Categories
SubStack

The Amazon approach to setting your newsletter goals #Substack #Revue

Most writers start their newsletter because they want to share their thoughts and writing with others. There are over 50,000 individual newsletters on Substack and over 30,000 on Revue alone. Of these, only 12,000 are active monthly. Of the active monthly newsletters, only about 1,100 are paid email newsletters.

That means 85% of newsletters are abandoned within a month of getting started and less than 10% of active newsletters are getting paid subscribers.

This compares to 60-80% of blogs being abandoned within a month of getting started. After discussions with 20 people who abandoned their Substack newsletter withing a month of starting one, there are 5 main reasons that came up:

a) lack of subscriber growth,

b) lack of time to manage newsletter,

c) lost interest in the newsletter / topic,

d) other priorities came up,

e) day job takes up too much time.

Why do writers abandon Substack?

Most writers plunge right in and start a newsletter since it is free and easy to do so. They go to Substack, sign up and send their first “newsletter”. Then they may post it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, reddit and one or two industry specific websites and expect a flood of subscribers. When that does not happen, nearly 60% of people give up.

After a week or a month passes, they realize the amount of time required to manage their newsletter is upwards of 4-8 hours a week they are forced to prioritize. Since over 80% of newsletter writers start their newsletter as a side hustle, their time become valuable and the trade off becomes more important. Send an update to a “small and not growing very fast” list? Or focus on their day job? Most end up focusing on their day job.

In drilling deeper, one thing that stands out is how many people don’t have a goal that they start with to work on.

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

In this post I want to share an alternative way that I learned at Amazon on the best way to setup a goal, a plan to achieve your goal and metrics to track progress.

First set a goal. A SMART goal.

Here are 7 examples of real goals we have helped creators put together.

  1. Create a newsletter that inspires 1000 people to take climate change seriously in 6 months
  2. Build a community of 500 enthusiastic Node.JS developers who want to learn about growing from 0 to hired in 12 months
  3. Educate 2000 people about pet adoption and get 50 paying subscribers in 3 months for our newsletter
  4. Grow my millennial finance management newsletter to over 10K subscribers in 12 months
  5. Become an expert in all things DeFi with a focus on developers by growing my newsletter subscribers to 12,000 in 6 months
  6. Generate over $10K ARR from my newsletter in the first year from subscriptions with a focus on stock analysis research
  7. Build thought leadership in Indian business community by writing about deep dive case studies and gaining over 7500 subscribers within 6 months

As SMART goals state, they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.

There are 3 important elements we help writers understand:

  1. Put a number, what ever number to your goal. That makes is easy for you to work towards. One metric (or number) is better than 2 or 3 (don’t try to work on # of subscribers, open rate and subscription revenue all at the same time)
  2. Be realistic – even if your target audience is 50,000, you need to start small with a realistic goal in 3-6-12 months.
  3. More specific is better. Notice we do not have goals that are broad – Be the best DeFi, newsletter or Be a thought leader. Those are nebulous and don not motivate you to work towards something measurable.

Second, work backwards to create a plan

Now that you have a goal, build 3 plans:

  1. Editorial calendar – what you are going to write about – it need not be specific about each post, but you need to have a calendar of items for 5-10 newsletters (depending on your newsletter’s frequency).
  2. Marketing plan – how and where are you going to promote your newsletter. What incentives are you going to provide users to forward your newsletter to others. If you want to gain 2,500 subscribers in 3 months, you need to get to add about 80 new subscribers weekly on average. That’s after people that unsubscribe. Here is a roughly weekly growth chart for one email newsletter. As you can see some weeks were great, some went backwards, but there was long term growth.
Weekly New Email Subscriber Growth
  1. Time and Calendar: Plan out your day or week when you will take time from your calendar to do the research, form your thoughts, write the outline, and edit your final newsletter post.

Third, focus on executing your plan every day and week

This is easier said than done, but you need to spend time doing the hard work of executing to the plan. Along your journey you will learn new ways to promote your blog and grow readers. You will learn new areas of content that you did not think about when you get feedback from your subscribers.

