The best platforms to launch your own email newsletter
The email newsletter scene is booming, as a lot of people seem to like the idea of getting curated information delivered straight to their inbox.
Some of the best examples include Heated (on the climate crisis), Next draft (the “most fascinating news” of the day), TLDR (small tech news), and Morning infusion (an insightful look at what’s currently newsworthy). We also strongly recommend that you sign up for Popular Science newsletters, so you can receive our top stories directly.
In addition to reading newsletters, you can create your own. Many platforms can help you get started for free, whether you want to do it just for fun or as a serious source of income.
Should you create your own newsletter?
Getting started with your own email newsletter is so quick and easy, it can be tempting to dive in and get started.
We certainly encourage you to think carefully about what you would like to write about and how you are going to present it, so that your newsletter has a better chance of succeeding.
Other newsletters are a great starting point. They can inspire you for your own emails, as well as insight into your competitors. Give them a good read and ask yourself how can you make your project stand out from the ever growing crowd
Also spend some time thinking about the topics you want to cover. You might have some good ideas, but ask yourself if the same approach will be sustainable in the long run. Keep in mind that the more regular and frequent your newsletters are, the more likely they are to attract subscribers and keep people coming back.
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If you’re looking to make money from your newsletter, it’s important to manage your expectations because subscribers aren’t easy to come by. There are no shortcuts to building an audience, so be prepared to invest time and effort before you see results.
You don’t need any kind of technical knowledge or financial savvy – the platforms we’ve highlighted below handle all the behind-the-scenes engineering on your behalf. All you have to do is write.
Choose a platform
Sub-stack has attracted big-name journalists and writers, and it’s easy to see why. It is a professional and polished platform designed to help you enter the email newsletter market. You can be up and running in minutes, and there are tips for you every step of the way.
The actual editing of the newsletter takes place in a clear and intuitive web application. You provide the text and images, and Substack makes it aesthetically appealing. You don’t get many layout or formatting options, but that’s not really what this tool is for.
Where the platform really excels is in the help and support it provides. You can access in-depth analytics tools and even a linked app to create and publish your own podcast. If you want to get into the idea of the email newsletter, Substack might just be the best place to do it.
If your newsletter is free, then Substack is free. But if you start charging, Substack takes 10% of each subscription payment to host your newsletter and give you the tools to create it.
Review is operated by Twitter and perhaps Substack’s most direct competitor. As with the previous platform on this list, getting started couldn’t be much easier, and you’re only minutes away from writing your first newsletter.
All editing is done in-browser, with little control over layout – it includes basic text formatting and image importing tools, but that’s about it. We love how you can quickly load links from other services, including Instagram, Pocket, and (of course) Twitter.
Substack has a clear advantage in terms of the ecosystem you can build around your newsletter (like podcasting) and the depth of its analytics. But Revue lets you use a custom domain and email address for free, which Substack charges for.
You can get started on Revue for free and only have to pay (at a rate of 5%) when you start making money from subscribers. As of this writing, it is half the price charged by Substack.
As you may have guessed from its name, lowercase letter sticks to the basics when it comes to creating an email newsletter. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how much time you want to invest in creating your email.
TinyLetter’s compose screen looks like a compose window in an email client like Gmail. (If that’s something you like, know that you can actually run your TinyLetter project from your email client if you prefer.) You get a bit more choice than Substack or Revue give you in terms of appearance and formatting, like more fonts and alignment options, and everything is very simple to use.
[Related: This wacky-looking font can help you remember what you read]
What you don’t get with TinyLetter is a lot of extras, like analytics or podcasting tools. It is also only for free newsletters, so you cannot earn money through this platform. This poses a problem, as it forces you to start over somewhere else if you want to capitalize on any traction your newsletter might get in the future.
Part of the reason TinyLetter is so restricted is that it’s run by an email marketing giant. MailChimp. If you want more features, like the ability to charge subscribers, you can jump straight to this platform, though it does include a bunch of business-focused extras that many people won’t need. MailChimp is free for newsletters with less than 2,000 subscribers.
Like MailChimp, EmailOctopus is more of a business email marketing platform than an email newsletter service, so it has a lot of features that will probably only appeal to businesses. However, as these major platforms evolve, it is also one of the most accessible for individuals.
You can get started for free, and while the web interface isn’t as easy to navigate as the other services on this list, you have more options to customize the look of your newsletter, including a host of templates that you can change according to your audience.
As an email marketing platform, EmailOctopus gives you plenty of additional tools to play with. These include the ability to manage contacts in groups and the ability to get detailed analytics on your newsletters, including data on what time people open them, for example.
EmailOctopus is free to use for up to 2,500 email subscribers, although you get the service’s branding on the newsletters you send. To get rid of these restrictions, you need a Pro plan starting at $24 per month