When John O'Nolan (@JohnONolan) set out to create Ghost, he made an unintuitive decision for a mission-driven founder: to use his skillset to tackle the obvious thing to work on, rather than chasing the most interesting thing to work on. But 8 years later, and perhaps as a direct result of that decision, Ghost finds itself in one of the most interesting places of any indie business I've had on the show: reinventing online publishing in the the midst of a crisis for journalism, and making close to $2M/year while doing it.
Ghost — John's business supporting independent, professional publishing
Ghost 3.0 — details about the newest version of Ghost
Creative Selection — book John mentioned about Apple's early days
@johnonolan — follow John on Twitter
Rediverge — John's new personal publication
Stratechery interview — Ben Thompson's interview with John
What's up, everybody? This is Courtland from IndieHackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers podcast. On this show, I talk to the founders of profitable internet businesses and I try to get a sense of what it's like to be in their shoes. How did they get to where they are today? How do they make decisions both in their companies and in their personal lives? And what exactly makes their businesses tick? The goal here, as always, is so the rest of us can learn from their examples and go on to build our own profitable internet businesses. Today, I am talking to John O'Nolan, the founder of Ghost. John, welcome back to the show.
Thank you for having me. It's nice to be here and to see you in person this time around.
You're a real person.
I know, incredible.
We are recording this in person at my apartment in San Francisco. What brings you to S.F., John? Why are you here?
I was here to have a meeting at Stripe and when I said that at Immigration yesterday, the officer who was there, usually they question me about, "Why have you been to Egypt? Why have you traveled so much?" This time, I got a 10-minute grilling on when Stripe's IPO is.
I've heard it's going to be brought by the end of the year, so my Immigration officer was convinced that I knew something that he didn't. I think he wanted insider trading or something.
Pretty wild. This is something straight out of HBO, like when he goes to the doctor and the doctor is pitching him his start-up on Silicon Valley. It felt exactly like that, I was like, "This can't be real."
Only in the Bay Area will the Immigration officers grill you about tech IPOs.
It's almost too good to be true. I had a couple meetings with Stripe and that was fun. Nice to get a chance to meet you in person.
You are, as I mentioned, the founder of Ghost. You've been on the podcast before, but that was two years ago. A lot has happened since then. You recently released Ghost 3.0. Why don't you walk us through a whirlwind toward the early days of Ghost just so people can catch up if they haven't heard the story before?
The lightening recap: I used to be one of the second heads of design at WordPress on the open source product. After WordPress, I decided to be more of a generic website builder. I set up Ghost as a non-profit open-source publishing platform built with modern technology, so no JS, and focused solely on publishing not on any other use cases.
It started out as a blog post, turned into a Kick-Starter campaign, and then launched in 2013 with a sustainable business model. It's an open-source product but you can buy managed-hosting directly from us and that's how we fund the non-profit organization, that has done very well since then.
Our revenue today, available on Indie Hackers, is $1.83 million a year, I think, in recurring revenue? I think last time I was on the show, it was $700,000.
You more than doubled your revenue in the last two years, which I imagine it's been a whirlwind journey, or has it been slow and steady and uneventful?
More slow and steady, I would say. The trajectory of revenue growth, since the last time we've talked, has only changed once and not in a really big way, but it's been very predictable throughout. There's been no major kind of crazy inflections or business points, just been slow and steady, healthy growth and trying to make good decisions.
What about your life, personally? I think when someone's earlier on in their company, they have all sorts of visions and predictions about how much their life's going to change once they hit $10k or $50k or $200k a month in revenue. How much is the reality different from what you thought it would be like?
That's a good question. I think it's both different and the same in equal and opposite ways. You always have this delusion, no matter what stage of a company you're at, that things are going to get easier right around the corner, like "I just need to hire two more people for these positions" or "I just need to get up to this revenue milestone and then things are going to get easier versus now".
The reality is that those things you thought would get easier do and you didn't account for the 10 other new things, which are not easy, that have now arrived. Things never get easier, they just change and evolve and you have different problems at different stages of your personal career and your company size.
