Substack - is it the right blogging platform for you

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Substack: is it the “write” blog platform for you?

What is Substack and is it really free?

Substack is a free, cloud-based blogging platform, that helps authors attract a loyal following by distributing their blog via a newsletter. It’s a great way for Canadian writers and journalists to build a mailing list, generate leads and experiment with paid subscriptions. 

It is completely free for content creators, and Substack only charges if you upgrade, and start to generate revenue from your subscriptions. You can choose which posts are free and which are gated behind the Substack paywall. 

Substack focuses on writers, so it’s a blogging platform without the hassle of buying a domain and creating a website.  It’s all about your words!

Substack is incredibly easy to use for bloggers – much like writing a LinkedIn article. Just sign up, and you can start adding content right away.

  • You can publish Podcasts
  • You can write Notes to add to your post – think of it as microblogging, a bit like Twitter.
  • Chats is a space for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. These are private messages sent only to subscribers, which are meant to encourage discussion or conversation.
  • You can create discussion Threads to help tap into the energy of your readerships and foster active communities. Thread posts appear in your publication and archives.

Is Substack free for readers?

Substack is similar to Medium – an ad-free user experience where readers can discover and follow like-minded authors. Many Substack blogs are free to read. It’s up to each content creator to decide whether or not to place their work behind a paywall. 

What happens when I want to start charging readers?

Substack is very easy to set up for “ecommerce journalism” in North America. However you should be aware that the payment gateway Stripe takes a 2.9% cut of payments and Substack then takes an additional 10%. 

But remember you will also be EARNING fees for each subscription. Your payments may increase, but it will be aligned with your income.

Can Substack replace Wix and Squarespace?

If you are a known journalist or writer wasting time trying to find graphics, and deal with the visual elements of Wix or Squarespace, Substack could be right for you.  These “rental” websites are not helping you as they have poor SEO, categorization, searching and navigation.

Can Substack replace LinkedIn?

If you don’t have a website, or your website isn’t niche, LinkedIn blogs are REALLY useful.  They encourage you to add images and graphics that make blogs more readable, and you can immediately share on LinkedIn or a newsletter. 

I recommend that anyone trying to attract attention on LinkedIn should try to write articles or blogs to complement shorter posts (which disappear from feeds within hours, if they ever appeared to begin with!)

  • You can still leverage LinkedIn to share your Substack posts  (although I notice many don’t have images? Maybe this is just a setting).
  • You are less hamstrung by the LinkedIn popularity algorithms.
  • As it’s newer, Substack audiences may be less established in the cycle of selling themselves and more about reading.

Can Substack replace Mailchimp?

Mailchimp has been the default choice for newsletters for years.

  • It is more visual than most wordy newsletter generators
  • Many inexpensive social media gurus can help you set up
  • WordPress, Shopify and other platforms have plugins that link to it.
  • It is easy to import and export addresses
  • It is free [at first].

Most of my clients used Mailchimp, until suddenly it was bought out and severely limited it’s free options.  That’s always the problem with “cloud-based” options – you invest time and effort, and once you are locked in, you must paid the price or walk away.

The good news is that if you switch to Substack, you don’t have to manually copy and paste your content. Substack provides imports for Mailchimp as well as TinyLetter, Tumblr, and even a podcast RSS feed.

Can Substack replace my website?

Substack focuses on writers, so it’s a blogging platform without the hassle of buying a domain and creating a website.  You can still customize yourSubstack visual brand, logo, cover photo, email banner, and welcome email text.

However, Substack won’t directly market you as a freelance writer available for commercial work.

Substack says they work in the background to make sure author’s blogs are visible on Google search, however I know that when I search, I don’t see Substack on my results. Perhaps it is still a little new? Perhaps the blog post themselves are not written for SEO? SEO is difficult, and while there are plugins and experts to help with SEO on websites and Shopify, Substack is a new distributor.

I am told that while some Substack accounts have a sitemap, smaller accounts to don’t. Without a sitemap, it’s difficult for Google to verify you. I don’t know that it is POSSIBLE for Google to verify you without a private domain – it’s required for a website. Substack charges a one-time $50 USD fee to use a custom domain for your publication.

What blogging platform will work best for YOU!

As a blogger and content creator, you have a LOT of options. Don’t rush into a choice, especially if it’s a “rental” that you don’t own or control. You are making an investment in time and talent, so do your research before locking yourself into a large corporation that has its own agenda.

  • LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. That makes it more stable because they don’t chase short term profits.
  • I think (or perhaps hope ?) Meta has peaked.
  • Twitter has already failed.
  • I don’t think Bluesky is going to launch – they weren’t ready, and couldn’t capitalize on their timing.
  • I think most big corporates are investing in AI, to bypass sharing their profits with creators.
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