The best way to execute the plan is to review metrics every week. At Amazon there is a mechanism called WBR (Weekly Business Review) where you look at your goal, what your planned to do for the week and how you are progressing towards your goal. Or how you are executing to the plan.

Categories
SubStack

The most comprehensive bake-off SubStack vs Revue

Overview

The two most important platforms for email newsletter platforms are SubStack and Revue. In this blog post we dissect the two platforms across 17 categories and over 50 different features to give you a comprehensive comparison.

The purpose of this post is to provide you with information to base your decision on which platform to use. We don’t want to tell you one is better than the other. They are different platforms and suit different needs based on your own situation and requirements.

The information obtained for this blog post is from managing newsletters on each platform. We will update this post every 3 months to accurately reflect the progress and new feature capabilities of these platforms.

The best way to use this comparison is to quickly skim the features, highlight the support offered by each platform and then put a check against each feature that is important to you.

Then go to the end of the table and review the key questions that can help you decide on the right platform for your needs.

SubStack Vs Revue
SubStack Vs Revue

Pricing and Cost

For free newsletters, SubStack is free, but Revue charges a fee even if your newsletter is free for over 50 subscribers. For paid newsletters, SubStack charges you 10% of your Price and Revue charges you 6%.

For paid newsletters, SubStack charges you 10% of your Price and Revue charges you 6%.

FeatureRevueSubStack
Free newsletterPricedFree
Paid Newsletter6% of your price + per subscriber fee10% of your price
Private NewsletterYesYes
Pricing and Costing

Branding

If your personal branded website is important to you, Revue wins. With SubStack you must host and manage your newsletter on the SubStack domain. Both platforms require you to put their logo in the footer of your email. Revue supports the ability for you to embed the subscribe button easily on Twitter and other sites.

FeatureRevueSubStack
Support for your own custom domainYesNo
Removing logo of the provider in your content / email footerNoNo
About the author page, bio, and photo (Profile page)YesYes
Embed subscribe form on other locationsYes*
Change the color / brand of the “subscribe button”YesNo
Allow Twitter and Facebook users to sign up to newsletter in your postYesNo
*= limited

Analytics and Reports

Both platforms have decent analytics but limited capability to export data for offline analysis. Neither allows you to export data for offline analysis in Excel. Revue has better engagement metrics.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Key metrics dashboard
1. Subscriber Count &
2. Growth
3. Open Rate
4. Click Through Rate
5. Engaged Audiences
YesYes
Custom reportsNoNo
Audience engagement metricsYes*
Recommendations on problem diagnosisNoNo
Integrate 3rd party tracking pixels for analytics (Facebook, Google, etc.)YesYes
* = limited

Writing and Editing

Both platforms are simple to use and easy to manage. Image are supported in both, but videos, tweets and Instagram photos are better on Revue.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Ease of useYesYes
Scheduled PostsYesYes
Support for rich media typesYes*
Support Instagram images in postsYesNo
Support for content formatting via MarkdownYesNo
Thumbnail images for curated, embedded linksYes*
Embed Tweets withing newsletterYesNo
Video embeds within newslettersYesYes
Multiple author newsletters as a Publisher (not just for individual authors)YesYes
Support for subheadings in email newslettersYesYes
* = Limited

Integration with other tools

SubStack little integration capabilities or APIs, whereas Revue is more “open”. If you care about publishing from your blog to the newsletter, Revue is better. If you want to curate links to send, Revue has options, SubStack – not so much.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Integrate seamlessly with Medium / WordPress and other blog platformsYesNo
Integrate with your own hosted blogYesNo
Integration with ZapierYesNo
Integration with GetPocket, Instapaper and other bookmarking toolsYesNo
Integrations

Monetization

SubStack has better monetization options than Revue and support for discount codes, gift subscriptions and multiple subscription options.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Monthly payment planYesYes
Annual payment planYesYes
3rd (Forever) planNoYes
Support for SponsorsNoNo
Support for in newsletter advertising**
Group subscriptionsYes*
Gift subscriptionsNoYes
Complimentary subscriptionsNo*
Setup special offersNoYes
* = Limited

