Ghost: The open-source startup helping creators turn audiences into a business

Ghost is an open-source alternative to Substack for newsletter publishers. Creators are already making $2m a year on its platform.

With everyone and their mom jumping on the newsletter train, there’s been a dark horse that has bet on the creator economy for nearly a decade.

Ghost: The open-source startup helping creators turn audiences into a business

Ghost, which offers a suite of publishing tools for creators, vouches to help writers “turn your audience into a business.”

They’ve quietly scaled to $3m ARR, while enabling the creators on their platform to bring in $2.2m of their own. In a race with much bigger fish, Ghost has kept up through their unique business model (a nonprofit, open-source, fully remote company) that has been profitable since 2014.

The Hustle spoke with Ghost’s co-founder John O’Nolan after the company’s recent launch of Ghost 4.0:

Another publishing tool?

Prior to Ghost, O’Nolan worked as a web designer and developer. As he worked with the biggest fish, WordPress, he noticed that it was growing into a “platform for everything.”

He realized that there was space to build a tool for a single-use case: professional publishing.

Profitability in 11 months

Ghost didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He learned from a business model that already existed in the WordPress ecosystem — a free open-source product — and managed hosting companies like WPEngine or GetFlywheel.

Their open-source product creates demand for hosting, while hosting funds the development of the product.

Ghost has scaled without paid ads or a sales team

O’Nolan says that marketing at Ghost is simple: focus on creating an excellent product, so that people end up sharing it for you.

They achieve this through: 1) thorough documentation; 2) tutorials; 3) a referral program.

The future of subscriptions

“I think subscription commerce is a sector that will be applicable to almost anything,” says O’Nolan. “Newsletters are a very hyped trendy bit, but I think longer term, we’re thinking about this as an agnostic technology layer that can really power all types of businesses.”

If you enjoyed this and want to catch the full recording, give Trends a go!

Related Articles

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.