14 min read

11 Substack alternatives for your newsletter

Here you will find the Pros and Cons of several Substack alternatives.
11 Substack alternatives for your newsletter

Substack is easy and free to start a newsletter. So why would someone want an alternative? Because at some point convenience isn't worth 10% in fees. And your newsletter could benefit from better SEO and discoverability.

So, Substack is a great starting point, but with it comes several frustrations. There's where this article comes to the rescue.

Here you'll find alternatives with more benefits, fewer fees, or are easy to use. After all, time is a currency.

Now, let's see more details about the criteria used.

Criteria

Substack is mainly a newsletter platform. So, the focus of the alternatives will be on having newsletter features. If they can match Substack's podcasting, that's a bonus.

Also, the "Pros" and "Cons" will always be compared to Substack.

For example, I consider paying 5% in fees outrageous. But a platform charging 5% is way better than Substack's 10%. So, the alternative fee of 5% is considered a "Pro".

So, the main criteria for an excellent Substack alternative:

  • Newsletter features;
  • An online archive of posts;
  • Some form of monetization.


Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links are affiliates. This means that if you buy after clicking on one of those, I get a commission at no additional cost for you.


Summary table

Name Pricing Rating as an alternative to Substack
Ghost Starts at $9/ month 5/5
Convertkit Free up to 1000 subscribers 5/5
Mailerlite Free up to 1000 subscribers 4/5
Buttondown Free up to 1000 subscribers 3/5
blogstatic Free or $39/ year 3/5
Papyrus 5% fees on memberships 3/5
Revue 5% fees on memberships 3/5
Medium Free 3/5
WordPress Varies a lot 3/5
Mailchimp Starts with free plans + fees 3/5
Patreon Free with fees between 5% and 12% 2/5

Ghost CMS - best Substack alternative for newsletters

Let me be direct and say Ghost is the best alternative for Substack.

Actually, Ghost CMS is a natural progression for someone who grew their newsletter and is now looking for a better platform to avoid outrageous commissions. Since Ghost doesn't charge fees on paid memberships.

In this Ghost review, you can see their strong points and also read if you should pick Substack or Ghost.

Also, there are no content guidelines or bans like in Substack for selling something outside of the platform.

Ghost offers more flexibility than Substack. This comes in the form of hosting options and a lot more layout options with themes available for Ghost.

Since Ghost is open-source, someone with advanced knowledge could choose between self-hosting or managed hosting.

While self-hosting the user will be responsible for installing, making backups, dealing with the security and updates.

So, for users who want to keep things simple and only focus on writing, it's recommended to use a managed hosting, like Ghost (Pro).

Also, a plus for Ghost is the extensive list of extensions. There is integration with almost all types of apps. Email, community, ecommerce, analytics, social apps, you name it.

And if the integration you want doesn't exist, you can create a custom one with Zapier or Ghost's API.

Let's see the positives and shortcomings of using Ghost.

Pros:

  • 0% fees;
  • Membership tiers;
  • Better SEO;
  • Several themes for Ghost;
  • Better editor for writing;
  • Multi-language support (require theme customization);
  • A lot of integrations (including Zapier);
  • Role-based permissions (for authors and editors);
  • Sending posts without publishing on the site;
  • There are no content guidelines or risk of bans like in Substack ;
  • Display ads possible on the website.

Cons:

  • No native comments, but there are 3rd-party programs to enable comments on Ghost;
  • If you have a small subscriber count, it will be more expensive than Substack;
  • There are no free plans (because it's open-source doesn't mean it won't cost money).

ConvertKit - best email service for creators

ConvertKit is the email service of creators for a good reason. They have everything you need to run a newsletter and earn an online income. They're the 2nd best option only behind Ghost because they don't have great SEO or include a website.

Overall, when you compare ConvertKit to Substack, ConvertKit emerges as the winner, and it's that much better.

ConvertKit is beginner-friendly with a free plan up to 1000 subscribers.

They also have fantastic automation options, email deliverability, and advanced analytics.

With ConvertKit, you can build landing pages, subscription forms for your website, and a referral program for your newsletter.

And the best part? You only pay payment processors fees of 3,5% + $0,3.

So, if you enjoy ConvertKit, you don't have to use another email provider for your newsletter later to avoid paying high fees.

While you enjoy ConvertKit, they have everything for your newsletter doesn't matter the size. From paid subscriptions to selling digital products.

Pros:

  • Free up to 1000 subscribers;
  • 3,5% fees+ $0,3;
  • Selling features (newsletters or digital products);
  • Automated email sequences;
  • Email segmentation;
  • Integrations;
  • Referral program;
  • Landing pages;
  • Great analytics;
  • Subscriber engagement scoring;
  • Team members.