It's an ever-shifting journey and it's always interesting, but I don't think it ever gets any easier. Even now, I have the delusion that after a few more hires in key positions that things will be easier for me and I'll have more time but I'm increasingly beginning to think that that's not the case.
I have the same thing. Right now, I'm thinking about the Indie Hacker's podcast backlog and how in another few weeks, it'll be much bigger than it ever has been and then my life is going to be great, I'm going to be relaxing every day.
Take a vacation.
That's never happened before.
You'll take on three more projects, probably, because of all your extra time.
It's like we do it to ourselves, in a way. We just always push ourselves.
A lot of it is self-inflicted, for sure.
I think we should start here by talking a little bit about Ghost's business model. You mentioned that it's non-profit and I'm really curious about what that says about you as a person, because I've only had one other founder on the podcast who runs a non-profit.
The vast majority of founders run for-profit businesses, but I think to even dive into that, we just need to talk a little bit about what it means to be non-profit in general. What does it mean to be a non-profit, what can you do that other companies can't and what can't you do that other companies can?
That's a good one. It's definitely the biggest point of confusion. Usually, when I tell people, "Ghost is a non-profit", the first question's, "What's that?" and the second question is, "Why on Earth would you do that?"
Those were exactly my questions.
A non-profit is, ostensibly, the same as any for-profit, normal company with one major difference, which is there's no share capital. No share capital means that nobody owns the company. The company's independent; an independent entity, which is stewarded by trustees and a consultative board of directors, but no one owns any part of the business.
No part of the business can be bought or sold. Because none of it is owned by any particular shareholder, none of the profits can be distributed to those people. The company exists by itself. No one owns it, no one can buy it, no one can sell it and any money that the company makes stays inside the company and must be distributed through whatever the goals of the company are. In our case, that's fostering journalism, open-source, and education around all of those subjects. We can only spend money on those things and if I get tired of this whole thing at some point, I can retire but I have nothing to sell, so someone else can take over. There's no big payday for me.
I think that's probably the number one reason why a lot of founders don't start a non-profit, because they want a big pay-day.
Definitely. All of the things I just said are not attractive to a lot of people, but it gives you a different platform from which to make decisions. That's the reason why we do it is if you're building a company eliminating the idea that you could one day sell it to Microsoft or Google for $1 billion, how does that affect the decision making of how you structure a company, how you structure a team, what type of product you build, who it's for, whether or not it's sustainable or not?
If you're building something that you're going to be stuck with and that will never have any kind of pay off at the end of the line, what do you build? That's the grand experiment of what I wanted to find out. I decided that being a multi-billionaire was not for me and it didn't excite me very much.
If you built a company exclusively trying not to achieve that end-goal and you completely built something you're going to be stuck with forever, what do you build? The answer is that you build the best thing possible for users and customers and the team and something that you're happy to work on every day because it feels good and it feels like it's beneficial for you, for the people you're around and for the world you live in.
It checks all those boxes, rather than, "Well maybe it's going to pay off one day", so it's a lot less of lottery ticket.
I talked to a lot of founders who have a company that has some sort of mission and I find there's pretty much three different types of founders who have a mission:
There's the founder who has a mission and its total bullshit, you can tell they don't believe in it, it doesn't matter, they’re just pay lip-service to having a mission they don't really care about. There's people who are in the middle, which I think is the most common, where they might have a mission or a goal for their company and how it affects the world and they really do believe in it a care about it, but it's still mostly a means to end.
They recognize the prudence of having a mission and how that keeps them aligned, but they're not necessarily all in. It's not their life journey. They wouldn't give up the chance at a big pay-day to have this mission. Then there's founders like you, who actually, deeply care about the thing that you're working on, which in this case is independent journalism, is that fair to say?
What does that passion come from? Why do you care so much about something like that?
