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Substack vs WordPress: Which is the Best Platform for You?

substack vs wordpress

Table of Contents

Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. i.e., if you sign up for their paid programs, I will get a commission, at no cost to you. Please rest assured that I only recommend software/ products I genuinely believe in, and trust to be good for you.

If you want to build a direct relationship with your audience through emails, you would most likely consider Substack. However, before you decide, you should know WordPress offers similar functionality through various plugins.

With both tools, you can create email workflows that endear your audience to you and get them to take every action your copy directs them to.

However, since both tools perform this function exceptionally well, deciding which one to use might be a bit challenging.

That’s why I’ve made this comparison of Substack vs WordPress to help you choose the best platform for you.

Substack Overview

substack overview

Substack is a platform that helps writers, journalists, and other creators publish and earn money from their newsletters and blogs. It offers tools for creating newsletters, sharing them with readers, and keeping track of subscribers.

Your subscribers can opt to receive these newsletters via email or access the exclusive content on the Substack website.

One of Substack’s key features is its monetization model. As a writer or small business owner, you can offer your newsletters for free or charge a subscription fee for access to premium content. Substack handles the payment processing and takes 10% of the subscription revenue as a platform fee.

Here are the key features of Substack that you should know:

1. Newsletter creation

Substack’s core is newsletter creation and publishing. The platform provides an editor for writing newsletters and embedding polls, images, and other multimedia content.

2. Subscriber management

Substack lets you manage your subscriber lists easily. You can separate your subscribers into free and paid subscribers and share premium content with the paid subscribers.

One of the perks of this feature is that Substack enables you to track subscriber engagement. This makes it easy to know what content your audience is more interested in.

3. Customization

Substack enables you to customize the design and layout of your newsletter landing page to reflect your brand or personal style. You can leverage the available templates and color schemes on Substack to create a newsletter that resonates with your audience.

4. Monetization

Subscriber offers a paid subscription option. The platform allows you to choose to offer your content for free or charge a subscription fee. You can also separate your audience into free and paid subscribers.

Substack handles the payment processing for your subscriptions and takes 10% of each subscription. This money helps Substack develop tools and add new features to help you offer better services to your audience.

WordPress Overview

WordPress page

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that helps people create websites and blogs. It started as a blogging tool but now lets users build many types of online platforms, like membership sites, online stores, and newsletters.

While WordPress by default doesn’t come with many of these features, it offers multiple plugins you can use to extend the functionality of your website.

For example, with a plugin like the Newsletter Plugin, MailPoet, Sender, Omnisend, and many more, you can extend your WordPress website to become a newsletter platform like Substack.

Here are the features of WordPress you need to know:

1. Content management

Content management is the core of WordPress’s features. The platform enables you to create, edit, and organize content using tags, categories, and other classification models.

You can create and manage any content on WordPress, including blog posts, images, infographics, videos, etc.

2. Search engine optimization

WordPress is designed with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. You can easily optimize your content and website to rank well on search engines.

With plugins like Yoast, Google Analytics, and others, you can always identify valuable opportunities to leverage and get multiple visibility from search engines.

For example, you can improve your content with keywords that people are searching for and write content to address their needs.

You can also find out why visitors don’t stay long on your website, which might be because of a poor user interface, slow-loading page, non-search-intent-focused content, and more.

3. Customization

WordPress offers thousands of themes and plugins that allow users to customize the design and functionality of their websites. Themes control the site’s appearance, while WordPress plugins add new features and functionality.

This means you can customize your website to have any visual appearance you want and extend it to have any features or functionalities you want.

Biggest WordPress theme libraries

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4. Monetization

WordPress offers several monetization options. You can offer paid subscriptions, as in Substack, earn through ads, sell other people’s products and earn commissions, or sell your products using an e-commerce plugin.

5. Community support

WordPress’s community of developers, designers, and users is one of the best features the platform offers. You can easily find answers to your questions and get someone who has had a similar experience to guide you out of trouble.

Substack vs WordPress: Summary comparison

Substack and WordPress are quite distinct platforms. While they share some similarities, such as the ability to share content, monetize your content, and allow your readers to access your content on a web platform, they’re completely different in many ways.

One platform is built solely for creating and delivering email newsletters to an audience, while the other is a website builder designed with versatility in mind, enabling you to create whatever pleases you. In fact, this is what I find interesting about both platforms.

Their features overlap in the ability to use them to create and distribute email newsletters. While Substack has this feature built-in, WordPress requires a plugin to carry out the functionality.

