You're reading this because you know that newsletters are a great way to engage your audience and keep them informed. But with so many platforms available now to produce them, you're probably finding it challenging to choose the right one!
Two of the most popular choices are beehiiv and Substack. In this article, I'll provide an overview of their unique features, pricing models, and monetization opportunities. I'll also provide a perspective on how the two platforms can cater to different users.
I use beehiiv for Mellomar's weekly newsletter, Inbound News. I'll outline why I personally decided to use beehiiv over Substack.
Whether you're a content creator or an organization looking to engage with your audience more effectively, this article will help you choose the best platform for your needs.
Substack: what you need to know
Substack was founded in 2017 by Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi, and Hamish McKenzie. Best was the co-founder of Kik Messenger, while Sethi also worked there in a senior developer position. McKenzie meanwhile was a tech reporter at PandoDaily.
Their main reason for founding Substack was to give writers an opportunity to grow and monetize their own audience directly. A number of high-profile writers and journalists flocked to the platform, including Chuck Palahniuk, Salman Rushdie, Robert Reich, Matt Taibbi, and Glenn Greenwald.
They have expanded their product offering over the years to include other media like podcasts and video. They also launched their own app on iOS and Android devices.
People have found success with Substack. As of this year, they have over two million paid subscribers with the most popular writers earning over $1 million annually.
They recently moved into being more of a social network with the introduction of a new 'Notes' feature. This allows people to post and repost short-form content, similar to the early days of Twitter.
Beehiiv: a brief introduction
Beehiiv was founded relatively recently as a startup in 2021 by Tyler Denk, Benjamin Hargett and Jake Hurd. They all met at Morning Brew, a business newsletter that pioneered the daily news format for busy readers.
They created beehiiv based on their combined expertise and experience from what worked best at Morning Brew. They positioned their new platform as the most creator-friendly platform when launched on Twitter (now called X).
They have been growing well since launch, and now host thousands of newsletters. There have been numerous success stories using the platform including Milk Road, a crypto newsletter that scaled to over 250,000 subscribers in less than a year and reportedly sold for millions.
Similar features between beehiiv and Substack
The main selling point of both beehiiv and Substack is that they take care of all the technical hassles of creating and distributing a newsletter. You don't need to know how to code or the intricacies of email deliverability.
By signing up to one of their platforms, you can access similar core features including easy-to-use newsletter design tools and being able to easily send your newsletters out to everyone on your email list. Another distribution option available is the ability to set up an RSS feed for readers of your newsletter.
You can also embed polls and track the results in real time on both platforms.
They both also have a built-in blog, with your newsletter issues published as posts on a website. You can keep the default web address they provide on their domain (i.e., yourname.substack.com).
But they also support the better option for your brand of setting up your own custom domain. Below is a screen shot of the home page for our newsletter's custom domain at Inbound.News.
Substack charges a once-off fee of $50 USD to unlock the custom domain feature. Beehiiv doesn't charge anything extra, but you must be on a paid plan.
In terms of monetization, both platforms support receiving money from subscribers for your newsletter. They also both offer promotions and free trials for people joining your newsletter.
Perhaps the biggest way to grow organically is with their integrated referral programs. Both platforms allow you to set up tiered rewards for the number of people that are referred to your newsletter by your readers. This fuels great organic growth as people are more likely to act on a referral from a friend or family member.
So there are some basic similarities between the two platforms. But there are some big differences as well! Let's have a look at them now.
What sets Substack apart from beehiiv?
The biggest difference for Substack is that the platform primarily relies on direct subscriber charges to monetize newsletters. You can keep publishing your newsletter free, or introduce a paywall for part of or all of your newsletters.
Beehiiv also offers this feature, but the difference is that Substack takes 10% of any money that you receive via subscriptions. There are also different fees based on the payment method for the reader's subscription that you have to pay to Stripe, the payments processor used by Substack.
As mentioned above, Substack has also expanded to different media formats. If you like the idea of using videos, podcasts and comments to connect with your audience, you'll likely prefer Substack. They also offer an app so you can connect with your readers via mobile more easily, including via a chat function.
For now beehiiv can only embed video and podcast links within their newsletters and websites, and they don't offer an app.
It's also worth mentioning that you can still include sponsored content in your newsletter. They don't have any features or tools to support advertising in their newsletters. But there's nothing stopping you from including some as long as it adheres to their publishing guidelines.
What are the main advantages of beehiiv compared to Substack?
Beehiiv boasts several more options to grow and monetize your newsletter than Substack.
A useful feature for organic growth is having your newsletter recommended by other creators on beehiiv. You can recommend up to three other beehiiv publications, which are displayed to people after they have subscribed to your newsletter.
They also offer what they call a boost feature, which acts as both another way to grow and a source of revenue for your newsletter. You can pay for others to offer your newsletter in return for a set fee per successful subscriber. You can also receive money by promoting other people's newsletters in yours.
To increase monetization even further, they have also introduced their own ad network. This means you can include advertisements from premium sponsors within your newsletters and be paid, all within the beehiiv eco-system.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of beehiiv over Substack is the ability to segment your audience and set up automated email flows for simple campaign creation. They also offer three different types of custom embed forms you can use on websites to help gain subscribers more easily from other sources.
Beehiiv boasts what they call '3D Analytics' to help better understand your audience and scale your newsletter. It offers high-level and granular views of both your subscribers and each post. This includes understanding your best performing acquisition channels in terms of both quality and quantity to help prioritize your efforts.
Yet another powerful audience feature is the ability to create surveys. These can be an invaluable way to collect data and make informed decisions.
There are solid customization options for your website out of the box. If you're technically minded, you can use HTML to customize your newsletters even more. Their API also allows you to connect beehiiv to other services.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has also been carefully considered. You're able to complete key SEO tasks within the editor to ensure you're giving your website the best chance of being ranked.
More recently, they have introduced AI to generate text and images when creating your newsletter. This makes it easier to use AI while in newsletter creation mode as you don't have to use other third-party tools.
How beehiiv and Substack stack up for different users
It's important to consider your specific newsletter goals and requirements when comparing the two platforms. Both offer unique features that lean towards different types of newsletter creators. The different options available to customize your newsletters and grow your audience should also be carefully taken into account.
A perspective for content creators and individuals
If you already have an audience and are looking to converse with them in a kind of personalized social media, Substack may be ideal for you. It may also be a better option if you're publishing in different content formats and want to keep it all on the one platform.
Beehiiv may have the slight edge if you are looking to build a newsletter audience from scratch. It has advanced growth and analytics options to focus on your target audience.
For independent creators on a budget, beehiiv's more generous starter plan also makes it the attractive option. Their superior monetization options are also beneficial to creators looking for fresh revenue streams.
Deciding between beehiiv and Substack for organizations
You may already be using an email marketing platform, such as Mailchimp, which offers the ability to send newsletters along with other marketing newsletters. It may therefore not make any sense to move to another platform just for newsletters.
However, if you're serious about your newsletter and want to focus on building a dedicated audience, it's worth considering either platform. This is especially true if you are looking to build it as a stand-alone asset for your organization.
If you're not looking to monetize your newsletter and want to focus on building a sense of community around it, Substack may be a great choice. If you're looking for more advanced analytics and other features to grow your newsletter including multiple ways to earn revenue, beehiiv may be the better choice.
Pricing: beehiiv vs Substack
You can effectively use Substack for free as long as you like. Even if you end up having thousands of subscribers. With beehiiv, you can have up to 2,500 subscribers before you need to pay for one of their plans. Note on both platforms there are some features that aren't available on their free plans.
Things get interesting though if you decide to monetize your newsletter with subscriptions. You'll be paying 10% to Substack plus any relevant payment processing fees to Stripe.
This can become relatively expensive in the long term. For example, if you're charging $5 per month per subscriber and have 1,000 subscribers, you'll be paying $500 to Substack and keep $4,500 minus Stripe processing fees.
In comparison, if you decide to charge subscription fees on beehiiv, you'll only ever pay for the monthly plan plus the Stripe processing fees. So you'll keep the $5,000 minus the plan cost at a maximum of $99 and the Stripe processing fees. Once a subscription newsletter scales, beehiiv becomes the cheaper choice.
Below is a screen shot of the three main plans they offer (monthly option). Check out their pricing page for more information on the different plan inclusions and the discounts available if you pay yearly. There's also an enterprise option available for those who really need to scale.
Why I prefer beehiiv to Substack
From a features perspective, beehiiv has more robust customization, email marketing, list building, and monetization options. I also love their user interface when creating the newsletters and how all the resources for creating them are embedded in the one tool.
Since we've spun Inbound News out as a stand-alone project from Mellomar, we're focused on growing a marketing-focused newsletter. Beehiiv appears to offer a comprehensive solution to achieve this.
The issue of subscription costs
There has been some controversy with Substack. It was discovered that they had actually paid some individual writers to join the platform. This raised some questions about how viable the platform is for people building a newsletter from scratch. That's not to discount the vibrant community of passionate writers they have on the platform now!
There is also the general question about subscriber fatigue. Most people have cut down on their streaming subscriptions after the pandemic. Asking people to subscribe to multiple publications by single authors seems a big ask. It may be a great way to support independent journalism, but not all kind of creators.
Plus it appears those that have had the most success on Substack had already built an audience base that they brought with them to the platform. They were happy to subscribe, but building a subscription audience from zero is a different story.
Which is the better newsletter platform for you: beehiiv or Substack?
We've hopefully covered enough in this article to help you decide between beehiiv and Substack for your newsletter!
You need to consider your specific needs and goals for creating a newsletter and how the two platforms weigh up against them. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our user experience with beehiiv.
We feel so positive about beehiiv that we've joined them as offical partners. If you decide beehiiv is the newsletter platform for you, sign up today!