Substack vs Ghost: Which Is Better For Starting Newsletters and Blogs?

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by Ewen Finser

Are you debating about starting an email newsletter? If so, this is a great time to start! Marketing emails have an average open rate of 17.8%, so there’s a good chance your emails will gain some attention.

But how do you ensure your subscribers will absorb your content? By offering paid subscriptions, you not only earn passive income but offer content that your subscribers will absorb regularly.

It’s easy to not only create an email newsletter but to start charging your subscribers. There are two popular platforms that successful creators use: Substack and Ghost. Which one should you choose? Here, we compare them both and weigh out the pros and cons.

Main Differences Between Substack vs Ghost

  • Substack takes a percentage of your revenue whereas Ghost cartoons $ 9 / month
  • Substack doesn’t offer to receive a custom email address, whereas you receive a custom email address from Ghost
  • Substack will charge $ 50 for a custom domain, whereas Ghost offers a free custom domain
  • Substack has a basic text editor, whereas Ghost’s editor is more dynamic
  • You can custom design your website with Ghost whereas you have to use Substack’s basic design for your newsletter
  • You can launch your own referral program with Ghost whereas Substack doesn’t offer this feature
  • Substack doesn’t support any app integrations, whereas Ghost supports 1,000 app integrations

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Both platforms can be used as blogs
  • Substack not only takes a percentage but comes with fees
  • Ghost is self-hosted, like a CMS platform, whereas Substack is only used for newsletters and blogs

Substack Pros and Cons



  • Ideal for content creators and anyone needing easy newsletter software
  • Simple set-up and user-friendliness
  • Easy payment collection with Stripe
  • Monitor newsletter performance
  • Readers can comment on articles


  • In the custom domain
  • Little room for customization
  • Can’t export content
  • Can’t embed media, create tables, and more

Ghost Pros and Cons



  • Fast and easy to use
  • Modern content creator and editor
  • Minimalistic but with flexibility for customizations
  • Perfect for blogging and email newsletters
  • Supports integrations
  • $ 9 / month membership is cheaper than Substack
  • Open source


  • Most customizations require technical knowledge
  • No comment functionality


Substack vs Ghost

Before we get into the pricing, let’s cover the features that set these platforms apart.


Substack vs Ghost

Both platforms offer a user-friendly way to create content. But first, let’s cover Ghost’s feature.

If you’re used to WordPress’ Gutenberg Editor like I am, you will love Ghost’s content editing platform. You can click the box and type directly, or you can click the plus arrow on the left side to select more options. The options include:

  • Image
  • Markdown
  • HTML
  • Gallery
  • Divider
  • Bookmark
  • Email content
  • Public preview
  • Embed options (YouTube, Twitter, Unsplash, Vimeo, CodePen, Spotify, and SoundCloud)

Ghost also offers publishing options. You can schedule your posts and you can preview them.

This is exceptionally different from Substack‘s text editor. While their CMS is easy to navigate, it’s very simple. You can’t embed content like you can on Ghost. You can only add and edit text. While you have some text customization options, such as bolding, italicizing, underlining, etc., it’s not nearly as advanced as what Ghost offers.

Ghost is far better for content customizations. If you want a simple interface and minimal text editing, Substack will suit your needs. But if you want to attach images, embeds, and more, then Ghost should be your choice. Overall, Ghost wins this round.

Website Design and Themes

First, Substack doesn’t offer any website customizations. So we’ll just skip them.

Substack vs Ghost

Ghost offers a variety of both free and paid themes. The only downside is they don’t have them readily available on your account (or at least I couldn’t find them). I had to access them on Ghost’s theme marketplace .

As an alternative, you can create your custom homepage . However, you’ll need to know some basics about code.

Ghost offers an opportunity to change the design and even code your own homepage. You have to use Substack’s pre-made design. Therefore, Ghost wins again.

Custom Domain

A domain name is important for many reasons. It’s beneficial for your brand, makes your website more recognizable, and your subscribers will think you look more legitimate. Because of all of these factors, your SEO ratings may improve.

Both platforms let you choose a custom domain name. However, Substack charges you an extra $ 50 for your domain. Ghost lets you choose a custom domain name for free.

Ghost’s free custom domain name outshines Substack’s paid domain name .


Whether or not you’re a new newsletter creator, you’ll want to access some effective marketing tools. Does either platform offer them?

Unfortunately, Ghost doesn’t offer any outside of the custom domain and website design features.

But Substack does offer some. These include newsletter categories, publication promotion, and a search bar. While they’re not extremely impressive, they’re better than nothing.

