The Battle Between Substack and Medium: Choosing the Right Platform for Your Writing Journey


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 08, 2023

5 min read


The Battle Between Substack and Medium: Choosing the Right Platform for Your Writing Journey

In the fast-paced digital age, aspiring writers have numerous platforms to choose from when it comes to sharing their work with the world. Two popular options, Substack and Medium, have emerged as leaders in the arena of online content creation. While both platforms cater to writers, they differ significantly in their purpose, intended function, and monetization methods. In this article, we will explore the unique features of Substack and Medium, the profiles of successful users on each platform, and the tools they offer to enhance the writing experience. Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting your journey, this article aims to provide insights that will help you make an informed decision about which platform to choose.

Platform Purpose and Intended Function

Medium, established in 2012, has positioned itself as a platform for high-quality, long-form content. It offers readers access to a wide array of articles, essays, and stories on various topics. Medium monetizes its platform by charging readers $5 per month (or $50 per year) to access its content, which is hosted behind a metered paywall. This unique paywall model allows non-paying subscribers to read three articles per month, enticing them to become paying subscribers. Medium also takes a 10% fee on top of credit card fees from all paid subscriptions, once writers start charging for their content.

On the other hand, Substack, founded in 2017, focuses on empowering writers to build their fanbase and monetize their work. Substack's business model relies on writers effectively utilizing the platform's WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) tools to reach new readers and develop a loyal following. Unlike Medium, Substack gives writers direct access to customer subscription information, including emails. This means that writers could potentially walk away from the platform in the future while retaining their subscriber base.

Successful User Profile

To understand the profiles of successful writers on Substack and Medium, it is essential to delve into their respective user bases. On Medium, the most successful writers are those who can create semi-viral content. This is primarily due to Medium's writer compensation system, which financially rewards writers based on the engagement of paying readers. In other words, the more views and engagement an article receives from paying subscribers, the higher the writer's earnings.

In contrast, successful Substack writers typically focus on a very specific niche and often possess quasi-subject matter expertise on a particular topic. By catering to a niche audience, Substack writers can gain a dedicated following that values their unique insights and expertise. While a baseball-specific publication on Medium might generate some traffic due to Medium's high domain authority, it is unlikely to generate substantial views from paying readers, which directly impact earnings in Medium's Partner Program.

Writer Monetization Methods

Monetization is a crucial factor for writers considering Substack or Medium as their platform of choice. Medium pays writers based on Member Reading Time, which measures the total time paying subscribers spend reading their articles. This compensation model incentivizes writers to create engaging, long-form content that keeps readers hooked.

On the other hand, Substack offers little in terms of content discovery or assistance in driving traffic to a writer's work. However, Substack provides writers with the opportunity to monetize their content directly through subscriptions. By charging a monthly or yearly fee for access to their work, writers can generate income based on the loyalty and support of their subscribers.

Content Discovery

One notable advantage that Medium holds over Substack is its robust content discovery tools. Medium offers various features that help readers discover new and engaging content. From personalized recommendations to curated collections and publications, Medium strives to connect readers with articles that align with their interests. This emphasis on content discovery can significantly benefit writers by exposing their work to a wider audience.

Platform Tools

In addition to content discovery, both Substack and Medium offer various tools to enhance the writing experience. Substack's primary focus is providing writers with the necessary tools to build their subscriber base and engage with their audience effectively. With direct access to subscriber emails, writers can establish a more personal connection with their readers and potentially leverage that connection for future endeavors.

Medium, on the other hand, provides writers with detailed analytics and performance metrics to assess the reach and impact of their work. Writers can track metrics such as the number of recipients reached, email open rates, and reader subscriptions. These insights can help writers refine their strategies and tailor their content to maximize engagement.

Choosing the Right Platform for You

Now that we have explored the key features and differences between Substack and Medium, you might be wondering which platform is the right fit for you. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to consider before making your decision:

  • 1. Understand your goals and investment: Consider how much time and effort you plan to invest in your writing. Are you looking for a platform that offers extensive content discovery and exposure? Or are you more focused on building a loyal subscriber base within a specific niche?
  • 2. Leverage your existing following or fan base: If you already have a substantial following on social media or through other channels, it might be beneficial to choose a platform like Substack that allows you to maintain direct access to your subscriber information. This way, you can leverage your existing fan base to kickstart your journey on the chosen platform.
  • 3. Embrace your niche: If you are passionate about a particular topic or possess specialized knowledge, Substack's emphasis on niche content could be the right fit for you. By catering to a dedicated audience, you can establish yourself as a subject matter expert and attract loyal subscribers who value your expertise.

In conclusion, the choice between Substack and Medium ultimately depends on your specific goals, writing style, and target audience. While Medium offers robust content discovery tools and compensation based on reader engagement, Substack empowers writers to build their subscriber base and monetize their work directly. By understanding the nuances of each platform and considering your own aspirations, you can make an informed decision that sets you on the path to writing success.

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