Exploring Substack for Building Your Newsletter by@arthur.tkachenko

Exploring Substack for Building Your Newsletter

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This Slogging thread by Arthur Tkachenko occurred in slogging's official #random channel, and has been edited for readability.

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:27 AM

Exploring Substack for building your newsletter

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:29 AM

Few days ago i made a post on IndieHackers about my recent accomplishment. I counted my articles on Hackernoon related to #food-tech category and realize that during these years i published 24 articles. It's a huge accomplishment for me and i was happy to share it with others.

But comments went to another direction. I get asked if i want to create a newsletter, related to food tech. And yeah, i'm thinking about it, but there a lot of things to take in consideration

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:30 AM

I get asked if Substack is a great option to build your newsletter. So I want to share my takeaways here

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:31 AM

Let's start with basics.

Substack is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that allows writers to monetize their newsletters via a subscription model for various prices starting at $5 per month

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Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:33 AM

its focused on writers and editor is easy to learn. Plus you can pick if it's a free piece or you want to send it to your paid users only. While it's easy to write a post, there still a limitations to layout, i.e. you can't put everything there. which is probably fine

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Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:36 AM

it's can be a great idea to starting from scratch, especially when you just want to start publishing your content and dont worry about everything else. It put readers first, which I also like. Not sure if i like an idea about "premium content" that hidden under paywalls.

People that know me well, knows that I have motto "Fuck Paywalls". For years i'm skipping magazines with paywalls and publishing my content on Hackernoon

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:36 AM

But there some Pros and Cons, for sure

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:41 AM

You own your content and it's great.
You can also easily export your email list, posts and other data from your settings page.

From that page you can download everything that allowed by Substack right now. sarcasm.

I remember times when you can download all your business contacts from Linkedin into simple CSV list. But it's not allowed right now i think... Private companies can easily change their directions, ie pivot and update their terms.

I also remember that I was able to download contacts to my 60k of students on Udemy and use it. But now I have a limited option to reach my students via 2 fields form on Udemy and I also should watch my words and didnt try to steal any traffic from Udemy(they better focus on applying some tools to DRM protection of video courses instead, so nobody can download them)

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Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:42 AM

Making money from newsletters is also fine. And the ability to set up paid subsciptions is a great way for monetization.

Here is a guide from Substack to take a deeper look: https://substack.com/going-paid-guide

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:44 AM

I think they allowing to connect your Stripe account via Settings
But what if your country dont support Stripe(yeah, there so many countries worldwide, you know)...
or what if i'm a crypto fan and I want to put some QR code or include unstoppableDomains links? not sure if it's possible.

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Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:47 AM

as a company that want to be profitable, there is some fee for sure.

Substack allows you to use Stripe to accept payments. Stripe is available in select countries if you are not located in one of those countries then you cannot receive payments.


Both Substack and Stripe take their cut from each transaction. Substack charges 10% and Stripe charges 2.9% + 30 cents on each transaction. This means if you charge $10 per subscriber then the Substack + Stripe fee will be 1.59.


This may not sound a lot but let's suppose you have 100 paid subscribers each paying $10 per month. You'll be paying $159 each month and $1908 each year.


While i'm fine with that(my Udemy profile has "your IRS withholding tax rate is 24%"), someone might want to share their profit

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:48 AM

SEO is a huge topic to talk about too. Basically, when you try to grow and promote your newsletter - you'll send traffic to substack website and work for growing their SEO index. And if you decide to part ways - you'll need to start from scratch with all those links, etc.

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:49 AM

Limited integrations also limit your potential to access other tools that may help you convert more visitors into paying subscribers.

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:50 AM

Huge plus is a simplicity. You dont need to be a pro in order to start. But again, you will be limited by a platform for sure

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 4:58 AM

There is a limit to earn from single model of monetization. Only paywall is available, so...

Imagine this situation: you work hard and be able to grow your readers list. let's assume it's related to tech.

Your archive page(list of previously published pieces) gets a lot of traffic and you want to add to sidebar CarbonAds(https://www.carbonads.net/)

you wouldnt be allowed to do that.

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:01 AM

another SEO limitations. All images hosted on their CDN. Probably they woudnt be indexed as part of your newsletter

here is a link: https://cdn.substack.com/image/fetch/w_704,h_396,c_limit,f_webp,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2F590aa007-1c00-4f98-abcb-f717db528128_4032x3024.jpeg

they dont put alts, so ...

<img class="post-preview-inner-image" src="{URL}" alt="">

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:05 AM

Censorship. I dont know about situations where substack limited free speach or anything, but as a public company, i'm sure they have some rules or moderations inside. While i'm sure that HN readers are following some rules, there always another side

Few years ago there was a situation when Parteon decided to ban some accounts because of a violation of rules. Jordan Peterson was affected I think

https://www.businessinsider.com/jordan-peterson-says-hell-launch-patreon-alternative-before-christmas-2018-12

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:05 AM
Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:06 AM

Quick mention(I didnt explore this tool)
ConvertKit can be an alternative, btw: https://convertkit.com/

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:15 AM

again, substack is a great choice if you want to focus on content and dont distract your users with ads or something else boring. But if you will need some additional features that aren't in their roadmap - sorry.

You can also benefit from their usebase. substack has more than 500k paying subscribers. And if you get featured, you can get some additional users from that. But as starter, it will be hard to get featured. And i'm not sure if you ready to do it.

Plus, it's a competitive field. Like if you have your own website, your marketing, your newsletter and people go to it to read your content - it's your users. with substack case, your visitors can endup on someother profiles and as it's a platform that unite - they have right to switch. is it good or not - it's upon you.

When i was running my previous company, we dont have a website and get clients from Elance website for freelancers. We have quite good profile, reviews, etc. We get into 14th LVL which is quite good accomplishment in my opinion. But when they decided to merge with oDesk and become an Upwork, shit things start to happen.

But for details I'll advice to read articles from Nebojsa Todorovic https://hackernoon.com/u/nebojsa.todorovic

after that situation I'll probably advice to build your own website and invest money into promoting it, instead of promoting your profiles

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:19 AM

Let's imagine another situation. You have an upcoming product that you want to promote to your readers. In my situation it's a tools for newsletters, or modules for food tech startups.

Will you be able to use your current userbase? I dont know.

Let's imagine that you created Landing Page with lead magnet. Will you be able to add people that subscribed to that product into your Substack list? I dont think so.

As substack controling subscription flow, you wouldnt be able to change something there.

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:21 AM

Or what if you want to grow your newsletter and sell it later? I dont think someone will buy accesses to your Substack account 🙂
And if you decide to migrate away, you'll probably lost some users.

Recenly i find this marketplace for selling newsletters: https://duuce.com/

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:28 AM

I recall a similar situation with Youtube creators. While recently Youtube added some features for monetization, there still a lot of cases when people lost their monetization of get some claims from copyright owners.

if you reacting on some videos - you can get demonetized, if someone report your video - it can be deleted, etc.

this is why some creators are leaving YT or exploring other alternatives.

there a lot of great people that doing cool education videos. And as they want to grow and expand their businesses - they moving part of their content into https://curiositystream.com/ or https://nebula.app/

From Nebula website:

  • Exclusive content. Original productions and bonus material.
  • Support creators. Nebula is creator-owned and operated.
  • No pre-roll ads. No need to skip what isn't there.
  • Download videos. Watch offline in our mobile apps.
Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:29 AM
Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:30 AM

will continue this thread later

Arthur TkachenkoMay 4, 2022, 5:38 AM

Main Page layout on some popular newsletter for foodies

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react to story with heart
react to story with light
react to story with boat
react to story with money
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