Switching From Ghost to Substack

Switching From Ghost to Substack
Photo by John Cameron / Unsplash

Ghost or Substack? Which is the better choice?

Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?

  • A loss of faith in humanity.
  • A distorted sense of reality.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Phantom vibrations
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • A severe loss of intelligence.
  • Unable to maintain an oral conversation.
  • Stuck in an echo chamber with the inability to empathize with those who hold different world views than you.
  • You wish your mirror had Snapchat filters.

If you met 1 of 10 symptoms, you qualify for a prescription (or should I say subscription) of —

Enough already! I just wanted to know whether I should use Substack or Ghost.

Alright, well, for those of you who don’t read over 280 characters but wanna fulfil the insatiable human hunger for new information, here are some point form notes that could cause you to make the wrong decision, just like I did.

Ghost benefits

  • Open source.
  • Nonprofit.
  • Carbon-neutral.
  • Developer platform & API.
  • Offers multiple premium tiers.
  • Over 1000 connected apps (some of which you need to pay for).
  • $9/month instead of a 10% cut.

Substack benefits

To test how strong Substack’s community is, I didn’t mention or share my Substack site and articles on other platforms. In the two weeks I’ve been on Substack, I’ve gotten more subscribers than my eight months on Ghost.

You want my numbers? Let’s just say ‘they [not] be lookin’ like phone numbers.’

Those 8 months included spending $200 on Google ads, $200 on Instagram ads, $100 on Facebook ads, joining Facebook writing communities, commenting on Instagram posts, posting on Reddit and Quora, and trying to collaborate with people I found on Ghost’s Explore page. The Google ads brought in 5 free subscribers, and the social media ads got me a few hundred followers and likes from people who only engage with material that takes under fifteen seconds to understand. Just imagine if I spent that money on fellow Substack writers instead of those poor passionate people at Meta and Google who finally felt valued thanks to my money they so desperately needed.

I could have put that money and time into becoming part of a community of people who want to read, not just get a dopamine fix. All you need to do is ten-minute research to understand how much stronger Substack’s community is than Ghost’s. Explore the creators on Ghost and the creators on Substack, and you’ll see that Substack has 100 times — okay fine, I didn’t really do the math — but significantly more successful subscription sites than Ghost.

Alright, cool, but was that about $9/month instead of a 10% cut?

For some of Substackers, that’s a significant chunk of cash, and if supporting the organization that got them to where they are today means nothing, then sure, they could make the switch. But that’s the same mindset as people who take advantage of a country that provides them with free healthcare and cheap university but set up their address in a tax haven.

This brings me to the so-called “lefties” who switched to Ghost when Substack got a bad rep from the ultra-right writers who use the platform. The people who switched to Ghost did nothing to limit the spread of misinformation and xenophobia. They just didn’t want to be associated with the negative press. Plus, switching to Ghost isn’t a “left” decision at all. A percentage system means Substack has the incentive to help new writers make money. It also means the money generated from the top-earning writers gets put into an organization that helps upcoming independent writers.

And did these same people boycott YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? At least at Substack we’re not manipulated into echo chambers or baited into emotive material we learn nothing from. Sure, you can choose to put yourself into an echo chamber like on Facebook, scream at people you don’t agree with like on Twitter, and go down a rabbit hole of suggestions that spread misinformation and conspiracies like on Youtube, but you’re not mind fucked into doing so. At Substack, you’re in control. You’re free to read and learn without having your attention stolen by ads. I’d much rather be on a platform that gives everyone a voice (even those I disagree with) than those that allow advertisers to be in control.

But what about Substack Pro? Apparently, Substack paid ultra right-wing writers to join the platform. So what? They’ve also funded left-leaning writers. And more importantly, someone’s politics has nothing to do with the quality of their writing.

I think a more significant problem is that most top earners on Substack focus on American issues or approach global politics and discussions about culture from an American-centric standpoint. As Substack grows, we need to make sure it doesn’t become another tool for American imperialism. If we truly want to be part of something that changes culture, we have to stop focusing on this left or right divide, which, by the way, is a false dichotomy when categorizing humans and allows populists to thrive. But feel free to disagree with me in the comments, because I love platforms that don’t silence voices and allow writers to have discussions without deciding which words they can use (which is why I didn’t even bother bringing up Medium as an alternative).

Obviously, I’m a fan. That isn’t to say I don’t like Ghost. They have an incredible platform and support team, and if you’re considering making a more complex website, I recommend them over WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace any day. However, even if I make enough money where 10% becomes a significant amount, I won’t leave SubStack. Leaving Substack would feel like betraying its community and ethos.

I believe Jairaj Sethi, Chris Best, Hamish MacKenzie and everyone here at Substack are creating a new economic engine for culture and a “step forward from social networks.” While I was using Ghost, it was all about me. How do I get more paid subscribers? What do I need to do? Who will support me? Of course, I’m still asking myself those questions. I want to make a living. But at Substack, I’m part of something greater than what I’m trying to achieve on my own. The effort I put into networking and marketing doesn’t leave me feeling empty and manipulated. Every day, I find someone I want to support, collaborate with, and learn from. At Substack, I’m part of a team.

Join me on Substack.