In a recent note shared by Hamish McKenzie, the co-founder of Substack, he and the rest of the company made it clear, that they will not remove or demonetize the presence of “fringe voices” on the platform. Based on a recent reporting from Jonathan M. Katz at The Atlantic, more than 200 authors on Substack asked the leading and founding team of Substack, Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie, and Jairaj Sethi, why they are platforming and monetizing Nazis. Jonathan M. Katz pointed out that Substack is the home of newsletters written by Nazis and white nationalists, and that they gained thousands or tens of thousand of subscribers, which turns the platform into a new and valuable tool to create mailing lists for the far right. One of them is Patrick Casey, a leader of a now-defunct Neo-Nazi group, banned on almost every other social platform, but Substack gives him a home and place to raise his voice. Other white supremacists including Richard Spencer have paid subscriptions turned on and even received the Substack “Bestseller” badges, which is an indication of making a minimum of thousands of dollar per year.
You would think that the only answer, the only reaction to the above mentioned points that makes sense, would be to remove any Nazi-related content and ban it from the platform. Well, Substack has different plans. This is the answer from co-founder Hamish McKenzie:
I just want to make it clear that we don’t like Nazis either—we wish no-one held those views. But some people do hold those and other extreme views. Given that, we don't think that censorship (including through demonetizing publications) makes the problem go away—in fact, it makes it worse.
We believe that supporting individual rights and civil liberties while subjecting ideas to open discourse is the best way to strip bad ideas of their power. We are committed to upholding and protecting freedom of expression, even when it hurts.
In what way would the problem become worse if yet another platform would make sure to not share, highlight, boost, and support far-right and extreme views? “We don’t like Nazis either … But some people do hold those and other extreme views” – guess what, Hamish, it is your job to then moderate those views and take a stand against Nazis by simply removing, banning, and demonetizing their content. Congratulations, Hamish McKenzie, you are officially among one of the dumbest people on this planet, directly next to your co-founder and CEO, Chris Best, who failed miserably to answer moderation questions during his interview with Nilay Patel on the Decoder podcast.
Based on all of that, I decided to stop sharing links to posts hosted on Substack. In an effort to showcase and highlight all the great, ethical, non-Nazi-supporting Substack alternatives, I created this blog post of the best Substack alternatives. Some of them, like Ghost, Buttondown, and Beehiiv, offer migrating services to make leaving Substack as easy and streamlined as possible. Down below you find a list of the best Substack alternatives, no matter if you are running a free newsletter or relying on paid subscriptions, I am sure you will find a fitting option to leave Substack. To make the switch for other folks easy and streamlined, make sure to share this post with anyone who is looking to migrate off Substack. I left Substack in January 2021, while I had different reasons to leave the platform back then, I would do it again, for the good. You can do it too.
Now, let us move on with the best Substack alternatives.
Ghost has been probably the most popular Substack alternative, especially for people who are offering paid subscriptions to members. It is a powerful app for professional writers. While Ghost can also be used and leveraged by people who are writing and creating content as a side-project, it is especially aimed an publishers who are seeking to create, share, and grow a business around their content. Thanks to modern tools, it gives you the power to build a website, publish content, send newsletters, and offer paid subscriptions to members.
With Ghost you enjoy complete control over your website and branding. Thanks to a large set of both free and paid themes, you can get a head start, but if you want you can even build your own completely custom design from scratch. With a couple of click you can launch a custom website and tweak the design to your needs to match your brand and style. Packed with advanced creator tools, Ghost gives you the power to publish by web and email newsletter. Beyond that, Ghost’s editor, which has recently been built from the ground up, is calm by design, no clumsy toolbars, it simply offers a distraction-free experience to immerse yourself in the story with an interface that is right at your fingertips when you need it.
By using rich media and dynamic cards, Ghost allows you to expand your story with image galleries, gifs, video, audio, products, info boxes, accordion toggles, downloadable files, bookmarks, and much more. Ghost makes it easy to build and maintain an indie publication with memberships and subscriptions. People who are interested in your writing can sign up for free, or purchase a paid subscription to support your work across monthly and yearly premium tiers. The built-in membership management lets you see who has signed up, who is paying, and what they are reading. Native analytics which are accessible right within Ghost’s dashboard give you a clear understanding of what is working.
