Medium vs Ghost

Ghost is a powerful, independent alternative to Medium where you control your content.

Hello! Thinking about moving over to Ghost? Or trying to decide which platform to use for the first time?

You’re probably wondering what the differences might be between a Ghost publication and a Medium blog, so we thought we’d put together an overview.

GhostMedium
PricingFrom $29/moFree (with limitations)
Open source✅ Yes, you control the rules❌ No, Medium control everything
Custom design✅ Yes, customise everything❌ No, your site is Medium-branded
Custom domain✅ Yes❌ No
Memberships✅ Yes, create a membership business❌ No
Native payments✅ Yes, generate revenue from your audience❌ No
Email newsletters✅ Yes❌ No
Open Subscription Platforms ✅ Yes, you own your data❌ No, you're locked in

Migrating from Medium to Ghost is easy

All content, images and authors can be seamlessly migrated from Medium to Ghost without any disruption to your readers. More info here 👉

What’s the overall summary?

On Medium, it’s their publication and you’re just writing on it along with everyone else. Using Medium, you don’t own any of the experience and your content will ultimately be promoting Medium itself — not just your own work. It’s much like any other social network.

You can’t use your own domain name, you don’t control the design, and your site will be plastered with promotion and advertising to try and lure people into signing up for Medium.

Every site visitor will see this when they click on a link to your site:

Medium popup

Once they’re past the popups, the available space for your content is very limited. Highlighted below in red are all the areas which Medium use to promote Medium on your content. The non-red parts are controlled by you. On mobile it’s even worse, the space for your content is practically reduced to a postage stamp.

Medium branding

Clicking links to your content from mobile devices ends in a frustrating loop of inconsistent redirects and calls to action between browsers and native apps, with disorienting views and screens flying from side to side. But ultimately, your readers end up inside… you guessed it: The Medium app!

Look, let’s be real here, it’s not all bad. Medium have a nice editor and a solid social network, but their product has also changed a lot in the last few years. Medium are a VC funded company with no sustainable business model, so their tactics for self-promotion get more and more aggressive every single year. That’s the price you pay for a free product.

If you only plan on writing 1 or 2 posts a year, then it’s fine — but if you’re planning to do any serious writing, you can probably do better.

So what does Ghost do better?

Well, let’s start by talking about what Ghost does the same. The most loved feature of Medium is the editor, and Ghost has the exact same editor. The main difference is that Ghost’s is open source, extensible, and based on a JSON document storage format — so it has quite a lot more power.

Ghost

The main benefit of using the Ghost editor is that it also supports dynamic 'Cards' within content. What's that mean? Well rather than just being limited to whatever content blocks Medium allows you to use, Ghost's editor can do a lot more. Think of it like having Slack integrations right inside your editor.

Sign up UI

Beyond that, we can talk about what Ghost does better. Ghost is a professional publishing platform, with a lot more fine-grained control over managing your content, your users and your site. You can organise content with tags and authors, use a custom domain, or even run a fully-fledged membership publication and build a direct relationship with your audience.

Build your own brand + your own publication

Ghost is all about giving you the tools to publish great content, but never locking you into one particular way of doing it. The platform comes with a clean, minimal default theme included, but you can also completely change and customise the front-end of your site to suit your specific needs.

On Medium you’re locked into one design with some basic settings, with no ability to use a custom domain name! If Medium decide to change how your site looks and works (which they regularly do), then you have no say in the matter. Your Medium blog looks like every other Medium blog, and has Medium links and logos all over it.

With Ghost: You choose your domain, you choose your design, you choose your branding, and you choose your links. Each Ghost site is unique, and reflects the personality of its creator. Some examples:

The Stanford Review theme
Buffer theme
OpenAI theme
FreeCodeCamp theme

Growing an audience

The most important aspect of any publication is understanding and growing a core readership base.

Getting traffic to an independent website can be challenging, of course. But the rewards are that you physically own the content and you're benefitting your own brand and domain. Meanwhile, Medium lock your content into their platform by offering no sensible export formats of any kind (just garbled HTML files) — making it difficult to move elsewhere.

Ghost gives you the tools to manage and communicate with your audience, with sensible imports and exports for both your subscribers and your content!

screenshot
screenshot

When you blog on Medium, you give up control of your content and ownership of your traffic. Medium used to be well known for its network effect which would automatically expose your posts to a wide userbase. Like all social networks, that benefit has all but disappeared in recent years. Just like Facebook and Instagram, Medium now employs an arbitrary engagement algorithm to organise its content feed, so the days of easy traffic are long gone.