There's so many different angles to it. I think journalism, as a concept is one of the most important ideas that we have. At its most basic level, journalism is idea of informing people to better make decisions about their own lives or communities, specifically, of people, whether that's what to buy, who to vote for, it is giving people information needed to make decisions better.
The purpose of it is for society to be able to evolve more efficiently and to be a better-informed society than it started out as. I think that's an important idea in 2019, more than any other time, arguably. In 2019, more than at any other time, journalism has no money behind it.
It has no business model, it has no method of surviving. The notion of what we think journalism is has never been in a worse state as a result of that money drying up because a lot of it now is just click-bait, to get the last drabs of advertising that barely exists anymore. Trying to address that or fix that, in some way, feels like a meaningful problem to solve and there's people who need that problem to be solved.
From a product point of view, it’s just an interesting problem-solve. It's an interesting challenge to work on, to build publishing software. It's certainly not one of the easiest things you can do but it's got a lot of interesting nuances. My experience in working on WordPress was a comparable product in some ways, it was obviously a natural advantage in starting something like this.
It's funny because if you think about when you started Ghost, which was what? 2000-?
13? Back in those days, journalism was already under siege in a weird state, but it's only gotten worse. The 2016 elections blew things up, the continued rise of social media is really impacted things in weird way and your mission has only become more relevant over time. This is a business show.
We're talking about how to start a company and for most people, it's difficult just to get a profitable company off the ground, let alone start a company where they're having an impact on some mission that they care about. How do you achieve both of those things, simultaneously?
Really good question. There's probably a lot of different ways you can achieve it and I can give an answer from my own survivorship-bias point-of-view but keep in mind that what worked for me won't necessarily work for you. What worked for me was to go after the idea that seems not interesting, but the one I knew a lot about.
In 2013, the idea of starting, yet, another blogging platform was not a good one. It was not one where I thought, "This is the next Airbnb, this is going to be a huge thing", it was like, "Oh, who wants another blogging platform? That's not a good idea" but it was a problem that I deeply understood because of having worked on WordPress.
It was the obvious thing to work on, not the interesting thing to work on. In spite of not finding it a sexy idea, initially, I still kept coming back to it, because I could see the problems with WordPress and I could understand what the market of people using WordPress, at least a sub-set of them, really wanted.
I felt like I could do something better, but I was not convinced that it was interesting enough to be a viable product or a viable company. For me, the answer the obvious idea, which had an established market, had an established demand, in which I understood the nuances of what could be built and what should be built in that space. That's one answer.
It's funny because it's almost the opposite of what I would expect. I would except you to say, "I started with my passion, even though it was not a viable market and I didn't know much about it," but you took a very practical approach to getting here and now you're doing something that's supremely meaningful.
Do you feel like you've had to change your vision, change your views a lot since Ghost first started to get here or has it just been smooth sailing?
I don't know about smooth sailing, but we've been pretty dogged about maintaining the same vision. A lot of that was locked in, so another thing about choosing a non-profit up front is that you can't change.
I locked myself in to owning no part of the business, so when Ghost launched, if someone come along and offer me $10 million for the company, I couldn't take it because I don't own the company and that is a safeguard that makes the business relevant because it's going to stick around.
I can't change my mind at some point down the road and say, "Actually, I'm going to sell out on all the stuff I promised our users and our customers.” My word is legally behind what I'm saying, which is not something people do, usually.
That actually did come to fruition. In 2015, I was in San Francisco and we had some investors trying to convince us to do a series A and we were like, "We're a non-profit, we can't," and they were like, "We’ve got $10 million and we really think that you can go far," and we were like, "We're a non-profit, we can't."
And for all of my moral integrity and the strength of my beliefs, when you're sat opposite someone at a table saying, "We think this business could be big and we want to give you $10 million to support it,” not just saying that but them also saying, "This is your one opportunity, this is your one window to succeed, you do not want to squander this."
And this is not a random stranger, this is someone who's invested in GitHub and Airbnb, you are in an environment where you feel helpless to the powers and that everyone else surrounding you knows so much more than you do.
