Substack is a platform creating a resurgence of interest in the power of emails. This interest arises from Substack’s ability to connect people and share ideas and information in a way that is unrestricted by algorithms or editorial censorship.


In a time when the sharing of information and ideas is often determined by algorithms and confidence in the independence and authenticity of news is impacted by fake news and “alternative truths”, Substack is a platform creating a resurgence of interest in the power of emails. This interest arises from Substack’s ability to connect people and share ideas and information in a way that is unrestricted by algorithms or editorial censorship.

Emails and email marketing, having been around for over twenty years, are not new; Substack, however, is comparatively new. Founded in 2017, it is creating a resurgence of interest in email distribution lists and editorial freedom.

Given this resurgence of interest, what is Substack, and why is it important for businesses to consider Substack as part of their communication strategy?

What is Substack?

The CEO of Substack, Chris Best, stated in a webinar for Harvard Business School that he wanted Substack to “shift how we experience culture on the internet.

Substack does this by providing a way for writers, journalists, thought leaders and other experts to publish content simply and professionally without having prior knowledge of email technology. It gives writers pared-down designs and writing tools to assist them in connecting with readers and monetising their work on their terms.

While the metrics of followers and the number of likes, for example, on Facebook or Instagram, may be useful, newsletter subscribers have long been considered the most valuable audience in media. There are several reasons for this, an important one being that, on average, an email provides an ROI (Return on investment) of $36 for every $1 spent.

Substack uses a newsletter subscription model to assist writers and other content creators in connecting to people without relying on ads retweeting or resharing their work. The platform has a free and paid option for content writers.  Substack takes a 10% fee from the generated revenue if a creator chooses to monetise their work.

The Success of Substack

There are several reasons for Substack's success. One is that it provides a subscription network, a media company, a newsletter platform, and a social network, all on one platform. The other reason is the increasing censorship that occurs in traditional media that are owned by large corporations.

As of November 2021, it had 1 million subscribers and 500,000 paying subscribers to its premium newsletter, and in September 2021, it generated 24.57 million visits. While these figures are two years old, Substack continues to grow in popularity for content creators, writers, thought leaders, and their readers and followers. This raises the question for businesses and companies about what advantages Substack may have for them and their client or customer base.

What are the advantages of Substack?

There are several advantages to Substack.

1.  Staying up to date with industry news

Substack has a daily or weekly newsletter that shares industry news in most industries and professions. Rather than clicking through Google alerts or endless publications, this daily or weekly newsletter saves time. Also, given relevant industry information is provided in an easily accessible form, it can reduce the likelihood of missing significant industry news.

Many writers and thought leaders use platforms such as Substack to publish opinion and investigative pieces that the standard news outlets do not accept. These pieces, particularly investigative and opinion articles from experts in the industry, often discuss and highlight emerging trends before traditional media outlets pick them up.

Knowledge of and taking action to stay ahead of emerging trends can be the difference between thriving and succeeding or failing in some areas of business that are particularly susceptible to people’s whims and popularity.

2.Staying connected to relevant people in your industry

Substack enables businesses and companies to stay current and connect with relevant industry people, particularly journalists and editors. The capacity to subscribe and interact with journalists and industry leaders in a way that is often not possible on algorithms-based platforms allows for a more personal connection.

This personal connection can be essential for companies or businesses in the Public Relations area. Connecting to and building strong relationships with journalists, editors, and industry leaders provides opportunities lost to businesses not utilising the power of connection that Substack offers.

3.  The power of content

Substack enables businesses to move away from social media content and develop longer thought pieces and expert analysis. As indicated above, newsletter subscribers are still considered the most valuable audience in media.

Writing longer pieces and newsletters has several flow-on benefits.

      It builds your business community as more people subscribe to your newsletter.

      Building your business community expands your brand and

      It can establish you and your business as a thought leader in your industry.

Many businesses underestimate the power of positioning themselves as thought leaders in their fields. This is particularly true in the not-for-profit space, where organisations become so caught up in service delivery, that they do not spend the time and energy necessary to communicate their message.

The ripple effects from the circle of connection

This is where the ripple effects from connections built with journalists are essential.

When organisations take the time and energy to establish themselves as thought leaders in their field, journalists will approach them for comments and insight into relevant stories. This engagement becomes much easier when organisations have already established connections with journalists and editors through Substack and similar platforms. The more businesses are perceived as thought leaders and the ‘go-to people’, the more their brand is built and the more influence and connections they build.

Using Substack to develop and expand content and connections allows organisations to consolidate their brand and build a community of supporters. We have written previously about how having a solid base of supporters can be the difference between success and failure for businesses. Using Substack or a similar platform assists organisations in building this base.

Remember to be clear about your goals and what you want to achieve

While Substack provides many benefits for businesses and individuals, it is essential to be clear about organisational goals and what the company wants to achieve. For example, if you are starting and want to experiment with something simple, ConvertKit may be worth investigating. For larger companies or businesses, ActiveCampaign is a platform that provides more advanced tools, such as enabling you to split-test the contents of an email to determine which one performs better.

Building content and a solid base of supporters takes time and commitment, so it is essential to investigate and ensure the platform you use will assist you in meeting your goals and can grow with your database of connections and supporters. However, Substack should not be ignored even if other platforms are being used.


As mentioned above, Substack has been called a subscription network, a media company, a newsletter platform, and a social network, but none of these descriptions precisely fit. What it does provide is a simple interface that integrates a blog, newsletter payment system and customer support team. This enables writers and content creators to publish and monetise their work with complete editorial control. For what it provides it can be a powerful tool for companies to use in building connections.