TechStack: Choosing the right tech platform when you are getting started with your newsletter is a daunting experience. There are so many options to chose from. When you ask an expert, the answer is usually, "it depends". Not much help! In this article I'll give you my 2-penneth of experience.
3 Reasons for Running your Newsletter on Ghost
1: You own your content & benefit from 0% transaction fees (both Substack and Revue own the domain for your newsletter and take a slice of every dollar your earn).
2: Ghost is the only membership platform that allows you to create a truly custom website for your newsletter business.
3: Write your content, send your emails and manage your memberships all from one place.
Why I chose Ghost over Substack and Revue
Ghost is an awesome platform for content creators. If you want to customise the look and feel of your site, use lots of embedded content (like Tweets and YouTube videos without losing the format) and email your content to a subscriber list without comprising the look, then Ghost is for you.
And let's face it, you need to do something unique to stand out. We're still in a hyper newsletter period that has been jacked by VC money. From Substack to Twitter buying Revue, from Linkedin going "creator" and Facebook launching Bulletin, the so-called Creator Economy is booming as investors look at new ways to monetise an audiences attention.
Which is why I didn't stay very long on Substack.
Let me explain. When I started the Wiser! Newsletter, I spent ages looking at the tech stack to get going. Frankly, it was confusing. And I didn't want to end up having to paste together multiple platforms for all the things I wanted to do. My goal was to find an all-in-one inclusive platform.
In the beginning, I went with Substack. Partly because everyone else was and partly because Substack has done a great job at simplifying the task of creating a newsletter. But that's the rub, because it has, IMHO, oversimplified it. If all you want to do is write and press send, then Substack (or Revue) is for you.
But as soon as you either (a) want to introduce personal style to the presentation of your content, or (b) charge for the newsletter, Substack loses its appeal. It's no secret that Substack takes 10% of all fees before the 2.5-3% that Stripe takes off. By comparison, Revue "only" take 5% before the Stripe fees.
So, bottom line, if your goal is to focus (just) on writing AND it's going to be a free newsletter, Substack or Revue are good to go. And just so you know, even though Ghost is my primary home for my lead newsletter, I also run free feeder newsletters on Substack and Revue. These allow me to test new content ideas without disrupting the core newsletter.
If not, the Ghost is the place for you. And you have two options;
- to use the Ghost(Pro) service where the team from Ghost manage everything for you,
- or to self-host, where you manage the service yourself and use third parties to run the servers, do the backups, send out the emails and everything else that needs to happen (it's not as hard as it sounds).
Ghost(Pro) starts at $15/month and the pricing is tiered based on your number of subscribers. Whereas Substack and Revue take a slice of your income, Ghost charges a flat fee regardless of how much income you make. (This was an important consideration for me!)
w/Newsletter Case Studies
5 Examples of Success with Newsletters
w/#1 - Stratechery
Pioneers of the daily premium newsletter
Ben Thompson is one of the early adopters of the premium newsletter model with his analytical tech industry blog posts and daily newsletters. While some of the content on the site is free, thousands of people have subscribed to support Ben’s work and access the daily email newsletter. Source: Stratechery
w/#2 - The Browser
A Ghost newsletter with over 75,000 readers
Every day, The Browser read hundreds of articles and recommends five outstanding stories for subscribers to enjoy. It is run by two editors, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton who charge from $5 a month, with annual subscriptions starting at $48. Source: The Browser
w/#3 - Sinocism
Bill Taylor shows you how to do it on Substack
With nearly 100,000 subscribers, Bill Taylor has built an impressive newsletter focused on the business, political and social relationships between China and the USA. Sinocism is a perfect example of how to monetise a niche. Source: Sinocism
w/#4 - The Pomp
A daily newsletter for 190,000 investors
The Pomp Letter is a newsletter on Substack for investors interested in learning about Bitcoin, finance, and technology. Their audience apparently includes some of the most legendary investors on Wall Street who read daily actionable insights on what’s happening in the economy. Source: The Pomp
w/#5 - Advisorator
The tech advice newsletter generated more than $12k within the first year
Freelance journalist Jared Newman ran a free newsletter for two years and noticed there was a demand for something more focused on tech advice. So Advisorator was born, which has $5/month and $50/year subscriptions and attracted 200 subscribers in the first year. Source: Advisorator
Bonus content: Craig Mod
Keeping a community of 30k intrigued
Craig Mod is a writer, photographer and walker who lives in Japan. He runs two newsletters, writes books and walks a lot, taking pics as he goes and has 30,000 subscribers. His appeal is more than just a straightforward regular newsletter like the examples above. Members pay $10/month (or $1500 for life) and get to follow Craig's journey. Source: Craig Mod
Craig has a unique view on "pop-in" newsletters, which you can read here...
Wiser! is Created with Ghost
Join me and 1,000's of other content creators and build your online home around a powerful subscription platform that has been designed for indie creators like you. Use Ghost to create content, publish newsletters and manage memberships, all in one place.
Wiser! is Designed with Biron Themes
Themes are the templates that define how the website is presented and styled. For Wiser!, I use the Nikko theme from Biron Themes. It is a responsive and customisable template that is perfect for the style of content that readers of the Wiser! want to read.