With new content platforms launching all the time, it can be difficult to know which ones are valuable for you and how to harness their potential to create a strong content strategy. In this post, 3Points Account Coordinator Amy Geldean provides a rundown of Substack and how to use it effectively.
Founded in October 2017, Substack, an online newsletter infrastructure platform, provides an opportunity for independent writers to disseminate information and create a sense of community. As the media landscape has evolved, writers have flocked to Substack because it offers more independence than traditional media. Newsletter writers can choose to charge their subscribers, keep their content entirely free, or provide an in-between option. The platform has grown to over one million paying subscriptions, which only makes up 5 to 10% of the total readership.
Substack brings the power and ownership of content back to writers and their readers. Users of Substack can read, subscribe to, or write newsletters. Writers range from amateurs just looking to share their own journey to experts in a certain field sharing information with their community. The newsletters are categorized by topic and are easily searchable. For readers, the platform offers a chance to follow writers relevant to them and stay up-to-date with industry news and trends.
Some notable examples of people who are using Substack effectively to build connections:
- Tegan and Sara — In early March 2020, Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara were preparing to launch their summer tour, but when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, their plans were derailed. After a period of transition, Tegan and Sara decided to work on their relationship as a duo. This sparked their newsletter, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” as a way to be more authentic and intimate with their fans and share their progress as they rebuild. After launching at the end of January 2022, they already have hundreds of newsletter subscribers, who have the option to pay $6 per month for more inside information.
- Casey Newton — In 2020, Casey Newton left his job as Silicon Valley editor at The Verge. Casey wanted to be an independent and reader-focused writer and create a real community for his readers, which he addresses in the first edition of his Substack newsletter, “Platformer.” The newsletter, which is ranked number two on Substack among technology newsletters, addresses how tech and democracy intersect. For $10 per month or $100 per year, Casey provides his subscribers information on current events, trends, and conversations in the tech world. In addition to his newsletter, per Casey’s request, Substack created a mentorship program, Substack Bridge, where Casey and other established writers could help support newer writers, especially diverse writers.
- Alexander Verbeek — In March 2021, Alexander Verbeek added Substack writer to his resume, which already included TEDx speaker, Yale World Fellow, and former strategic policy advisor at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His Substack newsletter, “The Planet,” details environmental problems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, and shares potential solutions. The newsletter ranks number eight on Substack for climate. In December 2021, Alexander shared that he will be starting a podcast parallel to “The Planet” as a third way to communicate with his audience, apart from Twitter and Substack.
Tips for using Substack successfully
To dive into some of the specific ways Substack can become part of a successful content strategy, let’s take a deeper look at a success scenario:
After technology investor Anthony Pompliano started his journey on Substack back in May 2018, his subscriber list had reached 2,000 at the end of Q2. Over the past three years, he’s grown it to over 210,000 subscribers and turned “The Pomp Letter,” which covers Bitcoin, finance, and technology for investors looking to learn, into the number-three newsletter in the crypto category.
Here’s a couple ways Anthony built his subscriber base:
- Sharing relevant information with his community — Anthony knows the investor community because he’s been part of it since 2016 when he quit his job at Facebook to join an early-stage venture capital firm. Anthony’s target audience is investors looking to know more about what’s happening in the global economy and what to do about it. His newsletters analyze recent trends, dive into intimate conversations with industry insiders, and share actionable insights.
- Providing multiple ways for subscribers to consume information — For $10 per month, paid subscribers receive “The Pomp Letter” five days a week; meanwhile, non-paying subscribers can still receive the newsletter once a week. His posts on Substack contain both audio and written content, giving his audience more angles for engaging with his content.
- Leveraging other platforms to supplement his Substack newsletter — In addition to his Substack newsletter, Anthony hosts “The Pomp Podcast,” where he invites notable people in business, finance, and Bitcoin to share their thoughts. Previous guests include Mark Cuban and Dave Portnoy. Having a multi-channel content strategy simultaneously gives his existing audience even more ways to consume his insights, which helps increase engagement, and provides opportunities for new people to become part of his audience.
Is Substack right for you?
If you’re interested in consuming the work of relevant writers in your industry or in society more broadly, Substack is a great resource. If you’re interested in starting your own Substack newsletter, it’s helpful to have a solid record of demonstrated expertise in your area of focus, whether that includes past interviews in media outlets or consistent publication of your own writing in that area. Combine that niche specialty with the kinds of tactics used by those mentioned in this post and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Want help establishing your content strategy with Substack? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.