Which Platform is Better for Blogging?
If you want to share your writing on a blogging platform with built-in monetization options, sooner or later you’re going to stumble upon the Substack vs Medium debate.
Both of these platforms offer ways for writers to publish their work and make money doing it, but what is the best option for bloggers? How do you choose?
I’ve taken a close look 🙎 at both of these platforms and compared them in three key areas to settle the Substack vs Medium debate once and for all:
- Features ⚙️
- Interface 🖱️
- Monetization opportunities 💵
I’ll also share the pros and cons of each, but first, let’s get a better idea of what these blogging platforms do.
Substack vs Medium: an overview
Substack is a platform where you can create blogs, email newsletters, podcasts, and videos, and directly charge subscribers for access to your premium content. Blogs and newsletters published on the Substack platform are included in the Substack Reader and are eligible to be featured as Staff Picks or included in the “Top in” industry lists, providing more visibility for high-quality and popular content.
Substack also recently launched Substack Notes, a platform for publishing short-form content similar to what might be found on Twitter.
Medium is a publishing platform that provides tools for starting your own blog, online magazine, or other publication. Writers are able to publish their individual posts or articles as free content or as premium content. If a visitor to the Medium website wishes to read more than three premium stories per month, they can sign up to be a member for $5 per month. As a writer, your income is primarily determined by how much time paid members spend reading your premium (pay-walled) stories.
Substack vs Medium: in-depth review
Now that you’ve got a general idea of what these two companies do, it’s time to take a closer look at their features, how they work, and how you can use them to make money as a blogger.
- Blogging tools
- Podcast storage and distribution
- Video publication
- Email marketing tools
- Ability to charge for subscriptions to all content types
- Chat area where you can post short subscriber-only updates and have subscribers comment/interact with those updates
- Notes platform for publishing short updates
- Blog importer to easily transfer your blog from Medium, WordPress, Tumblr, Ghost, and a variety of other blogging platforms
- Easy import tools for moving an existing email list to Substack
The Substack interface is quite user-friendly. When you first sign up, you’ll see a checklist of setup actions in your dashboard. This makes it easy to choose payment options, import your email list, and connect to Twitter. You can complete the basic setup and start writing your first blog post in a matter of minutes.
The post editor is extremely minimalist. In fact, so much so that I had momentary confusion about where to enter my actual content the first time I used it. Once you realize that you can simply click below your name and start writing, however, the editor becomes easy to use. Just type as you normally would, and the program will automatically format paragraphs for you.
You can use keyboard shortcuts for simple things like bold text and italics. You’ll also find a range of more complicated formatting options in the top bar, and specialized blocks for things like poetry and polls in the More dropdown menu.
Once you’ve finished your blog post, click Continue in the top right corner to be taken to a page where you can choose who will see your posts. Posts will automatically be sent to your email list. You can also choose to share your posts on Twitter and/or your Substack Chat.
If you wish to complement your blog with Substack’s podcast and video features, the tools for both of them are similarly straightforward to use. Once you’ve started publishing, you can see how successful your content is in the Stats area:
All in all, Substack’s interface is quite intuitive and offers a variety of options for publishing and monetization. The only major limitation is that you don’t have full control over the design of your Substack page.
💵 Monetization options
Another key consideration in the Substack vs Medium debate is monetization.
Substack allows you to create three types of paid subscriptions for your blog: monthly, annual, and Founding Member subscriptions.
The first two options are pretty straightforward. You set prices, like $5 per month or $50 per year, and users who subscribe gain access to content only for paid subscribers.
The Founding Member subscription tier is an option for people who want to do even more to support you. These subscriptions are annual and should have a higher price than your regular subscription. You can make subscribing at this tier more appealing by publishing content exclusively for Founding Members. You can also offer other benefits like one-on-one coaching calls. However, Substack doesn’t give you tools for providing any additional benefits, so you’d need to figure that out on your own.
You can also offer group discounts when someone purchases two or more subscriptions at once.
Substack makes money by charging 10% transaction fees on all paid subscriptions. You’ll also be charged a 2.9% fee by Stripe. Make sure to account for these fees when setting up your paid tiers.
Pros and cons of Substack
- You can charge blog subscribers directly instead of relying on revenue-sharing
- Tools for publishing several types of content to augment your blog – including podcasts
- Ability to select exactly what content goes behind the paywall
- Easy-to-use tools for publication and monetization
- High fees
- Few integrations
- Minimum subscription fee isn’t fully customizable – you’re forced to charge at least $5 for paid subscriptions
- Blogging tools
- Email subscription option
- Easy import option for existing email lists
- Eligibility to be featured on Medium’s “For You,” topic pages, as well as “More from Medium” (web) and “Recommended for you” sections on other Medium stories
- Eligibility to be included in the “Medium Digest” emails
- Ability to accept tips through a variety of payment processors
- Support for larger publications, including tools for accepting story submissions from other writers
So, how does Medium’s interface stack up in the Substack vs Medium debate?
