We’ve completed moving Communicating Coronavirus to Ghost and are pretty happy with it. For us we realized we need a resources section that will grow and that online presence and SEO is more important for us in the long run. But I’d say most people are better off with Substack at this stage. Ghost lacks a strong theme and requires getting your hands dirty but you don’t get a system that will convert as highly as Substack. You also don’t get any data on email. Customizing signup and membership language requires going into the theme.
Don’t get me wrong, what the team has done with memberships in Ghost is really impressive and I’m amazed at the clean design of emails. The simplicity of it makes me want to never use Mailchimp or the like again.
But it is hard to grow if you don’t know anything about your deliverability.
I was happy we started on Substack because I’ve seen over many projects that people get caught in design and tinkering and obsessing over taxonomy at the expense of content. The feeling that you just write content and it goes in an inbox encourages you to focus on that.
My take is use Substack if:
- You are just getting started
- You are mostly interested in free subscribers
- You don’t expect to be pulling in huge money in first few months
- You don’t have ability or want to spend time digging into theme code
- You have an opportunity to benefit from Substack network effect
- You want to Podcast as part of membership
Use Ghost if:
- You expect to be making enough that the Substack fee will be major
- You don’t mind (or prefer) getting your hands dirty on theme
- You don’t need email stats
- You do need content flexibility and expect many online visitors
- You already have a strong list to start with.
All this said, if it was possible to just clone Publisher Weekly and basic email stats were included I’d tilt more toward Ghost for most people. I think they are headed that way but not there yet.