"Why self host?" is the wrong question. "Why rescind your control?" is the right one.
Free and easy to use platforms are only fun while they are free, easy to use, and actually available. They pop up like mushrooms and their season ends just as abruptly.
I launched this 'newsletter' substack version of this website on a bit of a whim. It's a self-hosted Ghost.io. It was just to "pick it apart to see how it works" which is my preferred way of learning. Ghost is beautiful, sleek, they keep growing and adding new features. Plus, I discovered that handlebars is fun!
I spied that Revue and Ghost allowed me to connect my Twitter to signing up via Zapier, in this easy to click link that I could set up through the Twitter app & website. So naturally, I had to do that. I mean, why not, I had to see how this worked.
To my surprise (no, honestly!) people subscribed to my non-existent newsletter, so I chalk that down to ease of access via the apps and the Twitter website. Making things simple for people does make a difference. Isn't that how the whole bitcoin industry took off and nearly collapsed?
Soon I discovered issues with the Zapier connection. It works, but it constantly throws an error when someone subscribes to a Ghost newsletter via Revue. I spent a few emails talking to a helpful person at Zapier who really wanted to figure out what went wrong and asked for all my logs, even after I had sent several of them. I soon saw this as an "unpaid debugger" moment and stopped responding. No offense, helpful person at Zapier, but this is a Ghost.io, Zapier, and Revue owned by Twitter bug and I work for none of you. I managed to patch the bug so I would no longer get the error message emailed to me, as all the people who signed up were perfectly signed up anyway. Good enough of a fix.
Revue emailed me several times, both from automated emails and actual employees, asking me to "start my newsletter". But I didn't have to start a Revue newsletter, as I was just using Revue to funnel subscribers to my actual newsletter.
Now, Revue has announced that they are closing. We all received this message December 14th.
And that's the reason you should keep your things yours. Imagine if I had used Revue as my newsletter server, and imagine if I had paid subscribers. A frantic rush to host elsewhere would ensue, and importing things isn't always made easy.
I can see the temptation in using the big and popular things, for the advantages they might have - such as an easy subscribe link on Twitter. As for Substack vs Ghost newsletters - the two may have more in common than you might think!
The other week on Twitter, John O'Nolan from Ghost.io thought he had discovered that Ghost code powered Substack, and stated he took it as a big compliment that a bootstrapped nonprofit organization with only 6 product engineers created something that a for-profit Silicon Valley startup with $82.4million in funding would use.
Initially we were confused. Maybe this was a Ghost site after all? But no, signing up, logging in, comments, DNS… it’s all Substack. Huh. Weird.— John O'Nolan 🏴☠️ (@JohnONolan) December 12, 2022
So we clicked “view source” to look at what was going on — and that’s when we discovered Ghost code is now powering Substack. pic.twitter.com/0FSOk8I3nI
But Substack hasn't ganked Ghost code wholesale, instead, they created an API that allows for Substack to use Ghost themes. Great news for me and anyone else who creates Ghost themes and might want to open them up for wider use (or sell them).
Substack is not "powered by Ghost". Rather, we built our own theming API that’s compatible with themes built for Ghost, including those built by third parties.— Chris Best (@cjgbest) December 12, 2022
As for the choice between Substack and Ghost if you want to set up a newsletter, I would always choose Ghost. You can self-host a Ghost instance, even if they will make the case that it's cheaper to just pay them. If you don't already have servers set up, as I do, $8 a month is not a bad deal.