Community Capabilities

Community features are important to keep your audience engaged. Overall SubStack has better community features than Revue. Revue however has feedback option for each newsletter update, which SubStack does not.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Reader feedback*Yes
Reader comments & discussion threads*Yes
Feedback on each newsletter updateYesNo
* = Limited

Technical Capabilities

Although both platforms are relatively stable, users have reported fewer bugs with SubStack. Revue has strong 3rd party integrations which make them a technical person’s favorite. SubStack does not provide an API.
FeatureRevueSubStack
API for 3rd party integrationYesNo
Scalable to thousands and millions of subscribersYesYes
Available and does not go down oftenYesYes
Support for 3rd party designated administratorsYesNo
Technical Capabilities

Subscriber Management

If you want to manage subscribers, export your list, and clean up your subscriber base, then both platforms support them equally well. Neither does a good job of segmenting your audience for A/B testing.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Exporting your subscriber email addressesYesYes
Import your subscribers via Excel, CSV, or other email tools such as MailChimpYesYes
Subscriber segmentationNoNo
Remove and clean subscribers who have not opened email for a long timeYesNo
Subscriber Management

Customer Service

Helping you get questions answered when subscribers have question or if you have a question is important. Since SubStack is better capitalized, their support has been mentioned as better.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Phone supportNoNo
Email support*Yes
* = Limited

Multiple Content Types

As writers move from written email newsletters alone to podcasts, courses, and other forms of digital content, it is important to have support for those media types as well. If you want to integrate with a 3rd party course platform such as Podia, Revue is better.
FeatureRevueSubStack
CoursesNoNo
Podcasts*Yes
Other digital media**
* = Limited

Payments

Both platforms only support Stripe for payment management. If Stripe does not support your region or country, you are out of luck. You can do your own integration via API with Revue, but it is challenging.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Stripe payment platform integrationYesYes
PayPal integration*No
* = Limited

Discovery and Promotion

While both platforms do not have great discovery capabilities to support authors by helping them find new subscribers, Revue does a slightly better job.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Easy ways for subscribers to find your blog*No
* = Limited

Content Curation

If your newsletter has curated links that you share frequently then Revue has a few options to support link collection and collation, but SubStack does not.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Plugin to bookmark your favorite links to shareYesNo
Share or save content on your Mobile phone to share with newsletter subscribersYesNo
Content Curation

Newsletter Archives

Both platforms do a good job managing your archives and older email newsletter updates.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Old newsletters published and hosted for reviewYesYes
Manage and export archives to other blog platformsYes*
* = Limited

Email delivery

Both platforms do a good job of the basics – help you onboard new subscribers, ensure double opt-in to prevent SPAM and comply with CAN-SPAM act.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Welcome email to subscribers to confirm subscriptionYesYes
Double Opt-in for subscribersYesYes
Email Delivery

Company Profiles

SubStack is better funded, better resourced and has multiple programs to set the stage for their success. While Revue is smaller and nimbler, they are more open and focused more on publishers and media organizations right now then individual creators alone.
FeatureRevueSubStack
Founding20152017
Funding$400K in 2017Over $15 Million raised
LocationNetherlandsSan Francisco
# employees< 10< 25
# of writers / authors as customers20,000 – 30,000Over 30,000
Revenue estimates< $1M$1M – $2M
Company Profiles

Important questions to consider

  • Are you going to have only a free newsletter?

SubStack charges you no money for free newsletters regardless of the number of subscribers. Revue charges you if you have more than 50 subscribers – paid or free.

If you expect to have paid subscribers, then SubStack charges you 10% of your price and Revue charges you 6% of your price in addition to their base platform fee.

  • Do you care about your personal branding and owning your domain?

Revue supports your own domain and branding, while SubStack does not currently.

  • Do you already publish to your blog (Medium, WordPress, etc.) and want to ensure integration between the email platform and your blog?

Revue has multiple integration capabilities, while SubStack is standalone as a platform.

  • Are you technical enough to want an API that can integrate with other systems such as Zapier?

SubStack does not have an API, while Revue does.

  • Do you intend to have podcasts, videos, and other content that you want to monetize?

SubStack supports podcasts and other content formats. Revue has limited support for other content formats.