A version of this post originally appeared in the July 16, 2020 issue with the email subject line "In the middle of the morass" and insights from a year of writing weekly newsletters.

My tune on Substack significantly changed when I invested more of my business into managing The Content Technologist. I wrote about it. I'm canonicalizing this review to my more recent review of Substack because it reflects my more recent opinions.

You know what Substack does. Like Blogger and Wordpress and Tumblr, Substack is a way of life. It’s the natural extension of blogging, combined with Medium’s uniform design and writing experience. By oversimplifying the authorship, publishing and discovery experience, Substack makes the practice of writing a newsletter easy.

It’s also currently the best platform for individual content-driven newsletters by leaps and bounds. It does not provide the audience management and insights of a Mailchimp or other robust marketing automation platform — but that’s not the purpose of the technology.

Substack at a glance

As a WYSIWYG editor with minimal customizations, Substack works best for the subject matter expert, the beat reporter, the thought leader who actually thinks but who is also not a graphic designer.

Designing email templates is a pain in the ass, and Substack fixes that problem, as long as you’re cool with how Substack looks.

Setting up payment systems and business models is a pain in the ass, and Substack fixes that problem, as long as you’re cool with the massive cut they’re taking.

What I’ve enjoyed about Substack: it works. It rarely breaks. They add new features only after they’ve clearly been tested. The features intentionally make the authorship experience better, which enhances the reader experience. It’s not the first CMS that prioritizes the author, but it’s one of the best.

Also I can drag and drop gifs into the body of email newsletters without a thought, so.

I would like more list management options, like the ability to remove users who have not opened an email in 6 months. But they’ll get there I’m sure. And then one day there will be too many features and it will gradually start sucking because that is the content tech cycle.

But I’m enjoying the glory days. I’m cool with Substack.