Cons:

  • No comments or likes on online archive.

ConvertKit has 3 plans: Free, Creator and Creator Pro.
ConvertKit pricing page

Mailerlite - most affordable newsletter platform

Mailerlite is one of the most affordable options on this list, and they have a lot of features. Friendly advice: don't hold your breath while reading.

Mailerlite has a Free Plan for accounts with less than 1000 subscribers. And this plan alone comes with more than you expect, like email sequences, A/B testing, and a free website.

Their website builder can help you create landing pages to get more subscribers and sell digital products and subscriptions.

While writing the newsletter is a breeze with several options for different tastes. Basically, there are 3 types of editors available:

  • Drag & drop;
  • Rich editor (imagine Substack's editor but with more features);
  • HTML editor.

Better than all, you don't need to spend a fortune to get all this. Mailerlite Premium Plan starts at $7/ month for 1000 subscribers, but even if you grow to 10000, it's still affordable at $35/month. They are the most affordable option on this list.

Pros:

  • Paid newsletters;
  • Selling digital products;
  • Website builder;
  • Automated sequences;
  • Email drag & drop editor ;
  • Email templates;
  • Custom HTML editor;
  • Landing pages;
  • Pop-ups (subscribe and for promotions);
  • Email segmentation;
  • A/B testing;
  • Delivery by the timezone of the subscriber;
  • Surveys;
  • Click maps;
  • Multi-user accounts;
  • User permissions;
  • Integrations;
  • Unsubscribe forms.

Cons:

  • No comments or likes in the newsletter archive;
  • SEO of the web archive is equal or worse than Substack's.
Mailerlite has 2 plans: Free upt to 1000 subscribers and Pro.
Mailerlite pricing.

Buttondown - minimalist Substack alternative

Buttondown is a minimalist newsletter platform created in 2017.

As you can read in the Buttondown review, they have excellent prices, 0% fees, and allow several newsletters in the same account.

Another unique feature is the Pay what you want subscription, where you let your subscribers decide how much they want to pay per month.

Developers love Buttondown, thanks to the minimalist interface and data control. But you don't have to write code to use them.

Also important to notice they have better analytics and Zapier integration.

One thing they fall short of is the onboarding process. When you first create the account, you have to fill in a lot of settings with little guidance. So, you have a bit of work to do before exploring around.

With great pricing and 0% fees, Buttondown is worth considering as a Substack alternative.

Pros:

  • Free up to 1000 subscribers;
  • 0% fees;
  • Pay what you want subscription model;
  • Embeddable widget on other websites;
  • Analytics;
  • Integrations;
  • Multiple newsletters in the same account;

Cons:

  • No comments on archive pages;
  • Public archive requires coding knowledge to customize;
  • Only one layout option for the archive;
  • The onboarding process could be improved.
  • SEO doesn't look any better than Substack.

Buttondown has 2 plans: Free and Buttondown for Professionals.
Buttondown pricing.

blogstatic - cheap and straightforward blog with a newsletter

blogstatic makes it easy to create a blog with a newsletter.

This is a young tool created in 2021, quickly growing and releasing new features. So, they deserve to be on this list.

And blogstatic has released several updates since this review, including allowing subscribers to the blog and sending posts by email.

Everything with blogstatic is clean and straightforward. They have all the features you are expecting from a good blogging platform.

Someone coming from Substack will feel at home or better. Since blogstatic has better SEO features.

Yes, blogstatic is well optimized for SEO. They have everything that allows your newsletter to attract visitors via search engines.

Surprisingly, your blog will be fast. The editor is great, especially with the unique feature of not previewing the text. How things appear on the editor is how they show for your visitors. This is a big-time saver!

Writing on blogstatic is an excellent experience as it's one of the best text editors I've used. They are almost on par with Ghost's, considered one of the best.

Keep in mind they were released only in April 2021 and are already this good!

However, blogstatic still lacks paid memberships and comments on posts. These features are currently under consideration for future releases. So, keep an eye on it.

You can use blogstatic for free since they have a free plan.

Pros:

  • Blazing fast blog;
  • Amazing editor;
  • Better SEO;
  • Free plan;
  • Custom domain without costs;
  • Display ads available.

Cons:

  • No paid newsletters (yet);
  • No comments on posts (on the roadmap).
Blogstatic has 2 plans: Free and paid at $39 per year.
Blogstatic pricing.


Subscribe to the newsletter. It's free!


Papyrus - alternative with lower fees

From all the options on this list, Papyrus looks like a carbon copy of Substack. But Papyrus is looking to improve on its competitor shortcomings.

