Substack vs WordPress: Which One is Better? (Pros and Cons)
Are you comparing Substack vs WordPress and wondering which one is better?
Substack and WordPress are both publishing platforms that allow you to easily publish content online and sell membership subscriptions.
In this article, we’ll compare Substack vs WordPress to find out which one is the better platform.
Editor’s Note: Looking for a more affordable Substack alternative? We recommend ConvertKit. It has all the powerful features without the predatory pricing of Substack which takes 10% of your newsletter revenue.
Since this is a detailed comparison of Substack vs WordPress, here’s a quick table of contents:
- What to Look for in a Subscription Platform
- Ease of Use
- Cost of Running a Paid Subscription Service
- Integrations Available to Grow Subscribers
- Data Portability
Overview: Substack vs WordPress
Before we start with our in-depth comparison of the two popular subscription platforms on the web, it’s important that we cover the basics and highlight what makes these platforms stand out.
What is Substack?
Substack is an online newsletter publishing platform. It allows you to easily send newsletter emails to your subscribers.
You can have both paid and free subscriptions and Substack gets a share of all your paid subscription fees. Apart from newsletters, you also get a basic website, podcast hosting, and free
What is WordPress?
WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder. It allows you to easily make any kind of website you want. It works seamlessly with almost all popular email newsletter services to send newsletter emails.
You can have both free and paid newsletter subscriptions. Plus you can use it to make a podcasting website, eCommerce store, membership website, and more.
Note: When we say WordPress, we are talking about self-hosted WordPress.org website and not WordPress.com. For more details, see our article on the difference between WordPress.org vs WordPress.com.
What to Look for in a Subscription Platform
Choosing the right platform for your subscription offering is the most important decision you’ll make. Once you start growing it will be harder to switch platforms and you may lose users in the process.
Here are a few basic pointers that you should keep in mind when choosing your subscription platform.
- Ease of Use – How easy it is to get started on your own
- Costs – How much would it cost
- Integrations – Can you connect it to other apps to grow your subscriber base
- Data Portability – Can you move your data away
Keeping these parameters in mind, let’s take a look at Substack vs WordPress in detail.
Ease of Use
Most publishers are not website designers or marketers by profession. Choosing an easy-to-use platform helps you focus on what you do best and leave the technical stuff aside.
Substack: Ease of Use
Substack is incredibly easy to use even for absolute beginners. All you have to do is sign up and you will be able to start working on your content right away.
Substack is highly focused on writers and easy publishing. It comes with a minimalist editor where you can create your newsletter emails, articles, and upload podcast episodes.
You can choose whether you want an article to go to paid subscribers or everyone on a post-by-post basis.
Even though writing a post is incredibly easy. There is not much room for any creativity in the default substack editor.
WordPress: Ease of Use
WordPress is open-source software, which means you install it yourself and manage updates and backups. While this may sound a bit technical, WordPress is incredibly easy to install and use.
You’ll need a domain name and a hosting account to install WordPress.
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Bluehost will automatically install WordPress for you and you can simply login to your WordPress dashboard under your account.
WordPress comes with an incredibly easy-to-use and powerful block editor. This allows you to create content on your website and design it any way you like.
To lock your premium content behind a paywall, you’ll need MemberPress. It is the best WordPress membership plugin and allows you to easily restrict content based on a user’s subscription plan.
Unlike Substack where you can have only one subscription plan for all users, you can create multiple subscription levels with different benefits.
To send our newsletters, you’ll need to connect WordPress to an email marketing service. We recommend using Constant Contact which is the best email platform for small businesses.
However, with WordPress, you can choose any email newsletter platform like Sendinblue, Drip, Convertkit, and more.
For details, see our article on how to create a paid newsletter in WordPress which has step by step instructions for beginners.
Cost of Running a Paid Subscription Service
The next important factor to consider is that how much it would cost to run a paid subscription service. Higher costs and low profitability could make it difficult to scale your business as you grow.
True Cost of Substack Paid Newsletter
You can send the free newsletter to your free subscribers. This helps you grow your audience and build a subscriber base. However, having only free subscribers is not very profitable in the long run.