Your resolve waivers, no matter how much you believe something. Having the safeguard of, "I've already made this decision and I've legally locked myself into this decision,” I've never been more grateful for.
And, in hindsight, the power dynamics of that conversation that I was having were terrible. It was out and out manipulation of the kind, that there are movies and books about, of investors that are manipulating start-ups founders to get ahead. Still, it played out. That was exactly the purpose of having that structure.
To circle back to your question, we stuck completely to the mission that we had. In part because of the structure we had in place and in part because we've been able to, thanks to the business working and being profitable from year one, so we've always been sustainable. We're still on that path.
When we first spoke, Ghost was pretty far from being a super early-stage company. You were making high six-figures in revenue every year but now you're much bigger than that. I'm interested to talk about the differences, some of the things that an early-stage founder might look forward to or might have to expect as their business grows.
I think it's a really interesting subject for me. There's a lot of information out there about starting something. Previously, more around traditional start-ups. Increasingly, thanks to sites like Indie Hackers, there's more information out there about how to bootstrap stuff and get started.
There's a massive amount of information at the other end of the spectrum, from running large companies and management theories and corporate structures and fucking holacracy and shit like that. There's this middle that's not really talked about, this sort of gap between, "Oh, you've passed initial traction", you've got $100-$200,000 a year in revenue, that's real business for a few people.
That's a real business, that's meaningful, that's succeeding, but it's not big enough to have all those problems be naturally solved, "Just hire a bunch of people and throw them in the problem.” No, there's a big gap between the first couple of 100K a year of revenue and then feeling moderately comfortable and like you can do stuff, which I feel like that point happened for us around $1.5 million a year.
That's a big gap.
That's a really big gap. There's not a lot of people talking about, "Oh, how do you get from one to the other and what changes between one and the other? I don't have all the answers to that either, but I think it's an interesting thing to talk about. I think the biggest thing that changes both in revenue growth from point A to point B as well as in company H, I guess, the last time we spoke, we must've been four or five people?
I'm not completely sure-- I was hands on everywhere and every single decision, every single thing happening at the company, I'll be involved in versus today. We're 15 people now, so we're just starting to be at the point, which is still tiny in everyone's eyes, by the way, where we have more than one team.
There's an infrastructure team, there's a product team, and there's a business team now, and each one of those has its own goals and its own meetings and is starting to have its own road map. I'm not necessarily involved in every single decision about every single thing that ships. That's a completely different frame of mind being as a founder and to transition from one to the other is a journey in and of itself.
How do you hire people and find the right people that you can give the level of autonomy to, where you're transitioning from a founder who controls everything, and you can feel pretty confident that things are done well because your hand is in every pot, but now you have to give up that psychological control, which I know it can be hard to do. How do you hire people who you can trust and not feel bad about it?
There's a great quote about this I saw the other day, I'm going to butcher it, but I'll try, which is, "In the early days of being a start-up, you have to be involved in every single detail and care about every single micro decision that gets made. If and when a start-up succeeds, you have to stop doing that."
The very thing that is a strength in the beginning is an immediate liability if and when you achieve any sort of success, so it's this complete dichotomy of you need a skill set in the beginning, which will kill your business if you don't change it later on. Finding people at the right stage with the right set of skills and the right set of values is always difficult.
Particularly, when you're not fulling one or the other. I'm still involved in a lot. Maybe not everything anymore, but still a lot. I'm not sure if there's a succinct answer to this other than finding people who believe what you believe and working closely enough with them so that they understand how you think and how you make decisions and frame their own work against the same trajectory as what you're hoping to achieve. Beyond that, there's a lot of trial and error of figuring thing out together.
One of the things that struck me about Ghost in the early days was that it was a very well thought out product. It was exceptionally well designed, even just the landing pages, you can tell a lot of care went into those. As you grow, and you're delegating these tasks to other people who don't have your same personality, necessarily, your same set of skills and you have to give that up.