In other ways, they differ. Substack is a hosted platform, while WordPress is a self-hosted platform. This means that if you’re using Substack, the platform caters to your hosting. If it experiences downtime, your content and files go down, too. You have limited control over what happens to your content, files, and subscribers.

On the other hand, WordPress, as a self-hosted platform, gives you maximum control over where your website and content should be housed. This means that you can choose your own WordPress host, for example, based on performance or cost. You have full control over your website and content hosting and can’t lose them, even if WordPress experiences a breakdown.

Monetization on both platforms is similar in one way—you can offer paid subscriptions to your audience. However, WordPress offers more here because it allows you to monetize in many other ways, such as via ads, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and any other way you can conceive.

Here’s a table that summarizes how Substack and WordPress compare:

Feature Substack WordPress
Core purpose Designed for email newsletters Designed for the management of various content types, including newsletters
Content type Mainly text-based content, with multimedia options Supports various types of content, including text, images, videos, audio, etc.
Customization Limited customization options Extensive customization options available through themes and plugins
Monetization Offers built-in monetization features Offers various monetization options, including advertising, sponsored content, affiliate marketing, selling digital or physical products, and offering memberships or subscriptions.
Ease of use Offers a user-friendly interface, easy for both beginners and experts to navigate. Offers a user-friendly interface but may have a steeper learning curve compared to Substack, especially for beginners.
Community support Growing community of writers and readers, providing support to each other. Large and active community of users, developers, designers, and contributors who provide support, tutorials, documentation, etc for each other.
Cost It’s free, but 10% is taken when you choose to offer subscription-based services. There is an additional $50 cost of embedding a custom domain. Depends on the hosting provider, domain registration, themes, and plugins.

 

Substack vs WordPress: Detailed Comparison

Now let’s do a deep dive.

1. Purpose

Substack is primarily designed for publishing newsletters. It’s the platform you go to when you need a simple tool for building a direct relationship with your audience, especially through emails.

It makes relationship-building seamless. You can easily create email newsletters and share them with your audience even on the go. I love that there are no restrictions on creating workflows on Substack.

You can automate emails to ensure you don’t have to create new emails for the new entrants into your subscriber list. This makes it easy for you to nurture this audience from when they join your newsletter until they become loyal, repeat customers.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a versatile CMS designed for creating various kinds of websites, including blogs, e-commerce sites, membership sites, portfolios, etc. It also allows you to create and manage various content, including newsletters.

What I love about WordPress is that it is created to support any idea, provided you have a vivid picture of what you want.

There are tons of plugins available to add any feature or functionality to your WordPress website. You can even turn your website into a forum where people share ideas and discuss trends.

Substack vs WordPress on purpose: Tie

Both platforms have clear purposes, and they excel at them. Substack streamlines the email publishing process, making it easy for you to churn out emails, get feedback from your audience, and charge them for reading you.

WordPress, on the other hand, excels in helping you bring any idea to life. You can literally turn your WordPress website into any form of online platform in your quest to build a solid online presence.

2. Integrations

Substack and WordPress offer integrations with third-party platforms to help you boost your business online. However, the extent and focus of these integrations vary between the tools.

Substack offers limited integrations compared to WordPress, primarily focusing on essential features related to newsletter publishing and monetization. Here are some of its integrations:

  • Stripe: Substack integrates with Stripe for payment processing, allowing writers to set up paid subscriptions for their newsletters.
  • Email Service Providers (ESPs): Seamlessly integrates with email service providers such as Gmail and others to deliver newsletters to subscribers’ email inboxes.
  • Social Media: Provides basic integration with social media platforms, allowing you to share newsletter updates on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  • Custom Domain: This option allows you to use your custom domain for your newsletter landing page, providing a more branded experience for your subscribers.
  • Spotify: This allows you to integrate your Spotify account with your Substack account, enabling you to share your Substack podcasts with Spotify users.

WordPress, on the other hand, has tons of plugins and integrations covering various functionalities beyond newsletter publishing.

Here are some areas where it integrates with third-party tools:

  • Email Marketing: Integrates with popular email marketing services like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc, to enable you to build email lists, create newsletters, and automate email campaigns.
  • E-commerce: Integrates with e-commerce platforms such as WooCommerce, allowing you to create online stores, sell products, and accept payments.
  • SEO Tools: WordPress integrates with SEO plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack, providing tools to optimize website content for search engines.
  • Analytics: WordPress integrates with analytics services like Google Analytics, allowing you to track website traffic, user behavior, and other important metrics.
  • Social Media: It integrates with social media platforms to enable you to share content on social networks and engage with your audience.
  • Payment Gateways: WordPress integrates with various payment gateways, such as PayPal, Stripe, and others, facilitating online transactions for products, services, and memberships.