So, Papyrus is free to use but only charges 5% of membership fees. All this while having better discoverability.

Yes, Papyrus has a page dedicated to showing all the trending and latest posts from writers using the platform. So, this is solving one of the biggest frustrations from Substack writers.

Papyrus is easy to use, and creating an account takes 2 minutes. So, it's cool they kept things simple.

However, writing the posts (aka. newsletters) is not a great experience. One of the things about young platforms is they sometimes are unpolished. And the editor of Papyrus could use some improvement.

The text editor on Papyrus doesn't look appealing because it has 2 sidebars occupying a lot of the screen.
Papyrus text editor with 2 sidebars occupying 1/3 of the screen

So, as you can see on the screenshot below, there is no full screen available while writing. Even worse, 2 sidebars occupy 1/3 of the screen.

The editor itself is okay. It's a minimalist rich editor with markdown support, but it lacks buttons and custom HTML.

Pros:

  • Free to use with 5% fees;
  • As easy to use as Substack ;
  • Privacy-friendly: No cookies or trackers;
  • Discoverability in Papyrus homepage (by new or top posts);
  • Better SEO (metadata editor);

Cons:

  • No integrations;
  • Only accepts Google Analytics as a 3rd-party analytics service;
  • Custom domain costs $50 like Substack;
  • The editor is distracting and looks unpolished;
  • The platform is young, and you probably can't count on many readers finding your newsletter through discovery.

Papyrus is free to use with 5% fees on subscriptions.
Papyrus pricing

Revue - best newsletter for Twitter power users

Revue is similar to Substack by being easy to start a newsletter and having a revenue sharing model on paid memberships. But in Revue's case, it's only 5%.

Where Revue gets the upper hand is deep integration with Twitter since it was acquired in 2021.

And now Twitter lets people subscribe to your Revue newsletter through your profile page.

💡
Tip: even if you use another platform, you can create a Revue newsletter and use integration to sync users to your newsletter platform. For example, someone subscribes on Revue, and Zapier will create a new member on Ghost.

This deep integration makes Revue a no-brainer for users with big Twitter audiences looking for a simple newsletter solution.

Revue also allows custom domains and team members like editors.

However, the experience of writing on Revue isn't good. The editor is clumsy and lacks features like buttons.

Also, Revue only allows Google Analytics as a 3rd-party analytics service. Which is a letdown from a privacy standpoint. And SEO isn't good but does not allow metadata customization.

Overall, Revue is an okay alternative with positives and drawbacks versus Substack.

Pros:

  • 5% fees on paid newsletter;
  • Subscription through Twitter profile;
  • Integrations (example, Zapier);
  • Embeddable subscriber forms;
  • Ability to change the default language of the newsletter;
  • Custom domain;
  • Team features.

Cons:

  • Only accepts Google Analytics as a 3rd-party analytics service;
  • The editor is poor compared to Substack;
  • No SEO features (no metadata customization);
  • Limited layouts for the archive page.

Medium - big audience for writers

Next on this list is Medium, the well-known blogging platform. And there are good reasons to use Medium as a Substack alternative.

First, posts on Medium have great reach via search engines and a significant user base. This helps with discoverability, whereas Substack newsletters struggle.

And next, Medium is free and easy to use. Plus, it has a Zapier integration which helps a lot.

Also relevant is collecting email addresses and sending newsletters via Medium.

Most important, you can use Medium to your SEO advantage. For example, you can start writing on Medium for free and build an email list there. Later, you can create a website and put a Canonical Tag on posts to tell search engines the post on your website is the piece they should rank on the search results.

In practice, this makes using Medium a risk-free option to start writing, get a following, and reap the SEO benefits of your site at a later stage.

And how can you make money writing on Medium? Medium pays per reading time. It's a calculation based on their premium members' time reading your posts.

💡
Essential to notice you won't get paid for non-premium members' reading time.

As you can notice, there's no mention of paid newsletter subscriptions on Medium. So you won't have that option.

Pros

  • Free to use;
  • No fees (Payments per time reading);
  • Incredible reach, benefiting from the excellent SEO of Medium (without custom domain);
  • Better discoverability;
  • You can use canonical tags to help your site's rankings on search engines;
  • Zapier integration.

Cons:

  • No paid newsletters;
  • Using a custom domain takes more time to benefit from Medium reach on search engines.

WordPress - most flexible and time-consuming

It would take a series of articles to explain using WordPress as a newsletter. So, these are the general guidelines.

First, you need to know this option is demanding to execute and the one you can do whatever you want. You only need to have time, money, and knowledge.

So, for creating a newsletter on WordPress, you need to:

  • Create a website;
  • Use a plugin that sends posts as a newsletter, like MemberSpace or Newsletter Glue.

