Why I Started a Substack Newsletter

How I’m fighting social media algorithms with my own platform


When something isn’t working, I take action to fix it. That’s how I came to start an anti-racism newsletter on Substack.

The catalyst was the suppression of one of my articles on Facebook, which actually resulted in a content amplification campaign.

There was also reduced visibility for anti-racism content both there and on LinkedIn.

I’d had a suspicion about it, and a detailed article from Aaisha Joseph on Linkedin (LinkedIn: The Moderator of the Black Professional Voice? We Need Answers) showed some of the suppression she’d noticed there. No, we’re not imagining it; in fact, the evidence is overwhelming.

Why I Chose Substack For My Anti-Racism Newsletter

Since I believe it’s important to get the word out, it seemed to make sense to own my own platform. After all, if you do, and you build your own audience, you don’t have to worry as much about social media algorithms.

So I set out to do some research. I had the option of using MailChimp, where I already have two email lists, but to be honest I wanted an easier publishing experience, similar to the one here on Medium. Another option was MailerLite, which someone described as “what MailChimp would be if it launched today”.

Sharon’s Anti-Racism Newsletter home page
Screenshot by Sharon Hurley Hall

In the end I went with Substack. I had a couple of reasons for this:

  • I could get started with a minimal learning curve (I like learning new things but right now I’m more focused on getting the content to as many people as possible)

  • I could offer both free and paid subscriptions. This is important because I’ve come to feel that anti-racism writing is my true calling, but it’s not what I get paid for. (I’ve done the math, though. If a thousand subscribers pay $7 a month, I could focus almost exclusively on this type of writing, and make meaningful progress on the related resources I’m now fitting in wherever I can.)

Getting Started With Substack

Setting up my new Substack newsletter proved to be super simple. You can sign in with Twitter, or use an email.

substack signup
Screenshot by Sharon Hurley Hall

I used my email, and added Twitter later. Then they walk you through the process of choosing a URL (I am beyond happy that I snagged antiracism.substack.com), and adding a title and description. If you like, you can add placeholder text here, and change it later.

Once you’ve got the basic setup done, you go to your dashboard, which is where you create new content. But before you do, check out the Settings section.

substack settings
Screenshot by Sharon Hurley Hall

Here you can add tags that describe your newsletter, edit your about page and thank you email, add a logo (I quickly did something in Canva) and change the highlight color (there are lots to choose from, or you can roll your own, but I left the default for now).

You can also import your existing email list. I opted not to do that, as that’s not what they signed up for. Instead, I sent each list an announcement email so those who wanted to could sign up.

Then you can set up paid subscriptions. I did this, sticking with Substack’s defaults. Substack takes a fee from each paid subscription, as does the payment processor Stripe, but you know that up front.

You can set benefits for different subscription levels, create special offers, and even give away paid subscriptions. If you don’t want your parents or siblings to pay but still want them to get all your content, this is a great option.

There are a bunch of other things you can do that I haven’t explored yet, including community and podcasting settings.

A Simple Process For Writing and Publishing

Writing content is pretty simple. Go to your dashboard, hit the New Post button and you get an edit window. Add a title, subtitle, images and content, then press Publish.

Substack editing window
Screenshot by Sharon Hurley Hall

You can choose whether the content is available for free or for paid subscribers only.

At the moment, I’m doing a lot of content for free, with some behind the scenes updates on upcoming work for paid subscribers. My goal is to have the majority of my anti-racism articles and resources there, and use it as a hub for publishing and sharing elsewhere, including here on Medium.

My vision is the creation of an anti-racism community where I can feature work by people like Marley K., Rebecca Stevens A., Catherine Pugh, Esq., and many others so we can all learn and grow together. Check out my progress on Sharon’s Anti-Racism Newsletter.

Sharon Hurley Hall is an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.