I think it's easy for the quality of your product to slip and the number of things to you have to focus on increases, you can't give things as much attention as you did earlier on. Yet, you just release Ghost 3.0 and it seems like it's even better than the original Ghost. It's getting better as you get bigger. What contributes to that?
How do you make that happen as your company gets bigger? Is being a non-profit and having a long term view, does that contribute at all?
It's all good determination, in many workouts. I'm not sure if non-profit helps or hinders or has much impact in this area, but it's one of the most difficult things to maintain, also. It's something I think a lot about and I think one of the reasons why it becomes so difficult to delegate is if you have a quality bar, which you can set it to be your reputation, which we very much do. Maintaining that bar, not even aspirational, it's not even like, "Oh we aspire to maintain the level of quality we have now", which is not even a goal, it's like, "We can't fall below this line because then we'll lose what we've already got."
Which is just an interesting framing because it doesn't feel like it's something worth shooting for, but it does feel like it's something that can't let go. It's not an easy thing to maintain. Particularly in design, I think design is one of the hardest just because a brand's voice, whether visual or the words used or the tone of the company, are crucial, particularly, when you're connecting with an early audience who that resonates with.
Maintaining that is not easy, so I almost have no useful answer at all to this other than yes, it's incredibly difficult and yes, you have to continue to focus on it and yes, the more people you add to the team, the harder it becomes for that not to get diluted.
What kind of tradeoffs do you have? I think, very often, if you want to have some stringent standard like, "Our design quality cannot fall below this bar," you can do that but you have to make a sacrifice in some other area of your business. What kind of trade-offs have you made for Ghost since it's grown?
Hour worked per day is the obvious one, right? Implementation time. Almost all things you can ship a shitty MVP version pretty quick. In a lot of cases, that's the thing you should do and that's the correct decision.
In other cases, it's worth taking the extra week, it's worth taking the extra bit of time or number of iterations to get something right so that it resonates more strongly with an audience because you get one chance to make a first impression, right? Whether it's with a new product or a new feature or a new thing.
Often, there's a bias towards shipping quickly but sometimes, it comes at the expense of making a good enough impression to even get an early user base. That's a balance that you constantly to weigh in terms of falling between the right lines and not shipping too fast and not waiting too long. We've built a reputation on being a well-designed platform and for us to maintain that is important. That's something we think about a lot.
One of the things that I struggle with as Indie Hackers gets bigger, and I think a lot founders struggle with, is that your to-do list continually grows. The number of things that you discover, you should be doing or want to be doing never gets smaller, it just gets bigger and bigger, even as you're crossing things off that list, and you have to somehow prioritize, what you’re going to build.
In the early days, as a founder, you're just trying to make your first dollar in revenue, you can really determine a lot of what you need to build because it's the bare minimum that your customers need. When you're a little bit more mature, it turns out that you've got that covered.
You've built Ghost as a platform, people like using it and now, you've got a wide array of options that you can choose to pursue. You just released Ghost 3.0. How do you, as a later-stage founder, determine what kind of features are worth focusing on, what's going to help you grow and accomplish your mission?
There's a great book. The title escapes me, but I'll ask Courtland to put a link in the show next after this. It's written by the guy who I think he invented WebKit and he invented the original iOS keyboard. It's about how things were designed at Apple during that peak Apple, so 2006 to 2008, 2009, whatever you want to consider that period as.
It's a really interesting book, I highly recommend it. The big take away from the book is that best products at Apple came out of a small group of people building prototypes and iterating on them and having a deep connection to the problem that they were trying to solve quickly. We kind of have a similar philosophy in terms of how we think about products.
It's driven a lot, internally, by the things we believe to be true about the market we're in, about the use case we're trying to solve, and about our own experience solving those use cases. I think in product development, there's almost an over emphasis on listening to the customer and lean customer development or lean product development by talking to customers and customer interviews.