Creating a WordPress website can be a daunting task if you're not familiarized with the process.

However, you will have complete control of the website, including design, which is one of the reasons many people pick WordPress.

About monetizing your newsletter, you can rely on recurring memberships or display ads on the website's pages.

Also, you can use a series of plugins to improve the SEO of the website.

However, WordPress is more expensive and time-consuming than other alternatives, hen it's lower position on this list.

The cost of using WordPress varies a lot. You have to pick hosting, a domain name, and pay for plugins. On top of that, you can have developer costs if you can't build the website alone.

💡
The domain name cost is only referred to in WordPress because it's the only option on this list where it's a requirement.

And most important, WordPress will require a lot of attention to maintain because the website can be hacked or have vulnerabilities in so many ways.

Pros:

  • You can find a plugin without fees;
  • Total control over layout;
  • Endless possibilities of themes, plugins, and integrations;
  • Monetization via subscriptions or ads;
  • Better SEO;
  • Better writing experience;
  • Multi-language support (requires plugins);
  • Role-based permissions for authors.

Cons:

  • You have to use plugins to create a newsletter;
  • More security risks;
  • You need to know a bit about coding or have help from someone.


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Mailchimp - OG newsletter platform

Next is Mailchimp, one of the well-established names and an OG platform for newsletters recently acquired by Intuit.

💡
This acquisition doesn't have any impact in the short term. But one could foresee integrations benefiting USA customers soon.

Mailchimp has lots of tools for sending a newsletter, one could think. Including templates, analytics, and a solid newsletter editor.

And because of the advanced design options, newsletters sent through Mailchimp tend to be HTML-heavy. This means they will trigger filters from Gmail more quickly, and emails could be moved to the Promotions tab. Or worse, to SPAM.

What Mailchimp has a free plan. But it can get expensive quickly. And another negative is the more significant learning curve compared to Substack.

However, Mailchimp allows online selling with low fees, A/B testing, and automated sequences, among other great features you can see in the list below.

Pros:

  • Fees between 0,5% and 2%;
  • Selling features;
  • Website/ public archive;
  • Custom domain (without paying $50);
  • A/B testing;
  • Segmentation;
  • Multi-user account;
  • Automated email sequences.

Cons:

  • Emails have a lot of HTML, which email clients don't like;
  • There is a bigger learning curve compared to Substack.

Mailchimp has 3 plans allowing to create a website: Free, Core and Plus.
Mailchimp pricing page

Patreon - community tool with newsletters

Patreon also deserves mention on this list. As it is a community tool with some ability to send newsletters.

However, Patreon is not a platform I recommend over Substack for newsletters.

For starters, the editor is awful. It doesn't support markdown. You have to select the text to customize it, and it looks very basic. And by basic, I mean the opposite of what I meant to blogstatic. In this one, you feel lost, and there's no clue what to do, while blogstatic is simple with the essential things on sight.

Next, the fees go up with each plan. Meaning, it gets more expensive for you to unlock more features. This is counterintuitive pricing and taxing, even more, the success of the creators on the platform.

Another problem with Patreon is you can't have free members. So, people either pay, or you can't send the newsletter to them.

Finally, there are no search engine optimization options like changing metadata and no sitemap. In practice, this will hurt your possibilities of getting good rankings on search engines. Which will break the discoverability of your page more than on Substack.

Patreon is a good community tool, especially if you want to post audio and video content for paying members.

But for newsletters, it lacks a lot of things. And you would be better suited with other options on this list.

Yet, Patreon excels if your content relies on audio and video. And they make it easy to create a community.

Pros:

  • Free to use with fees. Fees start at 5% but go up to 12%;
  • Audio RSS to distribute your audio content as a podcast to popular platforms.

Cons:

  • Bad SEO of posts;
  • It's primarily a community tool;
  • Only accepts Google Analytics as a 3rd-party analytics service;
  • You cannot have free subscribers;
  • The text editor is much worse.

Patreon has 3 plans: Lite, Pro and Premium.
Patreon pricing.

Final thoughts

As you can read, there are many options to send a newsletter.

So, picking the right platform is not only a question of money. It's also about selecting a tool to fit your goals and technical knowledge.

I've made this list by order of recommendation, but you should consider the Pros and Cons of each one and see if it applies to you.

Also, I would like to make honorable mentions to tools that didn't enter the recommended shortlist this time:

  • Tinyletter;
  • Gumroad;
  • Upscribe;
  • Letterdrop.

Now, pick the right tool for you and start a nice newsletter.

Again, I would leave you with my top recommendation: Ghost CMS.


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