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079: The Story of How I Switched to Ghost

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
4 min read
079: The Story of How I Switched to Ghost

🖼 How does an organization forget? + 👉 Ethan Mollick: A Twitter professor worth following

This the 79th edition of Cultivating Resilience, a weekly newsletter how we build, adapt, and lead in times of change—brought to you by Jason Shen, a PM, resilience coach, 1st gen immigrant, ex-gymnast, and 3x startup founder.

🧠 The Story of How I Switched to Ghost

Switching to Ghost: Why and How I Did It
I merged 3 digital publishing tools into 1 and this is the story of how and why.This is a rather long article so feel free to skip to the section that matters to you: My Previous Publishing SetupThe Hassles of the Prior SetupConsidering My OptionsGhost: Built to LastExecuting the

I published a 2,200 word piece breaking down how I switched to from Wordpress, Substack, and Converkit to Ghost. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea and I didn't want to blow up your inbox with the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

Problems with my previous set up

I would write and publish content on Substack. Then I would copy and paste the content into Convertkit so I could email my old list. Eventually I hooked up Convertkit to pull from an RSS feed of my Substack, which would get 95% of the content, but not things like Twitter embeds, which I would still need to screenshot and attach directly.

I would also remove references to the name of the newsletter and Substack since people on the Convertkit list weren't aware of having signed up for a Substack. Eventually I even tried hiring a virtual assistant to do this step for me, but quality control was hard and I felt it was a spurious use of resources.

I would also take some of my newsletter posts that I thought were more extensive, in-depth, or original, and re-publish them on Wordpress as standalone blog articles. Even though I wasn't pushing a ton of content to my website, it still gets natural traffic just from people Googling my name and long tail SEO and I didn't want it to see too dead.

Publishing on the web in 2021 is hard!

The longevity and adaptability of Ghost

When I told a journalist friend of mine if I thought Ghost would "overcome" Substack. I told her that overcome wasn't the right word. I said that I thought Ghost would outlast Substack.

The Ghost organization is set up as a non-profit which is uncommon for a tech company, but since it's open source, it can do a lot with the ~30 people they have as of Nov 2021. They publish their metrics publicly and have doubled from $2M to $4M ARR in the last few 24 months, a healthy growth rate for such a small team.

This set up (nonprofit, open source, low headcount) means Ghost does not have the pressure to grow exponentially nor could it really be "acquired" in the traditional sense. Having been a startup founder many times and observed the tech industry for the last 15 years, the pressure to grow and go public or be acquired can result in massive changes for users.

Substack was founded in November 2017 raised a $65M Series B in April 2021 that valued the company at two-thirds of a billion dollars. That's a huge number and even with their recent milestone of one million paid subscriptions, that's no where near enough to justify this valuation.

I wonder if more tech co's might incorporate as a nonprofit in the future! Probably not.