They’re both free (with a paid option on Medium’s side) and have high domain authority, ranking on Google, brand recognition, and trustworthiness.
But they have some key differences that writers should consider when deciding which platform to use.
This comprehensive comparison examines the features, pricing, content ownership policies, and earning potential of Substack and Medium to help you determine the better choice for your needs as a writer.
The core of Substack’s model is writer-reader relationships mediated through email newsletters.
Substack handles the technical backend like email delivery and payment processing so writers can focus on creating content.
Medium is more of an open blogging platform where anyone can publish articles. It has social features like “claps” and comment sections to facilitate engagement between writers and readers. Medium uses algorithms to recommend content to readers based on their interests.
Key Features of Each Platform
Substack’s Main Features
- Newsletter creation, web publishing, and analytics tools
- social features like likes, comments, Substack Notes, and chat
- Recommendations and discover features
- Subscription paywall for paid newsletters
- Import existing content from other sites
- Multi-author publications
- Limited design customization
- Integration with payment processors like Stripe
- 10% fee on paid subscriptions
Medium’s Main Features
- Intuitive online editor for writing articles
- Social engagement features like comments and claps
- Content recommendation algorithms
- Publications on niche topics with multiple contributors
- Built-in readership of 100M+ monthly users
- Subscriber feature
Content Creation Experience
The content creation experience differs quite a bit between the two platforms.
Substack is built around email newsletters, so the writing interface is geared towards that. But it also offers a robust web version which makes Substack a viable free blog platform, comparable to WordPress, Blogger, etc.
You create posts that get compiled into newsletters sent to your subscribers. There are options to schedule posts and make some private for paying subscribers only.
Medium provides a more traditional blog-like experience with an option to collect subscribers as well.
The minimal online editor lets you write articles seamlessly with basic formatting options.
It’s easy to embed multimedia and customize the look of your posts.
You can publish instantly or save as drafts.
Substack itself provides minimal exposure apart from recommendations and a discover featrure. You have full ownership of your audience.
Medium’s algorithm automatically recommends posts to readers based on their interests and activity. With its relatively new boost feature, this algorithm is also coupled with human recommendations from Medium staff and publication editors.
Your work can gain exposure on Medium’s homepage and topic sections.
Pricing and Monetization
Substack takes 10% of subscription revenue. Writers keep the rest of the income from subscribers.
Writers in the Partner Program earn money based on metrics like member reading time and referrals. But most make little.
Who Owns the Content?
On both platforms, writers retain full ownership of the articles and content they produce.
The key difference is audience ownership.
- On Substack, writers build and own their subscriber list.
- On Medium, the platform owns the readership.
Which is Better for Writers?
Here are some factors to help decide which platform may be better for your needs:
- Existing audience – If you have a solid following, Substack allows you to leverage it. If you’re unknown, Medium provides instant exposure.
- Consistency – Substack favors writers producing regular content on a set schedule for subscribers. Medium works for more casual posting.
- Content type – Substack is ideal for newsletter-style posts and commentary. Medium suits more traditional longform articles.
- Earning potential – Substack offers higher earnings from subscriptions for popular writers. Most earn little on Medium.
- Ownership – Substack lets you own your readership; Medium owns the platform audience.
- Level of control – Substack provides more options to customize design and monetize through subscriptions. Medium controls the overall platform experience.
As you may have guessed from this list, it could potentially be the best solution to make use of both platforms and use them hand-in-hand to benefit from the different pros.
Which Platform is Right for You?
- Beginner writers with no audience: Medium
- Writers with an engaged email list: Substack
- Writers who want to own their audience: Substack
- Writers seeking maximum exposure: Medium
- Writers who want to monetize content: Substack
- Writers who value community: Medium
Again, the ideal solution may be to leverage both platforms.
This is what I am doing.
No matter which platform you choose in the end, focus on producing consistently high-quality content that provides real value for readers.
Building an engaged audience willing to follow you anywhere is the key to success as an independent writer.