Twitter quietly got into the newsletter subscription business in January, acquiring Dutch startup Revue for an undisclosed amount. An editorial newsletter platform, Revue allows users to publish and monetize email newsletters.
Founded about six years ago in Utrecht, Netherlands, Revue has media customers including Vox Media, Chicago Sun-Times and the Markup, and competes with services such as Substack — a popular U.S.-based newsletter subscription platform that has in recent years become a darling of journalists and venture capital investors.
Twitter’s foray into newsletter subscription was touted as a Substack killer.
Several leading journalists have set up shop on Substack, with some of their newsletters fetching top dollar in subscription revenue. Heather Cox Richardson’s U.S. politics newsletter is estimated to be worth about $1 million in annual revenue.
To keep these writers and long-form content curators from leaving the social media platform, Twitter bought Revue to help them connect to their readers without straying out.
Twitter reportedly tried to acquire Substack but Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie recently tweeted that “this is not going to happen.”
Twitter has been slow on promoting Revue, which it insists will operate as a standalone product, and said it reverted Revue’s publisher offer back to private beta for the moment while it concentrates on investing in platform infrastructure to pave the way for expected future demand.
“Our goal is to make it easy for them to connect with their subscribers, while also helping readers better discover writers and their content,” wrote Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park, vice president of publisher products in a blog post:
“We’re imagining a lot of ways to do this, from allowing people to sign up for newsletters from their favorite follows on Twitter, to new settings for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. It will all work seamlessly within Twitter.”
On the other hand, Substack is growing fast and says it has more than 250,000 subscribers generating more than $7 million in revenue — of which Substack takes 10 percent.
Twitter, worth more than $50 billion in terms of stock valuation, has the financial muscle to build a better platform for writers. Its sister company Square, a payment-processing service, would probably come in handy when dealing with subscription revenue and payment.
Here is how Twitter’s Revue and Substack compare in areas that matter, as detailed by Aamir Kamal, a Medium writer, blogger and YouTuber:
|Customization||Does not have many options for customization yet.||Gives options to customize the layout of your publication|
|Newsletter custom domain||Writers can connect a custom domain while using a free version.||You need to pay $50 (a one-time fee) in order get a custom domain.|
|Podcasting||No such feature yet||Has a podcasting feature for audio posts.|
|Communication||Has commenting feature||Has commenting feature|
|Pricing||Charges 5 percent of every transaction from a paying reader.||Charges 10 percent of every transaction from a paying reader|
|Sender email ID||Gives option to send a branded email with your own sub-domain.||Sends emails to subscribers as “email@example.com”|
|Sign-up form||Users can create own sign-up page where they can direct reader to collect emails.||Shows subscribe button whenever a new visitor views the newsletter page.|