If you are already running a publishing business which involves other tools and integrations, Ghost is ready to work with all the apps you are already using. Its extensive integration library features integrations which make referral programs, push notifications, social sharing, payment gateways, comments, and more as easy as it can get. For the folks who are starting out from scratch, Ghost offers a library of resources and guides to help you share content, grow your audience, and build an independent subscription business.
Ghost‘s concierge migration service is especially of interest for people who are running a publishing business and are seeking to move it to Ghost, no matter if you ran your business on Medium, WordPress, or Substack previously. The concierge team has a wealth of experience migrating sites, however there are a couple of platforms which they cannot migrate from. To sort things out and learn what is possible and what not, make sure to get in contact with them. What makes Ghost an even more lovable product is the fact that it is open-source, a non-profit foundation, and as a Stripe Climate member, they are contributing a portion of their revenue to carbon removal.
Ghost(Pro) is Ghost‘s own subscription which gives you immediate access to the tools to publish, create newsletters, manage members, and grow your business. For $9 per month (billed annually) you get access to the Starter Plan. With the Starter Plan you get 1 staff user, free, official Ghost themes, standard built-in integrations, and a maximum of 500 members. The Creator Plan includes everything in Starter plus, 2 staff users, unlimited custom themes, 1,000+ Zapier integrations, build custom integrations, and 1,000 members for $25 per month (billed annually). The Team and Business Plans are both suited for professional writers and publishing businesses.
Since Ghost is open-source, you can also self-host it. That is also how I am running Creativerly. A straightforward way to self-host Ghost and start your own publication is by using a DigitalOcean Droplet. DigitalOcean is offering a Ghost CMS Droplet, which gives you the possibility to host and set up Ghost for as low as $4 per month. Using the link provided by me gives you a $200, 60-day credit to give DigitalOcean’s products a try.*
Buttondown is another great Substack alternative, especially since it is focusing on giving writers an easy, straightforward, privacy-focused experience while writing and publishing content. As featured in various publication like The Atlantic, Wired, Daring Fireball, and others, Buttondown is among the easiest ways to run your newsletter, collect subscribers, send emails, and collect payments.
By being GDPR-compliant, not collecting any data about you and your subscribers, and by being probably the only newsletter provider that starts with analytics turned off by default, Buttondown has one of the strongest privacy focuses within the field of newsletter software. When writing within Buttondown, you can use the best of Markdown so you can write quickly and efficiently without worrying about clumsy email markup. Besides that, Buttondown makes it easy to run paid subscriptions for your newsletter. Thanks you easy-to-understand analytics, you can easily figure out what works and what not, and grow your newsletter. Additionally, Buttondown offers a wide range of thoughtful, powerful, and yet simple features like Zapier support, support for multiple newsletters, custom sending and hosting domains, web hooks, hosted archives, tagging, support for global currencies, and a lot more.
For up to 100 subscribers, you can use Buttondown for free while getting access to features like scheduling, web archive, sending from custom domain, and writing in markdown too. The Basic Plan will cost you $9 per month for up to 1000 subscribers and gives you access to everything within the Free Plan plus CSS, Tags, attachments, metadata, first-party API, paid subscriptions, analytics, RSS-to-email, and surveys. For people who are seeking to run their publishing business with Buttondown, the Standard Plan (up to 5000 subscribers, $29 per month), Professional Plan (up to 10000 subscribers, $79 per month), and the Advanced Plan (up to 20000 subscribers, $139 per month) are the most interesting ones. Committing to Buttondown for a full year, will give you two months for free, and if you are running a non-profit organization you can get a 50% discount on your plan.
Buttondown features a lovely, minimal, and beautiful UI, a joyful editor, and literally all the features you need to build, maintain, and grow your newsletter and publishing business, making it one of the best Substack alternatives.
Postcard is a relatively new solution to build, set up, and publish a personal website as well as a newsletter for everybody on the internet. With just a few clicks, Postcard allows you to publish a site in five minutes, no code or design required. Host on your domain, add it to your social profiles, email signature, resume, and more, and you are good to go to publish your thoughts and ideas.