"I am one of the most-followed authors on Medium, with 158,000 followers. And yet Medium barely shows my articles to anyone anymore. As of 2019, Medium won’t give you much “distribution” within their platform unless you’re willing to put your articles to be behind their paywall."

FreeCodeCamp, on moving their 5,000+ posts to Ghost

Building a business around publishing

With Ghost, you can turn your audience into a business with memberships and subscriptions, and generate predictable revenue from your work. The Members features in Ghost can be setup within minutes and unlock the ability to transform anonymous viewers into members, and your most valued members into paying subscribers.

Meanwhile, Medium has a paywall which you have no control over as a publisher, with arbitrary rules for joining and how much you get paid. There’s no way to create your own independent publishing business and generate predictable revenue using Medium.

With Ghost, all of this is possible and we don’t take any transaction fees, so all of your revenue is entirely yours to keep. What’s more – Ghost has been profitable and sustainable since its first year of operation, and because the technology is open source you have full control over it. Even if Ghost went out of business as a company: you would still be able to keep your business running and your site online in perpetuity.

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For people who want the maximum available
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Forecast

How much could you earn?

Whether you prefer a large audience at a low price point or a small dedicated following at a premium fee, you control the economics.

See how much you could earn with a subscription commerce publication:

members
$ / month
$
your annual recurring revenue

How does this work?

Unlike other membership systems which typically take 10-30% of your revenue, Ghost takes no fee at all and instead connects directly to your own Stripe account, so you receive the money - not us. You own the software and you own the billing account, so there's no middleman between you and your customers. Stripe takes a ~2.9% processing fee, and all other revenue is yours to keep.

Building a subscription business is challenging in lots of ways. Our focus is on making the billing side as easy as possible - so you can keep your focus on your customers.

Doing more than the basics

If you’re a developer or a business trying to build more than just a basic blog, and integrate your content and publication with other tools and workflows — Ghost is the only option which gives you enough power.

Medium is undoubtedly the simpler of the two platforms to set up, but it’s also the most limited. What you see is what you get, and what you get isn’t all that much.

At its core, Ghost is a fully baked RESTful JSON API with a flexible architecture, and carefully considered client applications and services to go along with it. This means it can be extended, modified and customised for your needs in an unlimited number of ways.

Ghost integrations

Compared to Medium Ghost has more features out of the box and even more that can be built on top of the default platform. It’s worth having a look at Ghost’s core concepts, detailed tutorials, extensive directory of integrations as well as beautiful themes to get you started. There’s so much that’s possible.

Lee Munroe

"We're using Ghost's Pro service to host the blog for us. Works really well. Great writing experience compared to WordPress. WordPress is an incredibly powerful framework but because it supports the needs of so many websites and demands, it has grown into a sizable and cluttered tool."

Lee Munroe, Mailgun
Switched from WordPress to Ghost

TL;DR: The short version

Cut to the chase? Ghost is better for serious publishing. Medium is better for when you just want to write and don’t care about the rest.

Ghost is best if…

  • You care about ownership and control over your content
  • Building a publication is something you do professionally, for work
  • It’s important that you can make your site work the way you want it to
  • You want to guarantee that your site won’t randomly be deleted or sold
  • You’re a developer who needs a real API to work with

Medium may be a better choice when…

  • You don’t care about popups and banners and branding, you just want easy
  • You write a couple of times a year, so it’s not worth paying for professional software rather than a free service
  • You have no plans to build a business, it’s just for fun!

Don’t forget: You can also publish content to your Ghost site and then syndicate it to Medium as a distribution channel.

One last thing you should know

Ghost is an independent non-profit organisation. We build publishing tools for modern journalism & publishing because we believe freedom of speech is important. Our software is released under a free open source license, our business model is completely transparent, and our legal structure means that 100% of the money we make is reinvested into making Ghost better.

We’re building a socially responsible, sustainable business which empowers people to share important stories and ideas. We’re in this for the long haul.

Jeff Atwood

"I've been a blog minimalist from the start, and finding a truly open source platform which reflects that minimalism and focus is incredibly refreshing."

Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror
Switched from TypePad to Ghost

You’re now armed with knowledge! Hopefully this guide was useful to give you a general overview of Medium compared to Ghost.

We can help you migrate to Ghost from Medium, for free! Save time and let the Ghost team do all the work on your behalf; no coding, no configuration, no worries. This migration is included with any Ghost(Pro) Standard Basic plan or higher.

Still researching? Head back to the alternatives page.

Ready to give it a try? Start a trial completely free for 14 days and build your publication