You can remedy that by adding paid subscription option for your newsletter. This allows you to send exclusive content to your paid subscribers.
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.
Cost of a Paid Newsletter using WordPress
WordPress gives you the freedom to choose your own email platform, website hosting, plugins and tools. This gives you control over the costs and you can choose how much you are willing to spend on your paid newsletter subscription.
You can get website hosting with a free domain name via Bluehost for just $2.75 per month.
Pricing for email platforms varies. For instance, Constant Contact plans start from $20 per month and the pricing varies based on the number of contacts.
Similarly, you can start for free with Sendinblue which allows you to send up to 300 emails per day. After that, you can upgrade to their lite plan which allows you to send up to 10,000 emails per day for $25.
Apart from email marketing, you will need MemberPress to sell subscriptions which costs $179 for their basic plan.
You can use Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net as your payment gateway. These payment gateways will have their own fees.
In the long run, WordPress gives you more freedom to cut down costs and increase your profits.
Integrations Available to Grow Subscribers
In order to promote your paid newsletter, you’ll want to use third-party tools to grow your business. Let’s see how Substack vs WordPress perform in this category.
Substack is an all-inclusive platform with limited to no integrations.
It comes with limited SEO features built-in the platform. You can connect your own custom domain name, Google Analytics tracking ID, and social media profiles from the settings page.
To grow your subscribers, you will need to promote your Substack on social media platforms. This makes it a bit tricky for new writers to start earning right away.
Limited integrations also limit your potential to access other tools that may help you convert more visitors into paying subscribers.
WordPress is an open-source platform with thousands of third-party integrations available. This allows you to easily get more subscribers for your paid newsletter.
With more than 59,000+ free plugins and thousands more paid integrations, WordPress gives you the freedom to use any tool you like to grow your business.
Following are some of the popular integrations and add-ons that will help you grow your paid newsletter.
- All in One SEO for WordPress – A complete SEO solution for WordPress websites that helps you improve your website SEO and get more free traffic to your website from search engines.
- OptinMonster – The best conversion optimization software on the market that helps you convert website visitors into paying subscirbers
- WPForms – The best form builder plugin to easily create newsletter signup forms, contact forms, with its own payment and email marketing integrations.
- MonsterInsights – An easy-to-use Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. It shows where your visitors are coming from and track how users interact with your website.
- SeedProd – Need a quick landing page for a new campaign? SeedProd lets you easily design landing pages for your website.
Need even more extensions? Take a look at our pick of the essential WordPress plugins for any new business.
Both WordPress and Substack allow you to download your data and use it elsewhere.
Substack Data Portability
Substack makes it super easy to download all your posts, pages, and email list subscribers. You can simply go to the Settings page and scroll down to the ‘Export your data’ section.
From here you can download all your Substack data to your computer.
You newsletter email subscribers list is in CSV format which allows you to easily import subscribers into other email services. However, most email services will require users to opt-in again and many users may not resubscribe.
For posts data, you can use the Substack importer for WordPress to import the data into a WordPress website.
WordPress Data Portability
WordPress allows you to export all your data using the built-in export tools. This includes all your posts, pages, comments, users, etc. Simply go to Tools » Export page to download your export file.
Your newsletter subscriber data is safely stored with your third-party email service provider. Almost all reliable email companies let you easily export your email list which you can then use elsewhere.
Once again, if you import your email list into a new email service, then they may require users to opt-in again.
Conclusion: WordPress vs Substack which one is better?
WordPress is better than Substack in terms of flexibility, scalability, and profitability. It gives you the freedom to grow your newsletter in different ways and unlocks access to much better tools and extensions to do just that.
On the other hand, Substack is better if you only want to easily send newsletter to non-paying subscribers.
You will not have the same flexibility as WordPress and if you want to switch to paid newsletter, then you will pay a significant amount to Substack.
If you don’t want to use WordPress, but still want a more affordable Substack alternative? We recommend ConvertKit. It has all the powerful features without the predatory pricing of Substack which takes 10% of your newsletter revenue.
We hope this article helped you compare Substack vs WordPress. You may also want to see our guide on how to get more traffic to your site or see how to create an online store to your existing website.
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