Substack vs Ghost

Ghost is a powerful, independent alternative to Substack with zero transaction fees

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

If you’re wondering what the differences are between Ghost and Substack for creators and publishers running a premium newsletter, we put together this no-nonsense overview.

GhostSubstack
Pricing and transaction feesFrom $29/mo
Ghost takes 0% fees
You keep all your revenue
10% of your revenue
For every $50k revenue
Substack takes $5,000+ fees per year
Email newslettersβœ… Yesβœ… Yes
Custom domainβœ… Yes, includedπŸ’Έ Extra +$50 fee
Custom email from-addressβœ… Yes, included❌ No, emails sent from name@substack.com
Custom designβœ… Yes, create your own brand❌ No, Substack-branded site
Rich writing experienceβœ… Yes, with dynamic cards❌ No, basic editor only
Apps & integrationsβœ… Yes, over 1,000 connected apps❌ No, cannot be extended
Launch your own referral programβœ… Yes, with addon❌ No
Open sourceβœ… Yes, you control the rules❌ No, Substack control everything
Developer platform & APIβœ… Yes❌ No
Open Subscription Platforms βœ… Yesβœ… Yes

Migrating from Substack to Ghost is easy

All content, subscribers, subscriptions and payments can be seamlessly migrated from Substack to Ghost without any disruption to your customers. More info here πŸ‘‰

Keep all the revenue you make with Ghost

When you use Substack to power your newsletter, they take a 10% cut of your earnings, on top of industry standard processing fees.

Using Ghost, the fee structure is simplified into a single monthly cost based on the scale of your publication and we don’t ever take a cut of your earnings. No matter how large your audience or how many features you use – all the revenue you make is yours to keep.

Let’s put this into perspective: You have 1,000 paying subscribers at $5/month, generating $60,000 in annual recurring revenue. With Ghost, you pay $348 per year for hosting. Using Substack, you lose $6,000 per year.

A more powerful publishing experience

If you’re just getting started and you’re looking for a simple platform to start with, Substack is great! But if your plan is to build a serious subscription business with real revenue, Ghost is the more advanced option with better economics for publishers.

Using Ghost, you’ll have access to a publishing experience that allows you to do more with your content. Enjoy powerful formatting tools and sensible content management, unlocking everything from adding images directly from Unsplash, to customising your emails by dynamically inserting subscriber names.

Ghost

Writing a newsletter issue in Ghost is familiar and clutter free, supporting beautiful image galleries, forms, videos, podcasts, bookmarks, Markdown and HTML.

Publishers switch to Ghost because it provides a better writing experience, and they stick around because they gain ultimate control over their content and brand.

Sign up UI

The native members features within Ghost allow you to transform anonymous views into registered members, with both free and paid-only member tiers.

Everything you need to get started is built-in: member management, native payments with recurring subscriptions and email newsletters. All without any additional fees!

Uri Bram

"Have been building paid membership newsletters with Ghost for two months now and ridiculously happy with the experience. It's the combination of amazing design with endless customisability if you want to have your own style. The writing interface is just SO nice β€” it feels like stepping inside a high-end minimalist house, you just want to live up to the beauty of it."

Uri Bram, The Browser
Switched from Substack to Ghost

Build your brand + control your content

While Substack is a closed platform that you have little control over, Ghost is open source and extremely flexible. A Ghost publication can be completely customised to suit the needs of all kinds of publishers and authors.

On Substack, you’re locked into a single design with some basic settings and no ability to create your own website or landing pages to promote your growing newsletter business.

With Ghost you always own your content, subscriber lists and even the code because it’s completely open source. This means if Ghost the company disappears, you can continue to run your membership business in perpetuity.

It’s possible to build a completely custom newsletter, like Publisher Weekly:

Publisher Weekly newsletter

Choose your domain, pick your own design and add your own branding. Each Ghost site is unique, and reflects the personality of its creator. Some examples:

The Listener theme
Troy Hunt theme
Joel Gascoigne theme
Coding Horror 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 business.

Email newsletters are one of the most popular ways to build a trusted relationship with an audience. Ghost does everything you can do with Substack: Run a premium newsletter and send new posts directly to segments of your subscribers in a couple of clicks.

Ghost SEO and Social

Beyond this, Ghost does so much more to help you build a business. Everything you need to run a custom publication is baked in. SEO and social is taken care of with built-in XML sitemaps, Google AMP pages, canonical tags, optimised URLs, support for Twitter cards and clean semantic markup. All of this is done for you automatically – leaving you more time to focus on writing!

Alex Older

"I launched my membership site in under 3 hours without having to find a plugin or deal with a platform that would have been overkill for what I needed. I was amazed that within hours of launching the site I was already getting members signing up!"

Alex Older, Shutter Club
Switched from WordPress to Ghost

Doing more than the basics

All new Ghost sites are installed with a beautiful default theme that you can get started with right away, but it’s worth having a look at the marketplace of free and premium themes, and our extensive directory of integrations. There’s so much that’s possible.

Ghost integrations

If you’re already using Substack and thinking about switching to Ghost, check out how to get started with the Members features for subscription businesses. You can easily import an existing audience to Ghost from anywhere.

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 Substack compared to Ghost.

We can help you migrate to Ghost from Substack, 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) Basic Annual 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