)

Key features: Email newsletters, user-friendly email builder, email automation, detailed email analytics, A/B testing

Convert Kit

ConvertKit sign-up form templates screenshot
ConvertKit offers a bunch of sign-up form templates — so, if you have a website, you can use it for growing your contact list. Source: Kate Scott

ConvertKit is an email marketing platform that targets content creators like writers, online coaches, and podcasters. It’s convenient and easy to use, and offers features for audience growth and monetization such as landing and sales pages, creator and sponsor networks, and recommendations. You can also easily set up a paid newsletter with ConvertKit in just a few steps as the tool has a specific feature for that. More typical email marketing features such as audience segmentation, email automation and analytics are also present. The downside is, ConvertKit doesn’t offer a drag-and-drop email builder, which limits your email design options in a way similar to Substack.

ConvertKit also has a free plan that allows up to 1K subscribers. However, you’ll need one of the two available paid plans to unlock the full potential of the platform. These can be pricey compared to competitors: for example, for a Creator account with 1K subscribers, you’ll have to pay $25 a month on an annual plan.

Free plan: Yes

Paid plans: Starting at $9/month (if billed annually)

Key features: Email newsletters, advanced segmentation and automation, landing pages, creator-specific features

Mailchimp

Mailchimp no-code email builder screenshot
Mailchimp’s email builder is very customizable — you don’t have to learn HTML to create a picture-perfect newsletter! Source: Mailchimp

Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing platforms out there. Its customers include businesses of all sizes and industries. With a huge choice of solutions and services, including email marketing, social media marketing, and a website builder, it can cater to virtually all business needs. That makes Mailchimp a great platform to grow your business with, as you can start with a few essential features and proceed with more advanced ones, including multiple integrations, when you are ready. Content creators can also conveniently monetize their products with Mailchimp. However, this abundance of features can also be a disadvantage for beginners who are likely to feel overwhelmed by it.

As pricing goes, Mailchimp is flexible but rather expensive. While there is a free plan available, its functionality is somewhat limited. Paid plans start at $13 per month, and the overall pricing model is rather confusing for content creators who don’t have time to look into the details more closely.

Free plan: Yes 

Paid plans: Starting at $13/month (if billed annually) 

Key features: Email newsletters, email automation, detailed email analytics, multiple integrations

Mailerlite

Mailerlite analytics dashboard with the performance overview: the graph of subscribers growing over time, how many emails were sent, the general open, CTR, and CTOR rates
In Mailerlite, you can observe the growth dynamics of your list and the general “marketing health” of your newsletter. Also, it shows Click-to-Open Rate as a separate metric, which is not as common in email marketing software. Source: Mailerlite

Mailerlite is a very feature-rich marketing automation tool that can cover all the needs of a content creator. It offers an AI-powered drag-and-drop email builder, landing pages, websites and blogs — and, of course, a native paid newsletter subscription tool and a feature for selling digital products. It’s also available not only as a web app but also on iOS, and it offers a separate iPad app for growing your list during offline events. 

However, despite a long list of cool features, Mailerlite’s free users won’t be able to experience most of them. The free plan only includes the basic toolbox for designing and sending emails, growing your list with sign-up forms and pop-ups, creating automated sequences, and also building websites and up to 10 landing pages. So, if you can pay at least $9 for a limit of 1,000 contacts, you’ll experience Mailerlite in its full glory.

Free plan: Yes 

Paid plans: Starting at $9/month (if billed annually) 

Key features: Email newsletters, websites, blogs, landing pages, automation, selling digital products, paid newsletter subscription

Buttondown

Buttondown edit email screenshot
Buttondown, like ConvertKit, doesn’t allow a lot of fancy design options — but it supports Markdown and HTML if you want anything fancier than plain text. Source: Buttondown

Buttondown is a simple but efficient software solution for running and managing email newsletters. It is particularly popular with businesses and content creators who need an affordable tool with a minimalist interface that does only one thing, but does it well. Buttondown is not as feature-rich as other ESPs but it still has the essential toolkit for running a successful newsletter: scheduling, automation, detailed analytics, and more.

The platform allows flexible paid subscriptions via a native integration with Stripe, and offers simple migration from Substack. On the downside, there are no in-built discoverability features in Buttondown, so creators can only grow their audience through third-party platforms like social network accounts or personal websites — for example, by adding a subscription widget.

