Ability for the members to gift content

The Correspondent has this nifty feature that paying members have the ability to “gift” access to otherwise-paywalled content.

Basically when a paying member clicks on a share feature, they share a link to the story followed by a randomly generated string. Example: The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising - The Correspondent

When you click on the link above, you’ll see otherwise paywalled content in full:

Notice the message in the left side of the header that will appear if you click on the link above.

I think this would be an awesome idea to implement across Ghost blogs, allowing the writers to reach more people and for the publication to lure in more people with a glimpse of what is hidden behind a paywall.

Furthermore, having the “gifted by” message provides a person who clicked the link with a real reader who decided to pay money to access the publication, which I believe makes it at least a little bit more likely that they’ll decide to purchase a membership as well.

This is a great idea. I found this topic by searching around, because I’m looking for a similar solution.

Has anyone ever received the request to gift a membership?
One of my members told me he would like to gift 10 memberships to friends around him and I don’t know what to reply to him. I fear that I will be missing his revenue and the opportunity to get new members.

Someone once suggested to me that a member could sign up to a new account with the name and email of his friend, then enter his own credit card details, but it looks like a hack that would cause potential problems upon renewal.

Does anyone have ideas or workarounds for helping current members make gifts to potential new ones? Thanks for your insights.

@r3bl @egoes I was just wondering about this as well, but after doing a search here on the forum it appears that this is the only topic that broaches the issue. That being said, you can see at the bottom of the pricing page on The Browser that there’s a button in which you can “Give A One Year Browser Gift Subscription ($48)” (regardless of whether or not you’re a member), clicking on the link sending you to a Typeform page which, if you scroll to the bottom, ends up bringing up a Stripe form. So it is possible. Somehow.

I checked out Ghost’s Typeform integration page but it doesn’t mention anything about this.

Perhaps somebody else could chime in with some kind of elucidation? Perhaps @uri?

To add my little bit, what got me looking into this is the prospect of being able to gift not just a membership but a membership out of various tier options (tiers currently being in beta, of course).


Here is how I hacked my way through this. It seems to work, but it’s painful to maintain, it takes away from my writing time and it goes against the simplicity of using ghost (I am on a hosted account):

  1. First, gifters buy giftees a subscription through a form on my main website using Wordpress + Gravity Forms + Stripe gateway,
  2. I then manually create an account for the giftee on my ghost site, give the new user a complimentary subscription and manually send him an onboarding email,
  3. Up to now, I have been immediately cancelling the complimentary subscription that would then run freely for the year remaining.

I initially thought that by cancelling the complimentary subscription, the user would receive a notification to renew at the end of the one-year period (and hence become a paying member), but after checking with the Stripe team, it appears that nothing will happen and the subscription will just be cancelled.

This leaves me in doubt of what to do in order to try and convert the giftees to regular subscribers at the end of their gifted year. None of mine have arrived there yet, so I still have some time to find a solution. Since their status should revert to a non-paying member, I could find ways to email them, but I would prefer that an automatic and graceful email be sent notifying them of the end of their free subscription and the possibility to become a regular member. At this point, I feel puzzled.

Maybe an enhancement suggestion for the Complimentary subscription option would be to add a time bomb so that at the end of the chosen period, it reverts to a regular membership and asks for a credit card number. I’m not using tiers for now, so I don’t know how this could work.

One last thought. Stripe has a way to “Create, Update, and Schedule Subscriptions” which could let us convert a subscription from one pricing product to another at a given date. Only, managing this manually could quickly become quite a burden and even impossible if you have many members. For those using the open-source version of ghost, all the tools might be there to build a gift system through the API. I’m just a photographer and a writer, so I can’t go down that road. :slight_smile:

To sum up, there are hacks to offer gift subscriptions, but they imply quite a lot of manual work and therefore don’t scale very well.

Hope this helps. I look forward to any thoughts or ideas.

Thanks Allan! So I should say, our current gift setup is just allowing people to pay for a one-year subscription to The Browser for someone else (rather than being able to gift individual stories, if that makes sense).

We can talk through how we did that on Typeform + Zapier, but I should add that we’re looking into a new implementation using the new Tiers feature, so we migh end up switching how we do it very soon.

As for the idea of paid subscribers being able to send private passthrough links for individual articles to their friends, I like it a lot but is above my pay grade…


Ah ha, so it’s done with Zapier. Yes I’d be very interested in how you’re doing that, although if you’ve got a new methodology for how you’ll implement this with tiers I can certainly wait. (Although I am wondering, it won’t be with Zapier?)

In terms of gifting on a per-article basis, no, that wasn’t something I was considering.

Hi, we at Outpost built gift subscriptions for our Ghost clients. We handle all of the communication, and all of the Stripe work, as well as the messy communications at “renewal” time.

You can try it out here, for example.

Happy to explain it more if anyone is interested.

Would love to learn more.
Are you using Zapier like @uri ?
Thank you for sharing.

We don’t use Zapier. It’s all automagically handled via Stripe and Ghost member API. It was very complicated to build - gift subs break so many assumptions in so many places. I don’t think I’m overstating this. Everyone I’ve talked to who has built gift subs before sympathizes with how annoyingly complicated it is.

If implementing yourself, I’d either go the simplest way possible (setup a stripe payment for a purchase (not a subscription), ask for the gift getter name and manually add the gift receiver), or pay someone else to handle it completely.

We built what you are looking to do: as the gift sub comes close to ending, we write the gift giver and let them have a few chances to give for another year; if they decline or do not respond, then prior to the end of gift sub, we write the gift reciever, let them know the sub is ending soon and offer them a discounted plan to pay themselves.

It’s a complicated flow, and if you only have a few gift subs, I’d recommend not building anything and just put reminders in your calendar for 355 days out anytime you get a gift sub, and just manually write people.

Thanks for the details @rsingel. I feel less lonely! :slight_smile:
I will follow your advice and manually write to the gift receivers. For now my numbers are manageable.
I’ll probably also stick with giving them a complimentary subscription for the time of their gift, then enticing them to subscribe near the end. Maybe this is where Zapier could come in handy to automate the process if it needs to scale.

I hope something easier will make its way to ghost’s feature list.

I too think giving readers the ability to gift pay-walled articles would be a great way for an audience to share content it found value, and help grow a site in the process.

My workaround for this has been to make every 4th article public. I dovetail with enabling free accounts, since all newsletters are available to even free subscribers, given the way Ghost works. Then free subscribers receive every 4th post from an otherwise paywalled newsletter.

The Intermodal Spirit

Somebody found a simple way to add the button?

That looks really great! :grimacing: