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Intro

I’ve been shopping around for a paid newsletter platform recently and I want to share the results with you.  If you’re thinking of offering a premium newsletter to your audience I recommend looking at what’s available to help you deliver it in with a platform that meets the needs of your publication, your audience and the way you want to interact with them.

I look specifically at ones that allow payment processing and subscriber management but if you already have an email marketing platform and payment processor that’s working for you then you may already be set.

It can’t hurt to look at what’s available either.

A note before we get started. I’m not an affiliate or representative for any of these services so that’s not  factoring into this comparison at all.  If I did choose to promote one over the other and get paid to do so, it would still be based on the fact that I have a preference but I’m not there at this point.

These are simply the top 5 according to my very recent research. I’ll be providing a my observations, pros and cons that I’ve collected from different reports and pricing. There will also be comparison chart at the end.

If you do like any of these services, I recommend you take them for a test drive before making a final decision.

Consider What Features You Need

Here are a few of the features you may want to consider when looking for the platform perfect for your premium newsletter:

  • Do you need an all-in-one type platform that includes a website builder and email marketing features?
  • Do you need a landing page builder?
  • Do you need funnel building features?
  • Will it integrate easily with your existing landing page or website builder?
  • Does it have payment processing features and if so, what are the process fees?
  • Does it integrate with your payment processor of choice?
  • Will you have the ability to create different pricing plans?
  • Do you need to manage multiple newsletters?
  • Do you need automation or segmentation features?
  • What reporting features does it have?
  • Do it’s fees fit into your budget?
  • Does it have a user-friendly interface?
  • Do they have attractive and modern email templates?
  • Will you be able to access and export your subscribers if you decide to change platforms?
  • Do you already have an email marketing platform and payment system that will serve your needs?
  • Make a list of all the features that are non-negotiable. Then list the ‘nice to have’ features.
  • List the platforms you want to look at and see where each one stands compared to your list.

My Top 5 Picks

Here are 5 services that are highly recommended for paid newsletters. There are many services out there so if you are already using a different one, then compare it to these others and you may not need to move to a new one.

There are so many out there and some that are subscriber based, but not newsletter focused. I’m going to focus on ones that have specific paid newsletter services but as usual you can do the research based on what you need.

I haven’t used all of these but I did research what’s out there and what’s recommended most often so I’m going to present that to you along with some claimed pros and cons.

I will provide some pricing information here but please do your own research as fees and charges will vary over time and could vary depending on the country you are in.

Substack

In their own words...
Substack is much more than a newsletter platform. A Substack is an all-encompassing publication that accommodates text, video, audio, and video.. No tech knowledge is required. Anyone can start a Substack and publish posts directly to subscribers’ inboxes—in email and in the Substack app. Without ads or gatekeepers  in the way, you can sustain a direct relationship with your audience and retain full control over your creative work.

Pros

  • Fees are based on a fixed percentage of your profits.
  • User-friendly, an intuitive publisher and easy audience and subscription management.
  • 20 million readers and most subscribe to multiple newsletters.
  • If you like, you can feature audio clips or a podcast.
  • Network/Community style setup

Cons

  • Beyond content creation and email marketing, it doesn’t have a lot of additional features.
  • The email templates are basic so if you need a stunning design this might not be the right platform for you.
  • Very few native tools to help build a community for your newsletter. However, you could leverage social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram to grow your following.
  • If you offer services like coaching or freelancing, you will still need a website so if you are looking for an all-in-one solution, this isn't going to give you a real website, even if that's their claim.
  • List Element

Pricing

It’s totally free to start and send a newsletter with Substack. They only start charging for their service once the user turns on paid subscriptions.

Substack charges a 10% fixed fee, while their payments processor Stripe takes an additional 2.9% + $0.30 per charge.

Ghost

In their own words…

Ghost is a powerful app for professional publishers to create, share, and grow a business around their content. It comes with modern tools to build a website, publish content, send newsletters & offer paid subscriptions to members.

Pros

  • Easy to use interface
  • Doesn’t charge transaction fees
  • Has an open-source website building feature if you need that

Cons

  • Limited ways to engage with your community outside of publishing new content.
  • You’ll need a email marketing platform if you need automated email sequences or segmentation features.

Pricing

While they don’t charge transaction fees, they do have monthly fees based on the level of service and number of subscribers. Pricing starts at $9/mo with a limit of 500 subscribers.

I do see integrations with payment processors like Stripe and PayPal but it's not clear to me if they charge transaction fees on top of that so please do ask them if you are considering this option.

Beehiiv

This platform is what I would call a true all-in-one service. You could monetize with a paid subscription, an ad network or premium sponsors so if your content format is not limited to writing. If you want to go with a podcast this is a great option.

Pros

  • Website feature
  • Referral program to incentives your readers to help you grow
  • Includes email automations & segmentation
  • Monetize your newsletter with sponsors if you don’t want to ask your subscribers to pay
  • Includes AI for content creation
  • One-click polls and surveys to know your audience better
  • A/B testing feature
  • In-depth analytics

Cons

  • As with any platform that has lots of useful features, the pricing can be high if you use a lot of those features. That said, theoretically, if you are paying for the marketing features your revenue should be increasing as well.

Pricing

You can get started for free with up to 2,500 subscribers and surprisingly have quite a few good features available. You can have up to 10,000 subscribers on the Scale plan for $99/mo and an Enterprise plan is available if needed.

Convert Kit

Convert Kit is markets its services to content creators and is a typical email marketing platform but where they stand out is giving you the ability to monetize your content and grow your subscriber list without having to rely on social media and website traffic alone.

Pros

  • Landing pages & sales funnel features
  • Integrated Stripe payment processing with low transaction fees
  • Referral program to grow your audience
  • Creator Network to grow your audience
  • Automation and Segmentation features
  • Excellent documentation and use cases to help you make the most out of the features you pay for
  • Easy and modern interface with easy to use email editor

Cons

  • Limited landing page and form design. Nice template designs but no ability to customize the layouts.
  • It gets VERY pricey if you have more than 10,000 subscribers.

Pricing

Three types of pricing plans are available: A free plan for up to 10,000 subscribers with features limited to 1 automation, 1 user, and paid newsletters. That’s actually one of the best starter plans I’ve seen. Then the Creator plan starts at $15/mo for 300 subscribers and unlimited automations. Creator Pro plan starts at $29/mo for 300 subscribers.

Once you start getting paid subscriptions there is a fee of 3.5% + 30c on Stripe.

Mailer Lite

This service is another full service email marketing platform and also includes a website builder, blogging feature and does paid newsletters and digital product sales.

Pros

  • Automations and segmentations
  • Paid subscriptions
  • Digital products sales
  • Landing pages
  • Website builder
  • Loads of templates to choose from
  • If you are looking to do targeted email campaigns along side your newsletter then this is a good choice.

Cons

  • Not a beginner friendly platform.
  • If all you want is to manage a paid newsletter with basic features and ease of use, there are other platforms design for just that.

Pricing

MailerLite is free for your first 1,000 subscriptions, but offers significantly reduced features at that tier. Paid plans start at $10/mo for 500 subscribers and for up to 100,000 subscribers you will pay $110/mo for the Advanced plan. You can have up to 500,000 subscribers before you get into Enterprise level services but since we’re looking at paid newsletters here I think its rare enough to have more than 100,000 paid subscribers.

Comparison Based On Features & Platforms Mentioned Above

Keep in mind that I'm not saying everyone who wants to offer a premium newsletter needs all of these features. There also may be some features you need that are not listed here. Please be mindful of your own situation and the needs of your publication and only use this as a guide based on my research and feedback I've received.

Features

Substack

Ghost

Beehiiv

Convert Kit

Mailer Lite

payment processing

newsletter pricing plans

multiple newsletters

automation & segmentation

landing page builder

funnel building

website builder

user-friendly interface

attractive email templates

subscriber management

subscriber export

analytics reporting

Conclusion

If you have a content only business model and you simply want to monetize your content all-in-one solutions are a great way to go.

However, I've watched people build out 'websites' on ghost, claiming it's a better alternative to WordPress. I've also browsed a lot of accounts on Substack. In my opinion, their so-called websites are really just what I could call homepages that serve as a hub for your content. Again, good for a content only model but I believe for membership, products and service business models, WordPress is still the better option. Then the slimmer 'paid newsletter only' type platforms are a great way to add an extra stream of revenue to compliment your services or products.

Another point I feel is important is that of these 5 option only Convert Kit and Mailer Lite are actual email marketing options. The others appear to be internal network blog type platforms where people pay to have access to view your content, with the ability to email newsletter notifications to subscribers. This is a really important distinction.

When it comes down to it, my winners here are Convert Kit + WordPress if you want to offer a premium paid newsletter, services, memberships, or products and Beehiiv if you want to have monetized content with more marketing and growth opportunities.

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