In terms of pricing, Buttondown sits somewhere in the middle. Its free plan, though technically present, only allows for up to 100 subscribers, and paid plans start at $9 per month. For this price, you can afford an email marketing service subscription with better functionality — yet Substack with its 10% commissions is still more expensive.

Free plan: Yes

Paid plans: Starting at $9/month

Key features: Email newsletters, email analytics, paid subscriptions

beehiiv

beehiiv email preview screenshot
Source: Page Flows

beehiiv is a relatively new newsletter management software that has quickly gained traction in the past few years. Its current audience includes writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs focused on growing their readership and monetizing content through newsletter subscriptions. The platform offers most of the features Substack has — paid email newsletters, discoverability, and analytics. Other beehiiv features include A/B testing, custom newsletter builder, and an ad network, to name a few. You can also create a website with beehiiv if you don’t have one already, which will make attracting new subscribers even easier. 

However, most of the advanced features beehiiv offers — including premium newsletters — come at a rather steep price of $42 per month on an annual plan. This renders the platform’s free plan a sort of a “trial version” if audience monetization through paid newsletters is your main focus — even though it does allow up to 2,5K subscribers.

Free plan: Yes

Paid plans: Starting with $42/month (if billed annually)

Key features: Email newsletters, email analytics, recommendation network

Patreon

Patreon main page screenshot
Patreon is not an email service but it has its specific analytics — for example, it provides statistics on post views. Source: Fable & Folly

Patreon is a popular membership platform that offers versatile audience monetization options to content creators of different kinds. Unlike Substack, this platform is popular with not only writers and podcasters, but also with musicians, artists, video creators, and even game developers. Members who join Patreon can support their favorite creators by monthly subscription payments or by purchasing their products, and creators can connect directly with their “patrons” on the platform. This model is great for fostering strong and supportive online communities, but not very convenient to creators who want to build a solid email subscriber base and engage with their audience on their own terms.  

In terms of pricing, Patreon is a lot similar to Substack. While the platform is free to join and publish on, it deducts a commission from all payments received by creators. The good thing is, there are more than one subscription tiers on Patreon. This feature can help you attract more supporters and bring in more revenue.

Free version: Yes

Payments and fees: 8–12% of the income earned on Patreon plus other payments and other applicable fees (currency conversion, taxes, etc.)

Key features: Publishing, selling digital products, multiple subscription tiers

WordPress

WordPress Ultimate dashboard screenshot
WordPress provides lots of analytics data — but it might be difficult to navigate its dashboard with no prior experience. Source: WordPress

WordPress is the leading open source CMS (content management system) that currently powers over 40% of all the world’s websites — including this one, by the way. The main reasons for such popularity include diverse functionality, remarkable affordability, and relative ease of use. As functionality goes, you can do virtually anything with WordPress, including running and managing a blog, an email newsletter, and an e-commerce store. With a myriad of custom themes and plugins available, you can arrange your WordPress website entirely to your liking and enjoy the functionality unmatched by other platforms. However, if newsletters are your main focus and not the website content, you will probably find WordPress’s functionality lacking in this department. 

As for the pricing, you can use WordPress.org for free as open source software. However, managing such a website requires experience which content creators don’t always have. For a more user-friendly interface, choose WordPress.com that also allows free accounts. Paid plans start at $4 a month there, but the platform also takes 4–10% commissions from the users’ revenue depending on their plan.

Free plan: Yes

Paid plan: Starting at $9/month (if billed annually) 

Key features: Publishing, email newsletters, paid subscriptions

Ghost

Ghost dashboard screenshot
Ghost provides detailed analytics via its dashboard. You can see the number of subscribers and its dynamics, your engagement rates, and more. Source: Ghost

Ghost is an open source CMS software tool for blogs of all kinds and a highly popular alternative to both WordPress and Substack. Businesses and content creators alike praise Ghost for its diverse functionality, affordability, and ease of use. To content creators, the platform is particularly convenient because it allows them to have everything they need in one place. As a writer or a blogger, you can run a blog and a newsletter with Ghost and easily manage paid subscriptions via integration with Stripe. In this case, you won’t have to share your subscription revenue with the platform or pay any transaction fees, as you would on Substack, WordPress.com, and some other popular platforms.   

You can also use Ghost completely for free if you have the skills and technical knowledge required to manage your account on your own. If you’d rather delegate that, go for the paid GhostPro option. Pricing plans start at $9 a month for an audience of up to 500 members. Not exactly affordable, but many users claim it’s totally worth it.