Well, publishing on Medium is quite simple. Simply log in, click on the Write link in the top right corner, and start writing your post in the editor. You can click the + button beside the editor to see options for embedding images, videos, and other content types.
When published, your stories will appear on your profile:
This profile area will include all stories published on Medium, whether they were published directly to your profile or to a Medium Publication.
In the Settings area, you’ll find basic controls for publication settings, including the ability to set up tips:
The Stats area of Medium offers basic information about how many people are reading your work, with more detailed stats for individual stories.
Things get a little more complicated if you decide to spring for a paid plan and create a Publication. You’ll be asked to fill in your name and image, the publication name and image, and any writers or editors you want to include in your publication, before getting a chance to design your homepage:
A publication allows you to control how your content is displayed and create Featured Pages where you can group stories based on topic. You’ll also gain access to features for scheduling stories and a more comprehensive story organization area where you can view drafts, scheduled posts, published posts, and unlisted posts:
Once you’ve hit 100 followers you can click on your profile picture and select Apply to the Partner Program from the menu. This will lead you to a page where you can apply to get paid for your content. Your application will be processed by the Medium team within three days, and you’ll automatically be included in the next payout.
Overall, Medium’s interface is user-friendly, but it’s also quite limited.
💵 Monetization options
Medium offers two monetization options: the Medium Partner Program and tipping.
To be eligible to join the Medium Partner Program, you must have at least 100 followers on the platform and one published story. You also have to reside in one of the approved countries on Medium’s list. If you’re able to fulfill all three pieces of criteria, you can apply to the program and start earning money.
The way you earn money is when paid members read your premium content. The amount you earn is based on the amount of time those paid members spend viewing your stories. Partners can also earn money by referring new people to Medium.
In contrast to the Partner Program, you can set up tipping immediately, regardless of how many followers you have. If you enable this feature, people will be able to click on a tip link that directs them to a third-party payment processor of your choice.
Medium doesn’t charge transaction fees for either of these payment methods. If you enable tipping, you can expect whatever transaction fees your third-party payment processor charges.
Pros and cons of Medium
- Eligibility to be included in Medium promotions
- Ability to submit pieces to join Medium Publications for access to a wider audience
- Ability to create Publications with a paid membership, with access to tools for managing writers and story submissions
- Control which content you want to be free and which content you want to be premium (pay-walled)
- There’s no way to categorize posts, create a unique appearance for your blog, or accept guest posts unless you become a paid member and create a Publication
- You have to rely on revenue-sharing instead of being able to charge people directly
- You won’t be eligible for payment until you have at least 100 followers
- Eligibility for the Medium Partner Program (i.e., monetization) is restricted to a select group of countries
Summarizing the Substack vs Medium debate 🏁
Both of these blogging platforms provide easy-to-use tools for publishing your writing online and ways to earn money from that content. In the end, the Substack vs Medium debate comes down to your existing online presence, your goals, and how best to leverage the strengths of each one.
Substack is great because it offers other media options to complement your blog, including podcast distribution. It also allows you to charge customers directly rather than relying on revenue-sharing, which makes it easier to predict your monthly income for financial planning purposes.
However, the in-network Substack opportunities are pretty limited compared to Medium, and there’s no easy way to join or create multi-author publications. This makes Substack a more effective tool for people who have already built an audience on social media platforms or elsewhere, and want to monetize that audience. You can use Substack to build an audience from scratch, but it will be more difficult.
Medium has some pretty notable limitations for bloggers who aren’t interested in paying for the ability to create publications. You also have no real ability to organize your content and the stats are limited. Moreover, you won’t be able to make any money until you have a minimum threshold of 100 followers. To make matters worse, even when you do become eligible to earn, you’ll be stuck using the unpredictable revenue-sharing model.
On the other hand, Medium makes your content visible to its broader audience in a variety of ways, especially if you write high quality blog posts. You can also become part of existing publications, or submit one-off stories to those publications, to grow your audience. This makes it an effective place to start your blog if you have no pre-existing audience – but only if you’re willing to wait until you have 100 followers to earn your first dollar.
Substack vs Medium: which should you choose for your blog? 🤓
In my opinion, the Substack vs Medium debate doesn’t have an outright winner. In fact, the best option is to use both of these platforms.
Substack should be where you build your main platform and focus on monetization, as the more predictable monthly income you earn from charging customers directly can provide more financial stability.
Medium should be where you focus on working with other people by submitting stories to Publications so you can put your work in front of a larger audience. You can also use Medium if you want to create your own multi-author publication.
Want some advice on how to make money from your blog? Check out how to make money blogging: an A-to-Z guide. 💰
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