WordPress plugins 1

Substack vs WordPress on integrations:

WordPressIntegrations on Substack are basic. There are only a few of them, and you don’t have options to choose. However, WordPress offers over 70,000 plugins, offering you various options for each function.

For example, you can use the Newsletter Plugin, MailPoet, Sender, or Omnisend to add newsletter functionality to your WordPress site. You can also use PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, etc, as your payment gateway on WordPress, while the only option you have on Substack is Stripe.

3. Monetization

Substack and WordPress allow you to monetize your content easily.

Substack offers built-in monetization features, allowing you to charge subscription fees for access to premium newsletter content. It handles payment processing and takes 10% of subscription revenue as a platform fee.

WordPress provides flexibility for monetization through various methods, including advertising, sponsored content, affiliate marketing, selling digital or physical products, and offering memberships or subscriptions.

You can choose from a wide range of plugins and integrations to implement your preferred monetization strategies. For example, when you add a WooCommerce plugin to your website, you can monetize your platform through sales of digital and physical products. Read the difference between WooCommerce and WordPress.

When you add a membership plugin like MemberPress, Paid Memberships Pro, and Restrict Content Pro, you can offer paid subscriptions to your premium content.

Substack vs WordPress on monetization: WordPress

WordPress beats Substack when it comes to monetization. It offers various options to help you monetize your content, while Substack only offers the subscription model.

4. Design and customization

Your ability to design and customize your Substack page is limited, as you can only do so much. Substack prides itself on providing a clean and smooth reading experience for readers. That’s why it has a strong stance on providing an ad-free experience.

That’s also why you can only work with a few templates provided by the platform for newsletter landing pages. While you can customize these templates to an extent, basically adding a header image, changing colors, and editing text, you won’t have the same flexibility WordPress themes provide.

WordPress offers complete design and customization control. Unlike Substack, it allows you to customize virtually every aspect of your website, including headers, footers, sidebars, widgets, menus, etc. It is also very easy for non-designers to create beautiful and branded websites with WordPress page builders.

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Beyond customizing themes and templates to meet your desired look and functionality, you can work with an agency on custom WordPress development to create something unique for your brand.

Substack vs WordPress on design and customization: WordPress

The level of flexibility WordPress offers on design and customization can’t be matched by any competitor in the industry, including Substack.While Substack allows you only to tweak its template a bit to enable it to retain a recognizable appearance across all newsletters, WordPress allows you to turn everything around until you get a design that appeals to you.

5. Setup and getting started

Getting started on Substack and WordPress is quite seamless, even for non-techies.

To get started on Substack, you need to sign up for an account on the Substack website. Once you’ve done that, you can start creating and publishing newsletters.

If you have an existing email list on Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Omnisend, etc., you can easily import it to your Substack account. This makes it easy to manage your subscriber list and segment it accordingly to send the right emails to your existing and new subscribers.

Substack sign up (1)

Getting started on WordPress is a bit more complex. First, you must register a domain name, choose a hosting provider, and install WordPress on your server. Many hosting providers like Siteground and Hostinger offer one-click WordPress installation to simplify this process.

Once WordPress is installed on your server, choose a theme from the thousands of free and premium themes available. You can also work with a custom WordPress developer to design a theme that better suits your needs.

Content importation on WordPress is a seamless process. You can use the built-in import feature or install plugins to import blog posts, pages, images, videos, etc.

Substack vs WordPress on setup and getting started: Substack

Substack provides a more seamless process for getting started on its platform. You don’t need to choose a separate host for your data, and there’s no software to install. Simplify sign up and provide the basic information required, and you’re good to go.

6. Ease of use and user-friendliness

If user-friendliness were to determine your choice between the two platforms, I’d recommend Substack. Both platforms offer user-friendly interfaces, but the level of flexibility WordPress offers comes with a good degree of confusion.

Substack is known for its simplicity in design and functionality. It requires no technical knowledge to excel. You only need to create an account like you would on any platform, and viola, you have a page to start sending emails.

WordPress, on the other hand, offers a level of sophistication that gives it a steeper learning curve than Substack. There are tons of themes and plugins to choose from, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. However, the extensive documentation and community support the platform offers help to ease this confusion.