Free plan: Yes (self-managed accounts)

Paid plan: Starting at $9/month (if billed annually) 

Key features: Publishing, email newsletters, paid subscriptions   

Official website: ghost.org

Medium

Medium audience stats page screenshot
On Medium, you can only see limited statistics. However, it does provide numbers you can rely on, including the number of email subscribers and how it changes. Source: Medium

Medium is an online publishing platform that is well known among writers, journalists, and bloggers. Professionals and amateurs alike favor it for simplicity, ease of use, and the fact that articles published on Medium often rank well on Google. To start working with Medium, you only need to register on the platform and start publishing. If your content is any good, readers will discover it, whether on the platform itself or through search engines. If you know some basic SEO, choose your topic wisely, and engage with your audience in the comments, you can easily grow your follower number and become eligible to join the platform’s Partner Program. 

Medium’s Partner Program allows content creators to earn money on the platform, but the monetization model is rather complicated. Generally, payouts are calculated based on the readers’ engagement, but there are many conditions you have to meet to earn revenue. Newsletter subscriptions, though present, are only good for promoting your content as you cannot monetize them directly. That makes Medium a good platform for growing your audience but not the best one in terms of monetization.

Free plan: Yes.

Key features: Publishing, analytics, email newsletters, content monetization through Partner Program.    

Official website: medium.com

How to choose the right Substack alternative: Key factors to consider

Since there are so many alternatives to Substack out there, how do you choose the right one to suit your needs? Here are some key factors to consider. 

Audience size

As mentioned earlier, Substack deducts a percentage of each creator’s earnings on the platform. That means the more subscribers you have, the more you pay. While this works somewhat similarly on other platforms, Substack is typically more expensive for creators with large audiences. That is because many Substack alternatives only charge a monthly/yearly fixed fee that doesn’t depend on how much your subscription costs. 

For example, in Selzy, you can send up to 15K newsletters to up to 1K subscribers with a free account and have all your earnings to yourself. With Substack, 1K subscribers would cost you $50 if your monthly subscription costs $5. And if it costs more? You can do the math yourself. 

Email design customization needs

Another issue with Substack is the limited choice of design customization options it offers. As a result, a typical Substack newsletter looks very generic and indistinguishable from other creators’ emails sent via the platform. That is also the problem with some Substack competitors, particularly with newsletter platforms. 

Some creators are totally fine with it though — for example, those who are just starting out and don’t have any logos or recognizable brand design. But if design is an important part of your brand identity, consider alternatives with better customization options, such as ESPs and CMSs. 

Payment methods and processing

Different platforms offer different payment processing options, and you should definitely take them into account when choosing a platform. Substack, for example, uses an external platform called Stripe for payment processing, while other platforms may offer payments by PayPal, credit card, Apple Pay, and more. 

Obviously, the more payment methods you can offer to your subscribers, the better. However, it is also important to study the list of the countries and currencies available for payment processing and learn about additional fees (taxes, currency conversion, etc.).  

Analytics and optimization features

When you are working on growing and monetizing your audience, producing and distributing content is only part of the job. To monitor the effectiveness of your efforts, you also need analytics data and insights to sink your teeth into. With enough data, you can assess the crucial metrics, and with optimization features, you can achieve the best result possible for your campaigns. However, some analytics and optimization features might be superfluous if you are not planning on honing your marketing skills just yet.

For example, Selzy’s analytics include a click map. It’s a preview of an email where you can also see how many people clicked the links in your email. However, if your newsletters don’t contain a lot of third-party links, you might not need this feature.

Selzy’s click map example showing how many people clicked links in the email marketing digest newsletter
Here’s what Selzy’s click map looks like — you can also click on each number to learn who exactly clicked each link

Final thoughts

If you are a content creator looking for Substack alternatives, you have many options to choose from. While Substack has a unique combination of features that initially made it popular, you can still find a substitute.

Substack alternatives include email marketing software, publishing platforms, and content monetization solutions. Choosing a right tool for you depends on:

  • Long-term goals, professional plans, experience, and financial situation.
  • Audience size.
  • Email design needs.
  • Payment processing options offered by the platform.
  • Analytics and optimization features available.

In any case, you can have everything you need to monetize your content and grow your audience outside of Substack. Besides, you can always use several tools to make the most of your work.

05 February, 2024
Article by
Natasha Zack
I’m a professional journalist with 10+ years of experience. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with various kinds of media — print, online, broadcast. Currently, I write copy for brand media and teach English part-time. I also have my own edtech passion project dedicated to teaching English via Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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