Substack – What This New Platform Means For Digital Marketing

Substack is a new online platform that allows users to create newsletters and send them to a list of subscribers. It’s a simple concept – but one that is making waves across online media and digital marketing in 2021.

Social media has forever changed how businesses and customers communicate. But attitudes towards these platforms could be shifting – and Substack is stepping in to offer an interesting alternative.

The following 5 key points will help you understand what Substack is, how it’s affecting media and marketing, and the opportunities this could offer your business.

1) What is Substack?

A Substack user checks their account on a laptop.

Substack is an online platform used by writers to independently host and distribute their work. It’s a paid subscription model with most content hidden behind a paywall. Audiences pay a monthly fee of around $5-$50 and receive an email newsletter each time the writer publishes.

Substack allows creators to own their content and approach publishing as if running their own platform. The model aims to encourage quality writing that is incentivised by audience engagement. If they can grow enough contacts, it’s an opportunity for writers, journalists and content creators to remaining independent.

The most popular Substack writers focus on technology, business and politics. Some of the biggest names include Alex Kantrowitz who authors the Big Technology newsletter. Anna Codrea-Radoand publishes The Professional Freelancer. And Matt Taibi, who left Rolling Stone to work as an independent writer on the platform.

2) Why is Substack Growing?

The rise of Substack is a reaction to COVID-19 and its effects on media. The economic impact of the pandemic has put pressure on publications to remain financially viable. This has had serious effects on the media landscape – including a loss of trust in major media companies.

Writers and their readership are increasingly wanting creative, editorial and financial freedom. Substack aims to be the platform that supports this shift. As a result, many prominent journalists have recently chosen to leave their publications and make the transition to this new platform.

The top 10 publishers on the platform are currently generating a combined income of over $7 million. Substack takes 10%. Some of this revenue is driven back to writers in the form of grants to fund content and ensure quality.

This fact is important because it shows a shifting attitude towards social media – and the viable models which could offer an alternative.

Audiences are demonstrating a desire for high quality and independent content. Writers are moving towards owning their content and subscription list. Marketing plans which introduce their customers to the face of a business and work to establish trust can capitalise in this shift. 

3) Will Substack Replace Facebook?

A business owner logs in to their social media account.

Not any time soon.

Substack currently has 250,000 paying subscribers.
Facebook has 2.7 billion active monthly users. 

Whilst the numbers may be small, Substack has seen its userbase triple during the pandemic.

The platform won’t replace Facebook or Twitter in the near future. But it does show an emerging trend of users wanting a different kind of content.

Substack differs from social media because it allows individuals to publish and monetise their writing – and in the process build a loyal following. This approach is more individualised and less dependent on major news channels. 

4) Substack and Newsletters

Newsletters offer the opportunity to build a closer relationship with audiences. It’s a direct connection that fosters trust, intimacy and authenticity.

Newsletters and email marketing have at times been perceived as a more traditional and even old-fashioned approach to digital marketing. But the growing popularity of Substack shows the benefits of growing your contacts list and cultivating brand loyalty via quality content.

Digital marketers can learn from Substack by understanding that audiences want authenticity. Rather than just sales or SEO copy, businesses need to create premium content to really reach their audiences.

5) What Does Substack Mean For Digital Marketing?

Substack shows that email, content and contacts are still central to marketing strategy today. The format has been compared to the early days of digital marketing when email newsletters and blogs were commonly and successfully used.

SEO and SMM give today’s marketers an unbeatable set of tools to work with. The rise of Substack simply shows that audiences continue to value quality content and direct connection.

Substack proves that marketers can develop real relationships with their customer base via email. Growing your audience and increasing digital engagement remains an important aim for any business.

A digital marketing expert checks a Substack profile.

Key Takeaways

Quality: Audiences still desire quality content and direct connection.
Trust: There is a growing preference for trusted individual voices over large online platforms.
Followers: Individuals can gain a loyal following that will move with them between platforms.
Marketing: SEO and SMM are important resources – further improved by premium copywriting. 
Email: Newsletters remain a central tool for digital marketing.


Substack shows that premium content writing plus SEO copy equals real success for businesses. It’s a smart and effective way to connect with audiences and develop a real online following. If you want to explore what these trends mean for your business, then why not contact our digital experts today.