With Postcard, you write once, and can share it everywhere. Once you have set up your personal website with Postcard, your audience can subscribe to your personal newsletter too. When you have something to share, post it on Postcard, your email subscribers will get it in their inbox, and then you can share an enhanced link wherever you would like to inform your audience about your writing. By setting a profile photo, cover image, and color scheme, your personal website is customizable. By embedding a signup form on your site, no extra software needed, you can easily collect email signups and grow your list.
The free version of Postcard allows you to create your personal homepage and newsletter, collect email signups on your page, send emails to your subscribers, and host everything on a postcard.page domain. The Premium Plan gives you the possibilities to connect your page on your own domain, add custom code, such as analytics, and soon you will also be able to use integrations and API.
Beehiiv is a newsletter platform that has been built by a few early employees at Morning Brew, the business newsletter with over 2 million subscribers and that has been acquired by Business Insider for more than $75 million in 2020. Until today, the company helped publishers send out over 3 billion emails, generate over 50 million unique readers, over $1.75 million earned by newsletters, and attracted over 150,000 publishers. The goal of beehiiv is to offer a complete solution to run your newsletter business.
With powerful editing and design tools, you get to experience writing unlike anything else. Beehive’s versatile platform lets you launch the next iconic media brand in minutes, without the need of writing any code. Word class newsletters and websites are just a few clicks away. Folks who are already writing a newsletter know that growing and gaining subscribers is one of the hardest things within the business. With beehiiv you get access to the same suite of tools used by the world’s largest newsletters to grow your own one. Right out of the box, beehiiv lets you set up a referral program to turn readers into a growth engine and unlock the true potential of them. Another growth tool is beehiiv’s recommendation network, which gives you the possibility to tap into an expansive network of the world’s top newsletter to scale. With paid recommendations you get to experience the number one acquisition source for newsletters. Last but not least, magic links lets you auto-subscribe readers with just a single click, no landing page needed.
While all the growth tools let beehiiv shine already, it is also offering a lovely writing experience by featuring a sleek minimalist editor with maximum features, flexibility, and customization. Besides that, since beehiiv is packed with features like premium subscriptions, an ad network, and boosts, you can easily monetize your content once you are ready to do so.
For up to 2,500 subscribers you can use beehiiv completely for free as well as getting access to unlimited sends, web hosting, custom newsletters, campaign analytics, recommendation network, and optimized deliverability. The Grow Plan will cost you $42 per month (billed annually) and includes everything from the Launch Plan plus up to 10,000 subscribers, custom domains, premium subscriptions, segments, audience polls, survey forms, multiple team members, API access, and an exclusive Newsletter Community. To get access to the ad network, referral program, automations, boosts, beehiiv, up to 100,000 subcsribers, and more, you need to sign up to the Scale Plan which will cost you $84 per month (billed annually).
If you are looking for a complete solution to run your publishing business, with the desire to grow your newsletter, beehiiv offers the exact tools you need. Beehiiv is an incredible powerful Substack alternative. There is even a support article explaining how to migrate from Substack.
ConvertKit is a great Substack alternative, especially focused on content creators who are seeking for sustainable growth tools to work smarter and drive continuous growth. ConverKit already serves and helps over 600k creators to build creator business with email, automation, and monetization tools.
With ConverKit you can easily build landing pages, sign up forms, and link pages that make your work stand out, to grow your audience and increase your subscribers. Through recommendations, a similar feature to what beehiiv is offering, you get the chance to tap into the largest network of creators who can help you reach audiences and grow your list. Powered by a seamless, clutter-free design and experience, ConvertKit gives you the possibility to send beautiful emails. Build and send emails that stand out within the inboxes of your readers. As your creator business grows, ConvertKit is assisting you to work smarter not harder. Thanks you email sequences, organizing subscribers, and setting up customer journeys, ConvertKit’s Visual Automations tool helps you automating your marketing.
Additionally, ConvertKit helps you building your business and make a full-time income, no matter if you are selling digital products, running paid newsletters, subscriptions and memberships, or promoting creators and getting sponsored. By connecting additional platforms like Shopify or Patreon, you can get even better conversion and comprehensive sales insights.
