Why I Use Ghost, Not Substack

I really admire Substack and they have an excellent reputation for free speech today, but who can say what their policy will be in the future? Here are a few thoughts on why I use Ghost instead.

Why I Use Ghost, Not Substack

This site runs on a blogging platform called Ghost. Think of Ghost as an open source alternative to Substack. I really admire Substack and they have an excellent reputation for free speech today, but who can say what their policy will be in the future? Laws may change forcing them to adopt Orwellian censorship frameworks we've seen other platforms adopt. You may think censorship is great while your preferred politicians are in power. Simply imagine your most hated politician in power instead and consider how much you'll like censorship. This isn't a left-wing or right-wing issue.

The people running Substack may also change. Any platform with enough eyes on it will be a target for infiltration by those wishing to control the narratives of society. It doesn't even need to be as nefarious as an intelligence agency or devoted ideologue. Your every day yuppie careerists who find themselves working at Substack can subtly tilt things in the direction of their own bias without even realizing they're doing it.

I'd rather not have to trust that Substack will forever remain a place of free discussion. As a Bitcoiner, I don't just trust, I verify. Ghost allows me to have similar blogging and paid subscription features as Substack without having to rely on a single trusted third party. The Ghost Foundation(non-profit) could collapse tomorrow, but since their code is open source, it will forever be available for us to use as we wish. That's freedom.

You can also host your Ghost blog wherever you want. Opting for Ghost's managed hosting from $9/month is probably the best bet for non-technical users. You might be surprised, however, how easy it is to host your own Ghost instance on a platform like Digital Ocean. I'll write about how to do this in my next post. In any case, Ghost doesn't take any cut of your subscriber revenue(Substack takes 10%) no matter whether you self-host or host with them. You can always switch between either hosting option as you wish. See this page for more on self-hosting vs. Ghost hosting.

Last thing before I get called a Ghost shill, Substack makes it very hard to leave once you're in deep. Migrating content from Substack to another platform is a disaster. And unless you pay Substack the $50 fee to use a custom domain(free with Ghost), all the old links to your blog will be cursed with a substack.com domain. If you manage your own custom domain and keep control over your content, you have significantly more portability if you're ever dissatisfied with the platform you're using.

There are two main downsides for me when it comes to Ghost:

  1. Lacks native support for Bitcoin payments
  2. Harder to be discovered than Substack

The first is not a deal breaker because I suspect this feature will be added one day. If not, I can learn how to modify the source code myself to support it.

The second is a bigger hurdle for any writer that doesn't already have a significant following online(e.g. me). Substack makes it easy to discover other writers by looking at who your favorite writers follow and who comments on their posts. I'm on an island here on my own site whereas Substack is a party of bright thinkers exchanging ideas. I'm considering the benefits of maintaining both Ghost and Substack versions of a blog to optimize for discoverability on Substack while gradually trying to drive people to subscribe on Ghost instead. It's a lot easier to pull the plug on Substack if you have your own oasis to bring your readers to.

Hopefully this didn't come off like a hit piece because I like Substack a lot. I am skeptical they will be able to maintain their reputation for free speech and high quality writing in the long run. It will please me if I'm wrong though.


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