Modern self-hosted publishing tools to consider for your business.
Recently we have been involved in developing and deploying a book publishing platform and in the process we also deployed an open, creative writing platform, right here where you are now. During the process of deploying this platform, we took sometime to evaluate and investigate the best publishing tools an independent organization can opt for, when it comes to content creation on a professional level[scale]. On this post, we are gonna look at two main latest platforms, that caught most of our attention, Medium and Ghost, to show you their key features, abilities, pricing, and for any tech-savvy, their stacks. Then just before we make a decision, we'll also give you a quick overview on Wordpress, just mainly because it still runs more than 50% of all websites currently live on the internet.
Every time I visit any website for the first time, I always find myself prefixing the url with
view-source:, to first check whether the website is running on Wordpress or not, in the case not, I'd then check what stack the website is running on, say NodeJS, this is quite a normal process for any web developer. On seeing any attractive website, you'd always wanna know how it was built, both depending on load-speed or just simply the well-thought animations on the front page.
If you are reading this, and you have no idea or information about Medium and Ghost platforms mentioned above, Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. Medium as a platform that allows writers, thinkers, and storytellers to publish and share their contents with their target readers and or subscribers. Publishing on Medium is free and stories you publish may be distributed to your followers, as well as millions of readers who follow relevant topics on the platform.
While Ghost is a free and open source blogging platform and shares quite a number of similarities with Medium and has quite a modern stack, with an amazing team of developers backing the platform. Ghost was founded in April 2013, after a very successful Kickstarter campaign to create a new platform focused solely on professional publishing. Ghost's mission is to create the best open source tools for independent journalists and writers across the world, and have a real impact on the future of online media.
From the above descriptions, you can immediately tell the major differences of the two platforms, Ghost is channelled and was first created to help improve and change how independent journalists across the world would create and share their stories, while on the other hand, Medium has had quite an interesting and innovative approaches when it comes to online written content creation.
What About Medium?
Medium is a clean professional platform that allows writers, thinkers, and storytellers to publish and share their contents with their target readers and or subscribers, and has the following key features,
- Medium already have millions of readers who follow relevant topics on the platform, thus besides your own subscribers, it would allow you to get your posts featured on the various categories that already exists on the platform, meaning, depending on the popularity of your post, you might as well get featured on the home-page once in a while, depending on the popularity of your post and the number of followers your publication has.
- Medium has an amazing SEO, and with your profile and posts on Medium, you are always assured that based on the relevancy of your posts they'll always appear on Google search results. And we need to mention that this is handled by Medium and thus you don't have to worry about it, and or control over it.
- The software stack is managed and handled by Medium, and thus you don't have to worry about the downtimes and all the issues associated with hosting a publication site. This is a key point of reference and we'll visit it later on, but for now I'll mention that on Medium, it's their publication and you're just writing on it along with everyone else.
- Medium allows you to add editors and writers to your publications. Writers can submit stories and drafts to the publication, while Editors can review, edit and publish those drafts.
- Medium gives you the ability to monetize some of your posts as long as you follow their policies. This is one of the best, supportive feature that makes Medium stand out.
So what does Ghost do better?
Ghost is a free and open source blogging platform and shares a number of similarities with Medium and has quite an open modern stack, with an amazing team of developers backing the platform.
- Being an open source tool, you have the ability to use and reuse the tool however your need states, with the ability to extend and even build upon it to meet your own custom needs.
- The most loved feature of Medium is the editor, and Ghost has the exact same editor, well they made to sure to create a similar editor, and it sure is great. The main difference is that Ghost's is open source as mentioned, it's extensible, and based on a JSON document storage format - thus the ability to customize it to your taste.
- You get an amazing stack with an amazing community of developers around it, who will always support the platform and thus you are always assured of future updates to the platform.
- The Ghost SEO is just as brilliant, and performs at the same level of Medium, with even a more customizable approach, as it allows you to set how your content would appear on the search results.
- With Ghost, you have the ability to sell Ads on your site.
- Ghost being a community journalism project, by using the tool, in a way you are supporting the initiative behind Ghost and thus having the ability to help improve independent journalism. And this is one key reason that drove me towards the project, as I saw a lot of potential on how much impact the Ghost Org. would have on independent journalism generally.