Substack vs WordPress on ease of use and user-friendliness: Substack

Substack beats WordPress hands down in providing a user-friendly platform. It’s easy for someone with zero technical knowledge to get on Substack and start sending out emails and receiving subscriptions immediately. On WordPress, you might need to work around understanding how web hosting works and how to install your WordPress on a hosting platform.

7. Data management

Data management is another important area in which Substack and WordPress can be compared.

Substack enables you to manage your subscribers effectively by providing storing, segmenting, and exporting features. It stores your subscriber email addresses and other important data in a CSV file that can be downloaded or exported easily.

It also archives newsletters on your profile, making them accessible to subscribers anytime they want them.

WordPress doesn’t provide a feature for managing subscribers. However, with the email list and newsletter plugins, you can carry out these tasks seamlessly, just like in Substack.

Content management is the core of WordPress. WordPress’s built-in content management system makes creating, editing, and organizing content easy. It also enables you to categorize and organize content on your website, making it easy for visitors to access any information they need.

Substack vs WordPress on data management: Tie

Both platforms enable you to manage your subscribers and content effectively. This enables you to provide your subscribers with the information they want and makes it easy for them to access content on your website.

Substack vs WordPress: Pricing

Substack and WordPress are free-to-use platforms. However, your usage of the platforms will determine the costs you incur.

Substack pricing

Substack pricing (1)

You’re not required to pay to use Substack. But the moment you decide to add a payment gateway and offer a paid subscription, Substack asks for its share. This means that Substack doesn’t make money unless you do.

Substack charges 10% on every subscription you receive on the platform. You’d also have to pay a payment processing fee of 2.9% to Stripe, Substack’s official payment gateway, and an extra 30 cents on every subscriber. As your subscriber base increases, the amount you pay to Substack and Stripe also increases.

WordPress pricing

Pricing on WordPress is more flexible. While the software itself is entirely free, you’d have to pay for hosting, domain registration, and the extra plugins you might need.

You can get affordable and reliable WordPress hosting services from platforms like Bluehost, SiteGround, Kinsta, Hostinger, etc. The cost might range between $2.75 and $13 per month, depending on the hosting provider and plan you choose. Most web hosting platforms offer free domain registration in the first year; however, renewal might cost upwards of $20.

If you’re getting an extra plugin like Restrict Content Pro, ProfilePress, or MemberPress, your budget should be around $100 per year.

Who should use Substack?

You can use Substack if you’re a writer, journalist, blogger, content creator, or small business owner looking to build a healthy relationship with your audience through emails. It’s also a wonderful platform for monetizing your creative works, especially writing.

Therefore, if building a full website is something you don’t find convenient, especially if all you need is to build a direct relationship with your audience, I recommend you use Substack.

I love its user-friendliness and affordability. You don’t necessarily need to pay for Substack unless you offer paid subscriptions to your audience. This is not the same with WordPress, especially if you want to send newsletters to your audience. While some newsletter plugins on WordPress are free, you must also pay for hosting and domain names.

Who should WordPress?

WordPress is an excellent platform for bloggers, marketers, small business owners, and large organizations looking to build a robust online presence.

If you want to go beyond building a relationship with your audience through newsletters, WordPress is the platform you should choose.

With multiple plugins, you can add various functionalities to your WordPress website and fully utilize your online presence. For example, you can add an e-commerce plugin alongside your newsletter plugin to make your site both a newsletter platform and an online store.

It may be worth looking at a professional web designer to set up your initial WordPress site and get some pointers on how to manage and maintain your WordPress site.

Final Verdict: Substack vs WordPress

Substack and WordPress are powerful tools for building a direct and healthy relationship with your audience by sharing content via email newsletters. Your choice depends on whether you want a simple newsletter tool or a robust website that includes other functionalities beyond publishing newsletters.

Have you used either of the tools? What’s your experience? Share with me in the comment section.

Also check out my other WordPress comparisons:

FAQ: Substack vs WordPress

The key difference between Substack and WordPress is that Substack is a dedicated newsletter platform, while WordPress is not. WordPress is a versatile content management system you can leverage to manage various types of content, including newsletters.

No, Substack is a dedicated newsletter platform. While it allows you archive newsletters on your account so your subscribers can easily access them, it lacks many features of a website.

Yes, you can use Substack and WordPress together by adding Substack as a plugin to your WordPress website. This allows you to enjoy the functionality of both tools in one platform.

Yes, you can monetize your content on both Substack and WordPress. Substack offers built-in tools for paid subscriptions and newsletters. With WordPress, you can use plugins like WooCommerce or integrate third-party monetization options.

Yes, you can migrate from Substack to WordPress by transferring your subscriber list.

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