How's your membership site going?

Hey there,

I am in the process of rolling out daily posts and switching to a newsletter model over the next two weeks. I was wondering what are some of the other blogs that have switched to the membership model and scaled efficiently so far. What does your ARR look like right now?

It has been very tempting to just switch to substack - but sticking it out with Ghost for now as a happy user


hey, I’m currently moving INF club over to Ghost from Substack. I’ve made ~$1500 so far (mostly thru annual memberships) since I started discounted memberships earlier in the year. I’ve moving more from “support me + my content” messaging -> to a “membership site” (forum + virtual events + mini-courses) that offers tangible value.

Looking forward to see how it goes. New version will be Ghost + Discourse forum.

Substack was great for getting me started, but I’ve outgrown it.


Would love more insights on what you mean by "out-grew’ substack. I have been thinking of switching back to substack to be honest with you. Any clarity on number of free,paid subs would be welcome

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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.


Why are you considering switching back out of interest?

I shared some of my thoughts re: switching over here

I agree with your sentiments. I’m only moving over to Ghost now that I’m feeling I’ve “outgrown” Substack.

It was a great platform to get started, but I feel Substack will serve me better with growth/branding/the long-term in mind.

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For a lot of readers the value proposition of it being a newsletter is not very clear so conversions are quite slow. The theme range in ghost today really needs to catch up for memberships. Last i checked there were very few and that was disappointing. Lastly, if you are looking to build a mailing list, the drop-down in substack makes it clear that it is something people can sign up for. This takes a little bit of work around distribution from you. Basically you can notify people via a newsletter that you wrote something new as the list grows. Really trying to stick it out with ghost atm because I have put in a bit of effort into it, but lets just say substack is quite attractive at the same time.

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I launched my exclusively paid membership site on 1 June and the membership is now in four figures . Ghost pro/stripe has handled it all without missing a beat.
The site is still a work in progress but we are building a community with integrated comments (using which means members only have to have a single login. It all has been working well and hope to scale it up even more


hey Molly - congrats! That’s awesome. What’s your site/community, out of interest?

Cool to hear you’re using Cove, too, looks like @dan’s doing a great job.

Cool, thanks for sharing. I agree that the ‘dropdown’ Substack have is attractive, as is their custom ‘landing page’ for signups. (here’s what mine looks like currently)

Surely it must be possible to find a theme / build something similar on Ghost? Or are you finding it quite restrictive?

Surely it must be possible to find a theme / build something similar on Ghost? Or are you finding it quite restrictive/

I’m a day away from launching a newsletter theme for Ghost but you can have a preview :blush:


That’s so great to hear @Molly! :raised_hands:

why am I not surprised… lol. this looks awesome man. Will it be incorporating the subscribe functionality, too? e.g. with the options that Substack presents ->

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What do you mean by subscribe functionality? Substation supports members (both free and paid).

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Ah, I was wondering what the /subscribe page would look like, I’ve just seen ->

Looks cool. :slight_smile:

Quick question - do you have a sample of what newsletters sent from Substation llooks like in the email clients.
Just curious. I may just be a customer soon :slight_smile:

Emails sent out use the default Ghost layout/design. Ghost themes don’t change the emails, just the web version layout.

You can see an example here:

It’s a very simple but smart replication of your post that’s built specifically to work in email clients:

“Ghost uses a clean, optimised HTML email template and renders your content beautifully in an email client. You can preview what it will look like on desktop and mobile before you publish and send.”

Hope this helps!

I am partner with a media person who writes a lot about current affairs. He built a big mailing list which continues to receive some free content but his daily posts are exclusively for members. has been effective and Dan is always working away at improvements which is very encouraging. Most importantly, having been in this space before on a former project, everything is remarkably simple for the subscriber. We have very few support requests or ‘how do I’ questions. That is amazing as far as I am concerned…because I have to deal with most of those that come through :grinning:


@dan, possibly an interesting ‘clone’ for you to look at… (Publisher Weekly)

Thanks for sharing :slight_smile: Interesting that you don’t have many support requests… specifically, what do you feel is the reason(s) for that?