Over 600k creators like Shane Parrish (Founder of Farnam Street Media), James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits), Andrew Huberman (Neuroscientist and Podcaster), and a lot more are using and relying on ConvertKit’s powerful creator tools.
ConvertKit is free for up to 1,000 subscribers. The Free Plan includes unlimited landing pages, unlimited forms, unlimited broadcasts, audience tagging and segmentation, selling digital products and subscriptions, and community support. The Creator Plan for growing creators automating their work starts at $9 per month, and includes everything in the Free Plan plus live chat and email support, free recommendations, paid recommendations, free migration from another tool, automated email sequences, visual automation builders, third-party integrations, and one additional team member.
ConvertKit is a great Substack alternative, and as a creator you are in great hands when migrating to their platform.
If you are looking for an easy way to share your writing on the web, create a journal, newsletter, a space for your thoughts, you need to check out Write.as, a lovely, simple, and minimal ad-free web publishing platform.
Write.as is the hassle-free, privacy-focused, ad-free, powerful solution made for writing. In the first place, Write.as is a pared-down blogging platform, that instead of content management, focuses on writing. It is a distraction-free place for you to write, and a clean space for your audience to read. When you open the app, the first thing you see the beautiful and clean editor, in which you can write in Markdown or switch to the Rich Text Editor. As you write, your work automatically gets saved to your browser. With Write.as staying independent is as easy as it ca get. With a few clicks, you can add your domain name to keep control of your web presence, make your site your own by using a custom theme, export your work at any time, or even self-host your site with WriteFreely, which is the open-source software that is powering Write.as.
With Write.as Letters you can start a newsletter that respects your readers’ privacy, easily. Newsletter created and sent out with Write.as are clean, simple, and accessible. Additionally, they are privacy-focused as there is no click-tracking or hidden pixels active.
Thanks to Write.as’s Free Plan you can start a blog and instantly publish your writing without distractions. The Pro Plan, which lets you build a permanent, professional home for your writing, including custom themes, newsletters, photo hosting, and up to three blogs will cost you $4.50 per month (billed annually). With web monetization support, custom domain, newsletter subscribers, RSS feed, ActivityPub federation, and more, Write.as is ready to serve your publishing business.
Write.as is the ethical, simple, powerful, open, and secure Substack alternative you have been looking for.
With over 1.4 million happy customers, MailerLite is one of the most popular newsletter tools ou there. While MailerLite could be considered as an email marketing service in first place, it gives you the possibility to sell digital products, build websites, integrate with other web apps, send paid newsletters, and sell recurring subscriptions too, making it a great Substack alternative.
MailerLite lets you create engaging, dynamic emails in minutes powered by an intuitive drag and drop email editor. Additionally, it gives you the power to sell ebooks, downloads, or whatever else will help subscribers, and build stunning websites on your and let you business shine. With integrations for Stripes, Shopify, WordPress, and a lot more, you can seamlessly work together to share information, automate workflows, and enhance your customer experience.
One of the biggest advantages of MailerLite is its outstanding customer support which is available 24/7, has a 5 min average response time on live chat, and holds a 97% satisfaction rate. Besides that, MailerLite offers a platform with a reputation for user-friendliness, rich customization, and fair and transparent pricing.
MailerLite offers a Free Plan for up to 1,000 subscribers including 12,000 monthly emails, 1 user, and access to the drag and drop editor, the email automation builder, websites, 10 landing pages, comparative reporting, and signup forms and pop-ups. The Growing Business Plan starts at $9 per month (billed yearly) for up to 500 subscribers, the Advanced Plan starts at $18 per month (billed yearly) for the same amount of subscribers. As the number of your subscribers grow, so will the monthly fee. The Growing Business Plan offers unlimited monthly emails, 24/7 email support, everything included in the Free Plan plus the possibility to sell digital products, access to unlimited templates, dynamic emails, auto resend campaigns, unlimited websites and blogs, unsubscribe page builder, and multivariate testing.
Although MailerLite might feel like a email marketing platform, you can use it for your publishing business too, making it yet another great Substack alternative.