Paid Newsletters: Substack or Revue?6 min read

The easiest way to make money from your blog is to be paid to create content. That’s the main reason a lot of bloggers choose to monetize their content through paid newsletters.

Maybe the idea of being paid to send emails to subscribers seems strange, but if you think of it as an upgrade of the old donate button, a paid newsletter suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Readers are willing to pay money for one of two things:

  • More content, either in the form of products (ebooks, courses) or paywalled content (paid newsletters, membership offerings)
  • Access to the blogger in the form of services (mentoring, one-on-one coaching)

A paid newsletter is a way for readers to gain access to more content or more in-depth content from you.

I’ve tried both Substack and Revue, two of the most popular options out there, and these are my conclusions.

Substack: Limited Features, Brilliant Implementation

I used Substack for Trends, what was once our premium newsletter, now part of XYZ.

There are a couple of obvious benefits the competition doesn’t offer:

  • No monthly fee
  • No limit on emails or subscribers

The interface is clean and simple, and there aren’t many options you can tweak.

A few of the things I don’t like about them:

  • There’s no white-label option, even if you are willing to pay
  • Maping a custom domain (or subdomain) costs $50

Sending out newsletters, importing subscribers from another platform (such as Mailchimp), and setting up a paid option for your newsletter is quite effortless.

All you need is an email address and a Stripe account, and you’re set.

You can set up monthly and annual subscriptions and also add a third option that enables you to offer something extra to anyone who decides to contribute more to your newsletter.

Visitors can choose to read a few of the newsletters you’ve sent out in the past so they can decide if they want to subscribe or not, but they don’t have access to the full archive.

If you choose to set up a paid newsletter, their cut is 10% of each subscription you sell, regardless of how many paid or free subscribers you have.

Overall, Substack is a simple platform to use. Even though it’s lacking in terms of certain customization options, its ease of use more than makes up for it.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs, “It just works.” It does what it’s supposed to do, and while it’s not as feature-rich as the other platform we’re reviewing (Revue), its user interface isn’t as cluttered either.

A couple of things to consider when choosing Substack:

  • The platform’s interface is clean and easy to navigate around
  • There aren’t many customization options, which might be a pro or a con, depending on your own branding needs
  • You can’t map a subdomain, which is something you need to consider
  • There are no monthly fees on top of their 10% cut of your earnings
  • There are no limits on how many free subscribers you have or how many emails you can send
  • Importing existing subscribers is effortless and easy

Revue

Image courtesy of the author

Revue is another great option. To be honest, the most obvious difference is the fact you have to pay a monthly fee depending on how many subscribers you have, but their fee is only 6% for each subscription you sell.

I used Revue for my main newsletter before switching back to Mailchimp.

Right now, I am using Revue for our weekly digest, mostly because the user interface when adding links (what is required for a digest newsletter) is top notch.

Revue does allow you the option to map a custom domain, so you can set your newsletter page on something like newsletter.yourdomain.com or something similar. However, there’s no SSL, and you will have to use Cloudfare to secure your domain.

They offer about the same number of customization options as Substack, such as setting a color scheme and uploading a logo.

Also, there are a few more integration options available. For instance, you can connect your Medium account, thus giving you the ability to instantly share your posts from Medium in your newsletters.

On the plus side, their fee for paid newsletters is only 5%.

A few things you should consider about Revue:

  • You can integrate quite a few other apps and platforms — for instance, allowing you to effortlessly embed and share your Medium articles
  • There’s no SSL on custom domains, meaning anyone who visits your newsletter’s page gets an error that the website isn’t safe. This can be quite the deal-breaker, especially if you don’t want to use Cloudfare.
  • Their Chrome extension allows you to save links that you can later add to your emails.

Who Wins?

On paper, the two platforms are similar, as they both have similar customization options, but I do have to say that Substack feels as if it’s going to get more updates in the future, to make it closer in terms of feature to a true publishing platform.

The interface is clean and user-friendly; it’s the closest thing to a set-up-an-account-and-go experience.

On the other hand, Revue is a great way to share digest newsletters, as their integrations with Medium, Instapaper, or Refind will help you effortlessly add links to your newsletter.

Last Thoughts

I recommend setting up a paid newsletter as a way to test how engaged of an audience you have.

Likes and comments and shares are nice, but the real test is when they’re presented with the option of having to pay in order to get access to more content.

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Cristian Mihai
Became Internet famous by the age of 23. Never recovered. I write short author bios all over the web. I’m an acquired taste. Don’t like me? Acquire some taste.
Articles: 133

4 Comments

  1. Christine Sponsler
    Christine Sponsler

    This is so exciting… can’t wait 😀

  2. Honestly, I didn’t know these services existed. Would you recommend this for beginners starting out their business, or someone more on an intermediate level (familiar with email marketing and already have a constant flow of traffic)?

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