- With Ghost there are no limitations on what you can and can't put on your site. If you want to use display advertising, that's fine. If you want to collect email addresses as leads to grow your business, that's fine too. If you want to create a platform around your site to start selling your book, that's A-OK. the point is, with Ghost you have all the freedom and you get to define your own policy and rules to govern your publication platform.
- Ghost allows you to map your publication on your custom domain, a feature that once made Medium awesome until they decided to shut it down. So whether you opt to use the hosted version of Ghost or host your own, you can easily map your publication to whatever name you so desire.
- For 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 [Slack, Spotify, Twitter, Unsplash, Zappier, TypeForm....] - Thus the ability to custom automate your workflows.
- Ghost, just like Medium allows you to to have various user levels, just with a more advanced approach as described below.
- Contributors - Being the base user level, contributors can create and edit their own draft posts, but they are unable to edit drafts of others or publish posts.
- Authors - Authors can write, edit and publish their own posts. Authors are trusted users.
- Editors - Editors can do everything that an Author can do, but they can also edit and publish the posts of others - as well as their own. Editors can also invite new Contributors+Authors to the site.
- Administrators - Administrators can do everything that Authors and Editors can do, but they can also edit all site settings and data, not just content. Additionally, administrators have full access to invite, manage or remove any other user of the site.
- The Owner - The owner is a special user which has all the same permissions as an Administrator, but with two exceptions: The Owner can never be deleted. And in some circumstances the owner will have access to additional special settings if applicable.
Now at this point, you might start feeling suspicious, why are there double as much items under Ghost? Well the answer to that question would be as simple as, "because there is as much to say about Ghost" this is 'cause Ghost is an open source tool, meaning we could dig deep into the tech as it is openly available, and also there is, dare I say, a dedicated team of developers who support and contribute to the platform, and thus it has such an elaborate feature list, which keeps growing as time goes by.
Medium on the other hand, being a closed organization, just like any company out there, there is a level of control on the amount of features and updates that are released on the platform, and as it stands at the moment, being a profit making company, these features are mainly channelled towards, "How they can monetize more on the platform." Remember point 3 under Medium that I mentioned that we would revisit later? this is it. 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.
There was one 6th point that would have been on the Medium list, but due to this announcement by Medium we decided to scrap it. As of now Medium stopped and doesn't allow publications to be mapped on custom domains as used to be the case. It seems they are not interested in highlighting the individuality of authors and publications. They want stories to stay under the Medium domain.
Medium is undoubtedly the simpler of the two platforms to set up, and it's quite well built and has an amazing UI(user interface) but it's also the most limited of the two. What you see is what you get. If you're a developer or a business or an organization trying to build more than just a basic blog, and integrate your content and publication with other tools and workflows, then Ghost would give you just enough power.
For any individual blogger, writer out there who is just looking for a very professional platform, from where they can creatively write, publish and share their content, and doesn't need to worry about any technicality, then Medium is the best option, and I would highly recommend it. We also loved how you can easily track your comments across the whole Medium platform and how it allows the readers to highlight content that they find interesting.
Conversely, Medium is a social network, just like Facebook, with the ability of facing similar issues in terms of content usage, privacy concerns, monetization of user data without their consent, and or profit for the user and finally change of ownership.
Still looking for the answer to the title of this post?
For an organization, Ghost is the perfect choice. There - I said it.
Use Ghost 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.
Use Medium If...
- You write a couple of times a year, so it's not worth paying for professional software rather than a free service.
- You are just an individual, with a dream of becoming a blogger.
- You have no plans to build a business, and it's just for fun!
Hey, I am a tech-savvy here, ?
To see the Ghost stack, go here, Ghost Stack and for Medium, we found this post by @dpup quite useful, The Stack That Helped Medium Drive 2.6 Millennia of Reading Time
You promised to say something about Wordpress, and that's why I am still here,
At this point of the post, we realized that we couldn't talk about Wordpress anymore, since we are past 2k words. But maybe we will in the future. Is that a limitation of the platform you are using? Nah, it has something to do with attention span.