I’ve been thinking about building a WordPress plugin that gives you substack-like features using WordPress + Mailchimp.
Essentially, publishing a blog on WordPress automatically delivers it as a newsletter to your Mailchimp subscribers. You can set this up in WordPress and don’t have to go into Mailchimp at all, so it really does feel like substack.
This gives you:
- An awesome archive because it’s actually blog posts (rather than the not-so-great mailchimp one)
- A newsletter with SEO juice
- A much better web presence with an easy to share URL link for each newsletter
- It also makes the whole publishing process much more streamlined
In comparison to substack, you get:
- Significantly more control over the design and features of your newsletter.
- To use your own domain name.
- Ownership over your platform and list
Anyone here interested in something like that?
It would take at least 2-3 months to be ready, but thought it’d be good to find out if this is something people actually want.
And if so, would love to chat more and hear what kind of features you’d like!
Here's what our users had to say:
Anna Rogers said "Seems neat! Only feature that Substack has over this is integrated payments and not a lot of email newsletters tend to have paid content."
Lesley said "Thanks Anna! I plan on doing payments and subscriptions and content restriction as well. But…. gotta start somewhere! 😉 Do you write a newsletter?"
Anna Rogers said "Makes sense, Lesley! Just the stack you are offering should be enough value to start with. And no, not yet. Hope to start soon though :)"
Karthik Sridharan said "Hey Lesley, Really interesting idea! I only had a cursory look at Substack a couple of months back and having to host it on a sub-domain of substack was a blocker - exactly what you mention in your second point around SEO juice. I would like to receive those backlinks to my domain rather than a substack sub-domain. Also, since canonical tags are not possible on Substack, it isn’t like I can post it on my blog and then also cross post it on Substack (as it will now run the danger of being marked as duplicate content by google). To tackle these problems, I currently host my newsletter on Webflow and then send a mail through Mailchimp - that is a bit painful, to be honest. The upside of Substack though is: Free till you charge your users. On the other hand, Mailchimp starts becoming super costly as your subscribers grow. As Anna mentioned, the tools to build a paid newsletter are pretty good. But sure, there are lot of free newsletter too who won’t see value int hat part of the offering. The opportunity of discoverability through its platform (https://substack.com/discover), might help in distribution and additional traffic for people. Given that current traffic on the platform are newsletter readers, being able to easily target them is surely a plus. Their obvious sell of an easy setup of any new newsletter. In your case though, I think you can target existing newsletters already hosted on WP. So that for them it is a simple plug-in to add. This comment became as long as the post :P. I hope it helps though!"
Lesley said "Thanks Karthik! Appreciate the long comment-post! 😛 Interesting about your webflow->mailchimp workflow. Would you be interested in this plugin at all? Or are you happily married to Webflow? In the future, I’m definitely planning to add more email integrations, not just Mailchimp. But, as I mentioned to Anna, gotta start somewhere!"
Karthik Sridharan said "Haha! Oh, for sure, totally appreciate the need to think in small & realistic blocks of features while building a new product :) The webflow-mailchimp flow was a natural extension for me because I was already using webflow for a few of the other side projects I had built. Therefore, I didn’t want to start off with yet another WP ecosystem. Having said that the above is my personal newsletter flow. For my startup, we have our blog hosted on Wordpress and currently don’t have a newsletter. One of the bottlenecks in kicking off a newsletter for that has been the headache of managing the ancillary activities of yet another newsletter - maintaining another subscriber list, mailchimp, etc. So, if I had the option of your plug-in I would surely go for it vs. trying to build any other workflow. That’s why I think, all blogs already on WP (which is huuugeee) could be the starting audience, rather than new guys starting their newsletters. How do you plan to charge though? Is it a one-time sale or a monthly subscription or based on subscriber audience size? Probably too early to ask, but just curious :-)"
Lesley said "Yeah, blogs already on WP, who might already be using Mailchimp would be the SUPER ideal first customers for me. Still probably lots of people! Just gotta figure out how to find them. :) Charge: I actually plan to make this entire plugin free. And then charge for paid subscription features and content restriction. And also for more integrations (like ActiveCampaign, Convertkit, etc) But, like you rightly mentioned, it’s probably too early for any of that right now. Might end up taking it in an entirely different direction, depending on what people want and think! It’ll take 1-2 months to build the beta, but if you’re interested, I’d love to put you down on our waitlist and give you first access when it’s ready. If you’re keen, maybe I can get your email, or even just contact you here? Let me know what works best for you. And of course, no pressure at all! 🤗"
Karthik Sridharan said "Sounds perfect to me. I like the free access and charging for premium features. Gets the word of mouth going when people like your product. Sure, you can tag me here when you launch or reach me at email@example.com too. Whatever works for you. I still have some more ideas on how you can approach this, but don’t want to be the guy on an armchair shooting ideas that are outlandish :P. But do reach out if you want to discuss something!"
Lesley said "Awesome. Will do! :) Haha I would love to hear all your opinions, actually. Will email you."
Karthik Sridharan said "Super!"
Hrishikesh Pardeshi said "testing"
Ashley Thomas said "Great Idea Lesley! Although one good thing about Substack is I don’t have to pay at all to start a newsletter and of course, know no tech too. With Wordpress, I understand you don’t need to know much of coding or tech, however you still need to be able to host your own WP website. This also comes with additional costs. This is of course assuming you’re still targeting people who don’t have their own website (just like Substack does). If your target audience is people who have their own website, then this shouldn’t be a worry at all :-)"
Lesley said "Thanks Ashley! :) Yes, you’re totally right. I think as an initial idea, I’m probably targeting people who already have a WordPress blog and maybe even a Mailchimp account, and would like to streamline the process. Having said that, I could be wrong. Chatting with people like yourself is the best way for me to learn who is most excited about the plugin and how to best help them. :) Do you write a newsletter on Substack right now? What’s your experience with it so far?"
Ashley Thomas said "That’s great Lesley! Oh, I tried out Substack but I don’t like the way emails are delivered - no personalization at all. Seems like I am just sharing a social post on email. And I am big fan of text-only personalized emails :-) I used to run my own newsletter but I stopped writing. Had used Mailchimp but also cross posted on Substack hoping their discover service would help!"
Lesley said "Oh interesting. Did their discovery service help?"
Ashley Thomas said "Didn’t help me much :-( I got a handful of upvotes on my posts and a few new subscribers but nothing more than that. By the time I could spend time figuring how to rank my post on Substack, I had already shifted to Mailchimp and stopped publishing on Substack."
Brendan said "I would be interested. Not going to Substack because I want to own my list completely, and I use Wordpress. As for features, could it behave just like the blog post itself? And could it have an embedded form? I’d like to be able to query what people liked about an article and/or provide feedback."
Lesley said "Hey Brandan! Super excited to hear that you’re interested. 🤗 Yeah, it’s pretty much like a blog post that gets sent out as an email. Very similar to Substack. Unfortunately, emails don’t let you embed forms. No email does. But, in theory, you could send a screenshot or a link to a format inside the email, and people can click on that to go to an article. Or you could always do one of those smiley faces continuums. Or a “Rate this post out of 5” kind of thing. And then, track what people click on. If you know what I mean? something like this If you’re keen, could you share your email? Or email me at lesley [at]memberhero.pro I’ll put you on the beta list!"
Brendan said "Thanks! Just sent you a note."