While all of those things are valuable, they should be one tool in your tool set, not the sole tool. You can get a lot of false information from customers by asking the wrong questions or by asking the right questions to the wrong people and these things can often lead you down a huge distracting path versus your own direct experience of solving a problem and understanding deeply the problem you're solving from your own experience of being the user.
We try and balance listening to what people are saying and what people are asking for and that’s almost just the really short-term road map. Then, there's the stuff we want to do that we care about and that's kind of the medium-term road map. Then, the long-term road map is really fueled by what we believe to be true about the world and where we think the entire market and industry is going and what our competitors are doing around us and what's happening in the state of humanity that is changing, which is the more relevant, long-term goal.
I'll give you three, more tangible, quick examples of that. People were asking, last year, a lot about responsive images and how to do translated content in Ghost. That was something I've been asked about so often that it was hard to ignore, so we added those features in Ghost 2.0 and a lot of those requests went away. It wasn't a thing that we were super passionate about solving, there were already work-arounds that could solve all of those things, but we made it a bit easier and that was cool.
Memberships and subscriptions are something we've been thinking about for years or so, that we just launched in 3.0, that enables a whole new business model for news or publishers in general, and that feels important and we care about it a lot. It took a long time to get there. Then, the trajectory of Ghost is, for 10-20 years, being around as a starting point.
That means that the business has to be sustainable. It can't just be burning through investor dollars until they run out and then disappear. In many ways, our strategy is to outlast the competition.
In a lot of ways, the world is moving to be more de-centralized, more privacy focused. We've always had that angle but that's only started to become trendy in the last 12-18 months. Making sure we're going to be compatible with whatever that future world's going to look like.
Are you simultaneously doing these quick, easy, requested features in combination with your medium-term outlook, in combination with your long-term outlook? Or are you oscillating between all three of these, every couple weeks? What does it look to try to balance all this stuff?
You're right because a lot of people say stuff like this and then is like, "Okay, but how do I apply this in reality?" When I listen to podcasts, that's a frustration I have, like, "That sounds great, but how the fuck do I do all that stuff?" More practically, we work in cycles, like Basecamp do, so we have six-week product cycles.
We have a set of work that we think can be done in six-weeks and that's what we're going to do and then there's a two-week gap of bug-fixing and planning for the next cycle. You end up with six- cycles per year. Everything we plan to do, whether it's a user requested feature, a medium-term plan, or a long-term plan, is going to fit into one of these cycles in some way.
Practically, six times per year, we do planning and in those six times per year, we decide how many small things, how many big things and how many things in between are we going to take on. It varies, so usually the beginning of a calendar year is like, "Here's some big things we're going to take on for the whole year.”
It's just a natural point to do that type of planning. Then, usually, there'll be one cycle in the middle of the year where we go, "Okay, we're just going to do these user requested features because people have been making so much noise about this for so long.”
It changes, it oscillates at the points of the cycles and the cycles are quite helpful for, one, being able to say no the rest of the time. When people are coming in with requests, we're like, "Cool, we’ve made a note, but we're not going to think about now, we're going to think about it in six-weeks’ time, or whenever the gap for the next six-week cycle is. Also, for them, when you get to that gap, taking stock and going, "Are we still doing the right things or should we change the plan of what we're doing so far this year?" It both allows you to go faster and not go too fast, which is really helpful.
I think you've made any easily identifiable mistakes and what you plan on working on in the last couple of years since we've spoken. What are your thoughts on why that happened and how do you correct?
We've definitely made mistakes. We've been quite fortunate not to make very many big mistakes. General judgment has been on our side. I think the most significant ones have been in overly ambitious engineering projects, which we underestimated up front.
A really practical example of this is there's a two login problem with manage service, which is called Ghost Pro. Ghost the product is an open-source piece of software and you have a user account, with an email and a password, but it's de-centralized, so every instance is separate, so we have a hosting service, where you also have a username and a password or an email address and a password.
