Ghost CMS: Fast CMS for blog and membership site

Ghost is a CMS (Content Management System). If you already have experience with WordPress, you probably know what we are talking about, because WordPress is also a CMS. We can download and install both Ghost and WordPress on our own server without any fees, although I will tell you later in the article why I think that it is better to take advantage of the official managed hosting for Ghost.

Ghost was founded in 2013 and, if you believe the internet, it was created in response to WordPress, specifically its growing complexity. So, as you can guess, Ghost is much more minimalistic.

If you’re thinking now: “What kind of niche CMS are you showing here? Probably nobody uses it…” Well, not really. WordPress has an absolutely dominant market share, but Ghost has already been trusted by brands you know (or at least some of them). A blog on Ghost has Duolingo, Mozilla, Revolut, Codecademy or, for example, Tinder.

Blog and membership site


Ghost was originally created as a blogging platform, but from the third version (and at the moment of writing this article, we already have 4) an amazing functionality has appeared. Now you can manage memberships andintroduce subscription model on your Ghost page. This means that you can set up a paywall and make some of the articles visible only for paying customers. In order for users to be able to view the content, they will need to become a member. Membership can be free. In this case the user havs to create an account on your blog by himself. But you can also create a paid membership based on a monthly or annual subscription. Subscription (or recurring payment) allows you to regularly charge your clients. The customer provides his payment card details and the he will be charged monthly or annually (depending on the configuration). The customer can cancel the subscription at any time and, upon expiration, his membership becomes inactive and he loses access to content that requires membership. Payments are handled by Stripe, very popular payment processor. I have been using this processor myself for over a year, but in integration with WooCommerce.

Ghost has published a fairly detailed comparison to WordPress on its website, but I would be careful about it. For example the comparison of costs of both solution is just not right. They say that to be able to manage memberships and subscriptions in WordPress you need plugins. That is correct. But they chose one of the most expensive plugins that cover this functionalities when you have a very good FREE plugin doing this: Paid Membership Pro.

That’s why I have my own summary, which will tell you much better whether it is worth getting interested in Ghost, or maybe it is better to stick to the good old WordPress.

Where is Ghost winning against WordPress?

Speed

Ghost is definitely faster. Especially if we compare it to WordPress with Woocommerce plugin installed.

Nice modern interface

It may be a matter of taste. I like more both the themes and the appearance of the administration panel in Ghost. You can make it look nice with less effort.

Simplicity and minimalism

That’s my favorite. Due to the fact that Ghost was made for a specific, narrow purpose, the admin panel is not as full of features as the WordPress one. It’s easier to navigate and to find the functions you need. That also applies to the post editor.

Integrations

Ghost offers integration with other applications at no extra cost. The most important one from my point of view is integration with Zapier. If we wanted to integrate WooCommerce with Zapier, we would have to buy another plugin. In Ghost we just have it by default.

Less can go wrong

If we wanted to build on WordPress something similar to what Ghost offers, i.e. the ability to publish content and restrict access to it based on a recurring payment, a lot more could go wrong. This is because we would have to install few plugins. These plugins are created by different teams that won’t test them with all possible combinations of other plugins. Testing the correct integration is on you. And not only once, but before and after each plugin update. In Ghost, you don’t have this problem, because you don’t install anything extra. What you get is already tested, and you can be sure that it will work fine with the next update.

It might be cheaper

First: plugins. If you want to create a copy of Ghost functionality, you need to find out about the plugin prices. Depending on which plugins you choose, the difference can be really big.

Secondly, there is technical maintenance of the website. Although you can put Ghost on your server, I recommend using Ghost Pro. This way you don’t worry about server administration or updating Ghost. You can focus on creating content for your users. If you want someone to do it for you with WordPress, you’ll have to spend at least 50 $ a month. On top of that, you still have to add hosting costs. At Ghost, prices start at 9 $ a month with an annual payment, although for me a sensible package starts at 25 $ a month (Basic), because we also get integrations with this plan.

Where is Ghost losing to WordPress?

Location

It is much easier for a non-technical person to translate plugins or themes in WordPress than in Ghost. In Ghost, we have to go through the theme files, while in WordPress this can be done with a plugin like Loco Translate. There are also some things that we won’t translate in Ghost at all. Logging in for members is done with a link sent to the e-mail address of the user. So there is no username and password thing. This form of logging in is to ensure greater security. And unfortunately it’s not possible translate the content of this e-mail (it’s in English).

Capabilities

WordPress, thanks to additional plugins, can be virtually anything: a shop, a website with online courses, a website for selling e-books, a place to book a cottage in the mountains for a vacation. Ghost is focused only on publishing content and selling it in a subscription model.

Who is Ghost for?

For someone who wants a simple and fast blogging platform. I recommend Ghost Pro (with managed hosting) then it is also not necessary to take care of updates and server administration.

Ghost is good for someone who wants to sell access to their content. I mainly think about the text, but you can also publish videos hosted on Vimeo (and at the same limit their visibility to a specific domain).

Who is WordPress for?

For someone who is non-technical and needs more than Ghost offers both in terms of functionality and customization. In conclusion, if Ghost is functionally enough for you, I would go with Ghost.

Where you should be careful with Ghost

Newsletter

Ghost allows you to send a newsletter to its users. This is not a full-fledged mailing list. It allows us only to can send an e-mail to members when we publish new content. The problem is that members are automatically subscribed to this newsletter, which to the best of my knowledge is not in line with European regulations. Our users must be able to agree to receive the newsletter, e.g. with double opt-in which Ghost doesn’t support. I would just give up this functionality. It is poor, and we can safely connect Ghost with other ESP, for example with Mailerlite. We can do this with Zapier and this allows us to introduce double opt-in mechanism.

Translations

The second thing is translations. If we want to run a blog in English, then no problem. However, if we want to translate the interface for users into other language, we will have to play with theme files. This is no fun for most of the people. There is also the risk that while digging in the files, we can destroy the page (but we can also easily fix it by uploading old theme files).

Login via link

Another thing is logging in with a link. Customers in many countries still haven’t got used to is and would rather go with username and password solution. Also check in advance if the e-mails with login links do not end up in spam (that might happen especially for country specific e-mail boxes).

B2B transactions in the EU

The last point is important in the case of B2B sales to other EU countries. When you sell digital products to a customer from other EU country, the reverse charge applies, i.e. the transaction should not include VAT, because the buyer will pay it in his country. This is done by verifying the European VAT number and on this basis, VAT is deducted from the order amount. Ghost does not support this mechanism. Sales for businesses would still have to be handled manually or through some other payment system. Regarding this topic, I suggest that you first contact a tax advisor or an accountant. He will tell you best how you should handle such transactions as part of your business.

Are you interested in this tool and want to know more about Ghost features? Let me know, and it is possible that the next article will be on the topic you suggest!

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