When you launch a Substack newsletter, you’re not just a writer — you’re an email specialist, a marketer, and a publicist too. While that can feel a bit intimidating for those new to the platform, Substack’s centralized functionality is what makes it so simple to use — and to monetize. Since their launch the Substack team has focused on empowering creators to speak to their specific audience without relying on ads or parent companies to sign the cheque. And in 2019, the company launched a beta feature that lets their creators harness the power of audio and the distribution potential of platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, and Stitcher. Say hello to Substack for Podcasts.
But wait. Newsletters and podcasts are very different things? Most creators do one or the other, right? In this post, we’re going to explain how (and why) Substack for Podcasts might be a great bet whether you’re a long-time podcaster or you don’t even own a microphone.
What is Substack for podcasts?
Substack for Podcasts is a two-punch combination.
First, they’ve built a basic audio recorder right into their editing interface. This allows you to record audio clips or full-length podcasts directly in Substack. Alternatively you could upload pre-recorded audio clips.
“Why would I record myself and stick it in my written newsletter?” There are lots of reasons (it’s cool, it’s interesting, it’s different), but chief amongst them is that audio clips give your audience a new way to engage with your content, and with you as a creator. Audio has the ability to make the already-personal offering of your thoughts and ideas feel even more intimate. For example, American artist Patti Smith recently published an audio clip of herself reading Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Eye Mote.” It appeared in subscriber’s inboxes late one night, and felt both off-the-cuff and arresting. Which is a cool way for your work to make someone feel.
If the audio recorder is the jab, here’s the right hook: Substack has created a means of adding an existing podcast to your outgoing newsletter. Cross-promotion! We love to see it. These audio clips appear as their own content block within the newsletter, effectively creating a brand new way for your reader (or should we say… listener?) to engage with your work.
You can also publish to all of the major podcast platforms from within the Substack interface. That means that Podcasts hosted on Substack are available not only through your newsletter and Substack site, but anywhere a person might listen to podcasts, period.
How to use Substack for podcasts
The most obvious way to use Substack for podcasts is to—you guessed it—promote a podcast. Maybe you want to give your most dedicated listeners early access to the latest episode. Maybe you’re adding a podcast to your offering and want to promote it to your existing Substack audience. However you’re slicing it, attaching your podcast to your newsletter adds value and could convince your readers that the paid subscription is worth it.
If you already have paid subscriptions enabled, you can also have your subscribers use a private feed of your episodes in any podcast app that supports private feeds.
Not sure you’re ready for the world of audio-engineering? Adding simple audio to your newsletter doesn’t have to be all poems and intimacy. Offering a live reading of your newsletter content can increase audience engagement and retention by giving your subscribers a more passive way to follow along. Going back to update old newsletters with audio reads of the content could be a great way to entice listeners from your free subscriber list to make the jump to paid. In addition, hearing how you as the writer connect with your own work lets subscribers build a more personal connection to you. Hearing the passion and excitement in your voice might turn an explorer into a follower.
Audio is also a great way to introduce a layer of texture and presence to your newsletter. Imagine, for example, if Michelle Lhooq (writer of rave culture Substack Rave New World) included audio clips from the parties she attends around the world: the reader doesn’t just get to read about the party — they’d get to feel what it’s like to be there, hear from the attendees, and note the different styles of music.
Newsletter + podcast = success???
So is Substack for podcasts your ticket to leveling up as a creator? While it’s always great to diversify, the in-Substack recording tech is still rudimentary. It’s geared to a writer-first newsletter where the audio is the seasoning rather than the main event.
Still, it’s a solid way to create a more in-depth experience for your followers. Whether you’re looking to promote your own podcast, or want to layer in new ways to build engagement, the audio recorder/upload functionality makes it simple to ideate and publish from a single place. And who knows… maybe Substack is working on an in-platform recording suite as you read this.