I recently discovered that Medium has an option for publishing newsletters and I was curious about its features relative to alternative options such as Substack or MailChimp. I already use Medium as a blog, so it would be easy to just start a newsletter there. However, I'm the type of person who doesn't like to commit to anything until after I've thoroughly researched it.
- The platform itself allows anyone to publish their blogs for free.
- By publishing on Medium, you retain ownership of all copyrights and intellectual property rights related to the content you share, but you give Medium non-exclusive license to publish it on Medium Services. See Medium's Terms of Service for more.
- Medium offer some tips for SEO but you don't have nearly as much control as you would if you used a traditional blogging site like Wordpress.
- You can monetize your blog by becoming a Medium partner, which means you have to make an account with Stripe. You get paid monthly based on how much time a Medium member spends on reading your blog, as a proportion of their total reading time every month. According to Casey Botticello from Blogging Guide, the highest amount earned for a single story (as of March 2020) was $5,099.90. The highest amount earned by a single author was $17,126.40. Very few active writers earn over $100 (6.9%)—according to Quora, 9% of writers made over $100 (posted January 2020) while this Medium blogger reported that 5.7% of active writers earned over $100 . The first set of earnings estimates came from Casey's own annual Google Survey and I'm not sure where the latter figure came from, so I don't know how representative the data are because I don't know the methodology behind their data collection. As someone who studied demography in graduate school, my criteria for this is pretty steep. Also, it's not clear how newsletters matter for this other than as a way of funneling readers to your posts—the Casey Botticello guy shamelessly redirects through his Substack newsletter, so looks like you could double-up on your strategy like he does if revenue is your main driver for starting a newsletter. Anyway, to earn anything, you must select the option to make your story eligible for Medium's metered paywall:
- For the newsletter itself, you can only start the newsletter if you create your own publication.
NOTE: I joined Medium after they changed their subscription and partner model sometime back in 2018 or 2019. It was a lot more lucrative back then, apparently (e.g., Forte Lab blog post)
How does Medium compare to alternatives
Unique features that differentiate Substack from Medium
- You can build an email list of your subscribers, which you can take to any other platform.
- You have the flexibility of setting the price of your monthly subscription, if you want to charge. Substack collects 10% commission per user.
- You can attach your newsletter to your custom domain (which costs $50 + the cost of your domain).
- You can create podcasts and audio.
Notable cons of Substack compared to Medium
- The ability to customize the design of your newsletter is very limited.
- You receive very limited analytics on their platform by default—just the total number of views of your Substack story. Medium shows you the number of reads, an estimate of how far down they scrolled down in a specific story, total number of fans, and your readers' areas of interest.
Cons of both
- You cannot export content if you want to move to another platform.
- There is no list segmentation option. All subscribers are added to a single list.
- You cannot conduct A/B testing.
Two other free alternatives
- The free tier for EmailOctopus is capped at 2,500 subscribers and 10,000 emails per month. The next pricing tier is $20 per month for 5,000 subscribers and 50,000 emails, plus additional features.
- They recommend using it with Carrd to build a landing page. The price for Carrd starts at $9 a year for 3 sites with no analytics. For $19 a year you get 10 sites and access to forms, widets, embeds, and Google Analytics. If you look at their templates and you've poked around on the internet enough, you'll notice that many of their templates are actually free (e.g., free HTML5 themes). You could always download the theme and launch your website on Github for free.
- Mailchimp offers a forever free tier that allows up to 2,000 subscribers. You also get free landing pages on their Mailchimp domain. Other free features include a Marketing CRM, Creative Assistant, and website builder.
- The next tier starts at $9.99 per month for 50,000 subscribers and audience segmentation, plus custom branding, email templates, and more advanced marketing features like A/B testing and multi-step journeys. Mailchimp recommends the $14.99 per month option that allows for up to 100,000 subscribers, 5 audiences, customer journey builder and branching points, time optimization, behavioral targeting, custom templates, and dynamic content.
Again, I found a lot more options (18 in total) and I built a table to compare all the alternatives on my resources page. I will say that these are among the best options that I came across, especially if you're interested in starting a small email marketing campaign. ConvertKit was another good option that I did not include in this post. Another one to keep an eye on is Revue, which just got acquired by Twitter.