You Ask, I Answer: Why I Moved My Newsletter to Substack?

You Ask, I Answer: Why I Moved My Newsletter to Substack?

In today’s episode, I explain why I moved my email newsletter from Mautic to Substack. The switch improves deliverability and saves me time on newsletter admin, while still allowing me to post to LinkedIn. Substack’s built-in referral program incentivizes subscribers to spread the word. Though I have no plans now for a paid version, the move sets me up well for possible monetization in the future.

You Ask, I Answer: Why I Moved My Newsletter to Substack?

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In today’s episode, Mark asks why substack this a whole bunch of questions in this, he asked, Why am I making the move to substack? What advantages do I see providing? Will I continue to post my newsletter to LinkedIn? Do I expect to generate revenue advantages for readers? So let’s tackle all this.

For those who don’t know, I have recently moved my email newsletter from the modic marketing automation system to substack.

And there’s a bunch of reasons for this.

When you run any kind of email system on your own server on servers that you lease, I leased mine from Linode, you are totally in control, you have total control, you can get to the back end data, you can decide how fast things send, you can configure all sorts of technical stuff.

So you’re in charge.

That’s the upside.

The downside is, you you’re in charge, that means you got to put up with handling all the back end infrastructure, software patches, server admin, firewalls, installing and running the software, keeping it updated and things like that.

And that extends to even just handling and managing the newsletter list itself, how many people are subscribed, when people unsubscribe, things like that, all that has to be handled as part of the server, the machinery to make it right.


The almost timely newsletter list is now just shy of about a quarter million people.

So every Sunday sending out an email newsletter, a quarter million people, and the server that I was hosting, almost timely on it struggled, it took 12 to 16 hours to send that much email because, well, it’s a lot of email, it’s a lot of email.

And as a result, it’s very challenging for the system to be able to keep up with that and to do it in a timely fashion.

That was a big part.

Another big reason is, again, all that admin stuff takes time.

Downloading form fills from the different parts of the website, consolidating them, downloading unsubscribes, consolidating them, matching emails against, you know, blacklists and stuff to make sure that no one gets emailed who does not stop supposed to get emailed.

That all takes a lot of time each.

week, it was taking close to an hour each week just to process all the data itself.

And so I was like, Well, could I spend my time? Would my time be better spent doing something else? Of course, the answer is yes.

Server admin is not generally a great use of my time when I could be creating more stuff.

So that was the big motivation was cutting down the amount of time it takes me each week to send a newsletter from about three hours ish to about an hour and a half because a good hour and a half is still making the newsletter assembling the thing and sending it and you know, coming up with creative putting on YouTube and so on and so forth.

So there’s all that stuff happens as well.

But the admin side, the non creative, no real value ad anymore.

That’s gone away.

So that was big.

Will I continue to post a newsletter on LinkedIn? Yes, absolutely.

People who are subscribed to the LinkedIn version, the newsletter will continue to get the newsletter because it would be stupid not to there’s 5000 people on LinkedIn who are reading the newsletter, they’re telling them they all have to go to substack would be stupid.

You marketing one on one, meet people where they are.

People want it on news on LinkedIn.

They get on LinkedIn, they want on the blog, they get on the blog.

Now it’s on substack for they want on substack.


It still shows up in the email inboxes.

So it’s not a change in behavior for them.

That’s easy.

For those who use the substack app.

If you want to if you use that app as your own, app as your reader.

Now, that’s an option too.

There are secondary reasons to use substack secondary reasons I chose to use substack.

One, it’s very low cost, right? Because their revenue model is they make money on paid subscriptions, and they take a slice of the subscription.

So they, if you charge, you know, I think they get a 10% of the subscription, whatever it is, it’s, it generally makes sense.

Christopher Penn: And as a result, because they focus on paid subscriptions, deliverability is like priority one there.

Because if you don’t get your the subscription you paid for, you get angry and stop paying for it.

So they’re going to do a much better job of just being super on top of deliverability than I will.

substack has an ecosystem of its own.

It is.

It is part email newsletter, part blog, part podcast host part social network.

And according to them, anyway, one out of every four subscribers to a newsletter comes from their network, from other people, you know, recommending your newsletter, and so on and so forth in your network.

That’s a good thing.

I think that’s, that’s extra audience I don’t have to pay for, it will be silly not to take advantage of that.

