For a while now, I’ve been unhappy with WordPress. Their new editor is effectively unusable, and I’ve been using first Google Docs and recently LessWrong’s editor to compose new posts.
Last week, I was approached by a representative from Substack who pitched me on moving my blog from WordPress to Substack. This is my attempt to break down the pros and cons and decide whether to do it.
The advantages of Substack are:
The disadvantages of Substack are:
So far most people have almost entirely thought switching was a good idea, so I’m inclined to do it. But it’s a big decision, so it makes sense to put up a post, write out the pros and cons, and give people a chance to think of things I may have missed. It’s also an opportunity for someone from WordPress to make the case against leaving, if such people exist. I’m not going to make a final decision for at least a few days (and of course, creating the Substack doesn’t force me to actually use it going forward if I realize I’ve made a horrible mistake, there’s no contract or anything).
Massive conflict of interest: I blog on ghost, know and like the people at ghost, and work at a company that moved from substack to ghost, get paid to help people use ghost, and a couple more COIs in this vein.
But if you're soliciting takes from somebody from wordpress I think you might also appreciate the case for ghost, which I simply do think is better than substack for most bloggers above a certain size.
Re your cons, ghost:
1 - has a migration team and the ability to do custom routing, so you would be able to migrate your content
3 - supports total theme customisation
4 - supports analytics add-ons which would give you these details
5 - supports custom excerpts - doesn't even have to be the first bit of the post
6 - is built on open-source software, and you have the option of self-hosting
Some other pros:
Notable points against would be:
Strong upvoting after our conversation so more people see it. Raymond made a strong case, I'm seriously considering it and would like everyone else's take on Ghost, good or bad. Getting the experiences of others who've used it, and can verify that it works and can be trusted (or not, which would be even more useful if true!), would be very helpful.
The basic downside versus Substack is lack of Substack's discovery, such as it is, not sure of magnitude of that, and that people won't be used to it and won't have already entered CC info, which will hurt revenue some (but again, how much? Anyone have estimates?) and the start-up costs would be more annoying.
In exchange you get full customization, open source that can easily be self-hosted in a pinch, lower costs given expected size of the audience, better analytics, better improvement in feature sets over time given track records, etc. But I'd have to do at least some work to get that (e.g. you need to add a comment section on your own).
Is 'can be self-hosted in a pinch' also a feature of Wordpress? Also, how does Ghost and WordPress stack up against 'has anyone ever self-hosted?' (More people doing that, might make it easier to find out how.)
I think you can self-host WP in a pinch as well. I've been chatting with someone from WP trying to better understand what it is offering. It does seem like I'm missing a lot of simple knowledge of how to use WP better, and it's possible that WP is 'good enough' if things were explained properly, and then there's a bunch of deep functionality and customization potentially hidden. Yet that doesn't do any good if I don't use it.
I have self-hosted WordPress and can confirm that it is possible (and not even very hard).
The big downside is security (but you can mitigate this substantially by using a managed host such as NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, and hosting only your WordPress blog on the site in question).
Thank you for being up front. My basic answer is that I'm vaguely aware Ghost exists, and I'd be open to a pitch/discussion to try and convince me it's superior to Substack or Wordpress, although it would be an uphill battle. If there's human support willing to make the migration and setup easy and help me figure out how to do things, then... maybe? Could set up a call to discuss.
Migration - they have a team that will just do it for you if you're on the annual plan, plus there's an exporting plugin (https://ghost.org/docs/migration/wordpress/)
Setup - yeah there are a bunch of people who can help with this and I am one of them
I'll message you
Applied Divinity Studies has written some stuff about substack, e.g. a comment on the ACX move, and this compilation of writings on substack organized by pro, con, neutral.
The main thing I care about, as a reader, is getting the full text of your posts in my email inbox. It seems WordPress and Substack both offer that functionality, but LessWrong doesn't, for some reason.
We do! Just subscribe to Zvi's post via the "Subscribe" button on their profile, and then set the "Posts by users I am subscribed to" setting in the notification settings to "email" and "immediately":
Is there a way to get all LW posts in my inbox? That's what I currently use Blogtrottr for, but I thought LessWrong only offered that for curated posts.
We do offer an RSS with all posts, but no emails for all posts, sorry.
If you created an account**, and just started subscribing to everyone*, I think it would cover a lot of that.
*Or everyone, when they make a post.
**You'd probably want to keep it separate from regular subscribing. Trying to mass unsubscribe is harder than just having those be separate.
I’m surprised to hear you are concerned about censorship at Substack. I read this link https://on.substack.com/p/substacks-view-of-content-moderation a while back and thought it suggested a pretty strong commitment to not censoring. I don’t really know anything about WordPress though, so maybe they’re even more committed in this regard?
I'm not Zvi obviously, but my model is something like this: Wordpress is very boring. It's not "a thing". Nobody blames Wordpress for content published on Wordpress; they blame whoever wrote it. Probably the fact that every Wordpress blog has its own style contributes to this; there is mostly no unified "Wordpress brand", except the brand of people who haven't gotten around to picking a real theme yet.
Substack talks a good game about anti-censorship, but Substack is NOT boring. They are trying to make a name for themselves, they force common branding across all the blogs on their site, and they generally want Substack itself to be "a thing", not just a neutral platform that fades into the background. And they are likely to attract controversy, and then as a result attract pressure. Usually people eventually fold under pressure. Promises not to fold under pressure are just meaningless marketing copy.
That makes sense.
I blog on wordpress and the impression of substack I get is that moving over would mean giving up creative control over the presentation. Although I hardly use 95% of the creative options available on wordpress, it still seems like quite a disadvantage.