Overall, it’s up to the creators to market their own newsletter. Whether that be on social media, offering a free blog for SEO, or more.

Substack’s marketing and discoverability features are better than Ghost’s. Either way, creators have to do a lot of the marketing themselves.


Substack vs Ghost

Here, we’ll discuss a hit or miss for many people: pricing.

First, let’s start with Substack. Substack is technically free. I say “technically” because they charge you fees. The first fee is the cut they make from your paid subscribers. They charge you 10% of your commissions. Substack also charges you a fee to use Stripe, which is 2.9% plus 0.30 cents per transaction.

On the other hand, Ghost cartoons you per month. They have different payment tiers :

  • Starter: $ 9 / month
  • Basic: $ 29 / month
  • Standard: $ 79 / month
  • Business: $ 199 / month

The tier you choose depends on how many views you receive per month. While most new creators will get away with using the starter pack, you may have to upgrade too basic and beyond in the future.

Which is the most budget-worthy? Let’s do some math and find out.

If you have 1,000 monthly subscribers who pay $ 5 / month to receive your newsletters, you generate $ 5,000 / month. After all of the Substack fees, you only receive $ 4,069 / month. With Ghost, you take home $ 4,991 on the starter plan and $ 4,971 on the basic plan.

How does that compare to bigger earners? If your newsletter has 8,000 subscribers, you’ll need Ghost’s standard plan. Let’s say you still charge $ 5 / month. You’ll generate $ 40,000 / month. After Substack fees, that’s $ 32,556 / month. But with Ghost, that’s $ 39,921. This means even high earners will still generate a larger profit off of Ghost.

But what if you don’t plan on charging at all? Substack may be better. Even if your newsletter doesn’t generate a profit, Ghost will still charge you. Since your newsletter won’t make money, neither does Substack.

If you don’t plan on charging, Substack is the best option. But if you do plan on charging for your newsletter, Ghost’s monthly fee is more affordable than Substack’s ongoing fees.


Question: Why Are Substack and Ghost So Popular?

Answer: Paid email newsletters have been growing over the last few years. It’s an easy way for writers to generate consistent income and offers a new way for readers to connect with their favorite content creators.

While Substack and Ghost have their pros and cons, these platforms make it easy for writers to get started with email newsletters.

Question: Can You Be Anonymous on Substack or Ghost?

Answer: Let’s say you want to publish a newsletter but don’t want to reveal your name. Is that allowed on either Substack or Ghost?

You can write under a pen name when using Substack. This could be your domain name or a completely new name. I can’t find anything on this with Ghost, but I only used my website’s name to sign up. I used a photo of myself, but you can choose any photo you want.

Question: Are These Platforms Different Than Medium?

Answer: Medium is a major competitor for both Ghost and Substack. However, Medium is a very different platform.

First, Medium is more of a blogging platform compared to Substack. While Medium offers a newsletter, writers join Medium to blog. The way writers get paid on Medium is also different. Writers get paid based on Medium read time.

Question: Does Substack or Ghost Own Your Content?

Answer: Copyrights are one of the biggest issues that writers have to face when joining any publisher. So it makes sense that many writers wonder if they still own their work after joining Substack or Ghost.

Ghost is open-source . This means you not only own your content but also the code for your website and your subscriber list. Substack is a little different. They’re not open-source, meaning you can’t take that same content to place somewhere else. However, you do own your subscriber list and can migrate it away from Substack, though it is difficult.

Question: How Do You Get Subscribers?

Answer: Unfortunately, Substack offers few marketing opportunities and Ghost offers none. So, how do new writers get subscribers?

Other than the marketing strategies we mentioned previously (social media, blogging, etc.), many writers are collaborating with other writers to increase their audience. Be sure to collaborate with other creators in your same niche.

Question: How Do You Get Subscribers?

Answer: Unfortunately, Substack offers few marketing opportunities and Ghost offers none. So, how do new writers get subscribers?

Other than the marketing strategies we mentioned previously (social media, blogging, etc.), many writers are collaborating with other writers to increase their audience. Be sure to collaborate with other creators in your same niche.

Substack vs Ghost: The Final Verdict

Overall, Ghost wins by a long shot. They offer many content customization opportunities, you can choose your website design, they offer a free domain name, have an open-source platform, and writers who are charging for their newsletter receive more of their hard-earned money, even after paying a monthly fee.

Substack does shine in other ways. For example, they offer more marketing and discoverability features than Ghost. They’re also the best option for creators who want to offer an email newsletter for free. Overall, creators should take these aspects into consideration to choose the best option for their needs.

Another good platform to consider is Revue. But how does it stand up compared to Substack? Read our review.