Substack has been credited with bringing back the email newsletter to power subscription-based publications for independent writers, and now it’s branching out into new territory by accepting Bitcoin subscriptions on newsletters that write about cryptocurrency.
OpenNode said in a press release this week that readers can pay for their Substack subscriptions to these newsletters through the OpenNode crypto payment gateway, and crypto newsletter writers can collect their subscription fees in Bitcoin or withdraw that money in their preferred fiat currency. OpenNode charges a 1% transaction fee on-chain and 0.2% in local currency for bank transfers.
Nick Inzucchi, product designer at Substack said in the press release,
Having this option will give writers more flexibility and freedom, and we look forward to doing more in crypto to meet writers’ needs.
Partnering with Substack, even in this limited capacity, is huge news for OpenNode, as this trial run could mean a foot in the door for its vast network of publications and subscribers. The current trial will feature two Bitcoin publications, The Bitcoin Forecast by Willy Woo and The Held Report by Dan Held. The two newsletters have over 625,000 subscribers combined, although it’s unclear how many of those subscribers pay for their subscription.
There is a hitch, however. Substack cannot currently process refunds or automatic payments for bitcoin subscriptions. Woo has reduced the frequency of the subscription payment to quarterly, while Held offers a discounted annual subscription for bitcoin subscribers: $120 in bitcoin rather than an annual $133. Woo’s fiat subscription is also quarterly and Held has a fiat annual option, so it’s unclear whether either author took into account how often they’d ask subscribers to process bitcoin payments.
Substack needs to keep innovating
While Substack has experienced significant growth in the last year, it’s faced with steep competition from other companies looking to innovate through acquisitions like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook released its own newsletter service, Bulletin, with a limited number of paid writers in 2021. And Twitter acquired Revue earlier this year.
Substack continues to invest in its core business model by attracting writers, providing a supportive space for them to work, and offering additional features to keep them around. But the newsletter space is starting to get crowded. Innovating in new ways to make subscription payments attractive to niche audiences may give Substack the edge it’s looking for.