Uploading paywalled audio on Substack isn’t new, but the newsletter platform is re-upping its attempt to woo podcasters into using its service.
Substack posted two blog posts today urging creators to make podcasts on Substack. Like a newsletter, they can charge subscribers for access, so long as they are willing to part with a 10% cut. This works for podcasters whose entire show is paywalled, as well as for podcasters who only paywall certain episodes. Posting on Substack doesn’t prohibit you from also sharing public episodes on various podcatchers — listeners can access paywalled episodes on either the Substack app or via RSS feed.
Apple and Spotify have been dueling to make themselves the go-to platform for podcast monetization, but Substack is competing just as much with other subscription platforms like Patreon. Coincidentally, the podcasts “The Fifth Column” and “American Prestige” both announced this week that they will shut down their existing Patreon accounts to join Substack, per Hot Pod. Substack has previously wooed big creators over to its platform by paying large cash advances, but the platform doesn’t disclose who it does or does not pay an advance — the company’s policy is to let the creators decide for themselves if they want to disclose that they’re part of what it calls the “Substack Pro” program. So, we can only speculate whether these Patreon-to-Substack movements are anything more than coincidental timing.
It’s hard to say what benefit Substack provides podcasters that Patreon doesn’t offer as well. Substack has also been working on native video uploads in beta, helping creators better control who sees their paywalled videos — right now, on Patreon, a paywalled video is usually a link to an unlisted YouTube video, which can be easily shared. But Patreon has also stated that it’s working on native uploads. Besides that, Patreon takes either a 5%, 8% or 12% cut depending on what plan you choose, while Substack takes 10% — unless you’re on Patreon’s premium plan; you’ll keep more of your earnings over there.
Podcasters of a certain ilk might be swayed by Substack’s “hands-off” content moderation policy. Both Substack and Patreon prohibit spam, porn, illegal activities, doxxing, plagiarism and impersonation, but Patreon has more detailed guidelines about misinformation related to COVID-19 and QAnon.
Substack’s lax rules have made it a comfortable home for some prominent anti-vaccine figures banned from mainstream social networks like Twitter. A small subset of five prominent anti-vaccine newsletters alone pulls in at least $2.5 million annually on the platform.