Do I expect to generate revenue? Not initially, not initially, I don’t have any plans to make a paid version of the newsletter, because it’s enough work as it is to put together the free one, much less come up with the the mental bandwidth to say, Okay, well, here’s the idea I want to have this week.

And I need to come up with a paid version that justifies someone spending, you know, five or 10 or 15 bucks for the newsletter, and then have to come up with something for free as the the leader into the paid version and upsell people.

Again, I don’t have time for that right now.

Now maybe who knows in someday, I might have a, you know, a Gary V style team of 31 people to follow me around and document everything and slice and dice all my content into 28 different forms and post on every social network.

Maybe someday, that will be the case, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

And the value of the newsletter to me, and to my company to Trust Insights is as a as lead gen source, right is a huge audience from which I can draw attention and put it on things like YouTube videos or downloads or gated content, or just outright sales pitches, like, hey, hire us to help you with your AI strategy, right? I can do that with the free newsletter list.

And so there’s much more value to me right now in having access to the audience to be able to occasionally pitch them things, then try to make a buck here and a buck there.

Now, am I leaving money on the table? Probably, I imagine, I could probably get 10% of the list to pay for it, right? Now 10% list out be 25,000 people, I got them to pay a dollar a month.

Yeah, that’d be $25,000.

That might be worth it.

I don’t know.

But I don’t plan to do that anytime soon.

Things could change, though.

Things could change.

I, I can’t say I would much rather though, pursue the route of, you know, indirect monetization and take on more advertisers, I’ve got some ad slots already, I’d rather take on more advertisers, and have them pay to get access to the audience.

What’s in it for the subscribers? Well, a few things.

One, it’s probably going to get to your inbox more reliably.

So that’s kind of a big deal.

To it does come in multiple formats.

I don’t I don’t have my own mobile app.

Now I am part of the Substack mobile app.

So if that’s an app that you already have, and that’s the way you prefer to get content, guess what, it’s an automatic upgrade for you.

Now you can get the almost timely newsletter within the Substack app, and continue to have your reading where you want it to be.

The other thing that I really like about Substack that yes, there are ways to do it.

But I, yeah, I wasn’t willing to sit there and and engineer that.

But I, yeah, I wasn’t willing to sit there and and engineer at all, is the referral program.

So on Substack, one of the things you can do is create a referral program referral rewards, where people can recommend or refer subscribers to the newsletter.

And when they do, they get points, they get, you know, like leadership points, and there’s, there’s a whole leaderboard and everything.

But there are bonuses to people, if they, if they go ahead and do those referrals.

So I have three tiers of referrals set up tier one, for 100 referrals, you get a shout out in a YouTube video like this one.

For referral to for tier two, you for 200 referrals, you get a newsletter shout out.

And for tier three, 300 referrals, you get a 30 minute free one on one consultation with me.

So any topic that’s that you like within professional boundaries, get a free 30 minute call with me.

So those referrals allow me to, to help basically help the audience market the newsletter to other people of the audience for free.

It’s built right in.

And so that’s the reason for moving the Substack.

There’s it’s administrative, it is efficiencies, it is the network effect.

And it is some of the features that I Christopher Penn: just was just not willing to spend the time to engineer on my own.

Will this be the case forever and ever? Who knows? Right? It is entirely possible that something happens that Substack says, Hey, we need to make some more money, we’re gonna start showing ads with without your permission.

In which case, that’d be a time that’d be a good indicator, it’s time to move on, right, go to a different platform.

But for now, it meets the needs that I have for my newsletter.

The deliverability rates are on par with what I was getting with Mautic.

But faster, so people are reading it faster, and getting to the content faster, and I’m pretty happy with it.

So if you’re thinking about moving your newsletter, and you have the same issues I do, Substack might be a good solution.

If you want to take advantage of some of those features like referrals, like monetization, you know, paid content, a built in podcast host, that might be for you as well.

And it’s not the only platform out there.

Certainly there are many others like ghost, for example, that that do similar things.

But it right now seems to have the most gravity, the most critical mass.

And that’s a good reason to stick around on it.

So good question.

Kind of a long answer.

But I think it’s useful if you are considering yourself to see what’s going on within the space.

Thanks for asking.

We’ll talk to you soon.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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