Is Ghost the right choice?

Is Ghost the right choice for a publisher? I run down some pros and cons, to help you choose.

Is Ghost the right choice?
Photo by Danielle Stein / Unsplash. It's really hard to find appropriate photos. I'm not sure this is it.

Written in response to a question on the Ghost forum about using Ghost for a publisher, and then updated and (hopefully) improved.

I earn affiliate payments from Ghost Pro if you sign up with them for a new hosting account using one of my links. I was recommending them before I became an affiliate, and my opinion hasn't changed. They're pretty awesome.

Obviously, I’m a huge Ghost fan, but here’s some information that may help you.

Ghost is a blogging and newsletter platform. It is not WordPress, which might have been for blogs long ago, but now can be modded to do pretty much anything, if slowly and sometimes insecurely. If you are wanting to do something that looks a lot like blogging/newsletters (i.e. a magazine, collection of travel articles, local news), Ghost is probably a great choice. If you want to build a Yelp, or Facebook, or Airbnb, Ghost is not the right choice.

Ghost supports multiple newsletters. There’s not a built-in way for a user to pick topics to receive in a combined newsletter, but you could run multiple newsletters each covering different topics and let users pick which one(s) to receive.

Ghost uses Mailgun for newsletters. There’s support for importing a mailing list into Ghost, but you’ll definitely want to talk to the Ghost Pro team (if you’re hosting there) before sending to your 75k mailing list. [A former client importing 10k new subscribers needed to reassure them that his addresses were double opt-in.] Newsletters are somewhat customizable, but not completely. You can’t rewrite the newsletter template unless you’re self hosting, but you can include sections of email-ready HTML as snippets if there's something you can't accomplish with the regular editor.

There’s no scheduled email drip for new users built in, but you can add a third party that does this. (Some users also use a third party bulk emailer for newsletter sending.)

Restricting web content (and/or newsletters) to registered users (members) or to paying members, or members on a specific paid plan is all possible with Ghost. See 👉How Ghost gets paywalls right for more. Ghost uses Stripe subscriptions for memberships. It's possible to build a system that collects payment outside of Ghost (to avoid Stripe or offer lifetime memberships, for example) and then uses the API to give the user a complimentary subscription, but it's not supported "out of the box."

Ghost does not natively support one-time payments for content, gift subscriptions, or individual article sales. Outpost has some of those, or you could ‘roll your own’. (ref: )

Ghost doesn't offer a built-in "marketplace", if by that you mean that users (not trusted staff users, but regular website visitors) can add content or listings and sell things, Ghost doesn’t support that natively. (You could certainly have a form that allows users to submit a new marketplace listing and use a human editor or write a cloud function to post that submitted content, but you’d need to sanitize submissions somehow.)

Ghost doesn't have ecommerce built in. If you want to just sell a few products, it's easy to set up Stripe payment links for them. If you want a full store for digital goods, linking to SendOwl or Lemon Squeezy (or insert favorite option here) is a good option.

Ghost doesn’t really include a full editorial workflow. You can have staff users who can create posts (which will be your main content type) but not publish them, but there’s not a full approval workflow. If you have a whole editorial team, they might want to track their editorial workflow elsewhere. (A small team could use tags to indicate a draft post’s workflow status (i.e. #needs-approval #needs-revision #ready-to-schedule). There’s not support for on-post commenting, although you could use something like for that. 👉More musings on editorial workflow.

One of the big spots that people are sometimes surprised about coming from Wordpress is that there’s no drag and drop page builder. Ghost is great for editing post content (with a primarily linear layout), but if your team is envisioning building more complex landing pages, there’s not a fully WYSIWYG way to do that currently. You can always include HTML, custom CSS, and Javascript, but the publishing team may not want to go there. You can partially mitigate against this by building templates they can customize. Update: The new landing page options and header cards make it much more possible to do interesting layouts.

Ghost lets website visitors/members (not staff) log in by way of a magic link. That’s the only built-in option. They enter their email address and then click the link that arrives in email. Once they click the link, they get a long-duration cookie. (They don’t have to do this for every visit!) Spectral Web Services offers 👉social sign-on for Ghost, if you need it.

If you haven’t yet played with Ghost, I recommend signing up for the free trial and kicking the tires – hard – for two weeks. There’s a LOT to like in terms of blogging/news/newsletters, and you'll have a much better idea about what Ghost can do at the end of it.