People sign up and they create these two different accounts, because that's the only way you can do it. It's the same if you were to set up a WordPress site or something that was self-hosted, but they forget that there's two accounts and so there's a massive amount of confusion about, "Oh, how come I've got a log in for ghost.org but then that's not the same as the log in for my site? I don't understand."
That came up enough times that we were like, "Okay, we're going to solve this and we're going to solve it with OAuth", so we're going to have a "log-in with Ghost" button. That necessitates that you build this centralized service, which can serve requests by this "login with Ghost" button and then you'd have this magical ubiquitous flow of just one log in to rule them all, you can log in to all your Ghost sites with one log in and that would also be your billing account, sounds great.
In practice, one, OAuth is terrible as a spec to work with and two, it didn't solve anything. It just introduced new problems because now, we could have this one log in and we spent six months building this, at least, with five people on and off, at least two full-time. Now, you could log in with one log in and then what happens if you log out?
Well, there's a problem we didn't think about. What happens? Do you get logged out one site? Do you get logged out of your site and your billing account? Do you get logged out of your site and your billing account and all the other sites you have set up? What if I'm a guest author on your site, but I also own my own site and I have one log in for both, but you kick me out of yours?
Do I get logged out of your site and my site or just one? There's just a whole host of new problems of this de-centralized architecture. In hindsight, building this big log in with Ghost's centralized thing was not a problem we ever should have taken on. Not a lot of people have a log in with X buttons, why is that? Because it's a really difficult thing to solve, that's why Twitter do it and Google do it, but Basecamp don't. It's not an easy to solve.
There's been a few projects like that that have probably represented our biggest mistakes, where we've taken on something that big companies do, because we felt big tech start-ups, they do it, that's the thing people want and that's the thing we need to do. We have to do the same to compete or to, at least, be helped in the same regard.
It doesn’t make sense because they have 100 engineers for that one log in button and we have two engineers for a whole company. Eventually, we threw that whole system out. We rolled it back, we got rid of the whole thing and we've tried to be better about identifying these things in advance.
As a result, we're more careful about the engineering challenges we take one when we compare ourselves to other products out there and other features, we go, "How big is the team working on that? Because if we're realistically going to do something similar, we shouldn't be taking on a challenge when we're competing against a team of 300 people working on this one feature.”
Biggest problems: over ambitious engineering rather than what we should have done, and what we're increasingly doing now, is authentication less no-factor authentication, so magic email links. That's a really easy thing to do and it solves the same problem. You put in your email address, you get a link, it logs you in.
You link it and that's it?
That's it. No one has to remember anything. It's like every link is a password reset link. It immediately solves having two log in. It solves anyone having to remember any details. It solves centralized versus de-centralized and it’s a trivial thing to implement. It’s not hard at all and that was the decision we should have made that we have arrived at now.
It's funny because you mentioned Google and these bigger companies doing this and they don't even have it figured out. If you share a Google Doc to my personal account and I click it, I'm logged into three different accounts. Google's like, "Which account do you want to open it with?" and it’s like, "It only belongs to one of my accounts, Google. You figure it out."
No matter which one you click on, it's a redirect loop.
Exactly, it's super hard. It's a tough problem and I think this a problem that, even talking a lot about how things have changed as Ghost has gotten bigger, but this is a problem that existed every phase of a company. I've talked to a ton of early stage founders who their number one problem is their eyes are bigger than their stomach.
They keep trying to code these things and do things that huge companies do and it's like, "You are an Indie Hacker. Just do the super small, simple version of it and that'll be much better."
The problem with any degree of success, at any stage at any business, is that your ambitions grow with your success level, like anything in life. The thing that was your dream or your goal, there's a name for this. Is it the Dunning-Kruger Effect? No, it's the other one, right? Where your ambitions will always grow.
Whatever your goal is today, once you achieve it, that will become your new normal and you'll come up with new goals and the same is true for product development and your ideas of what you could do. You have to balance it.
Jeff Bezos has a good quote about having a long-term vision for the future where he talks about the default thing to do. Just look at what's changing in the world, what are the trends, what's new, and what's upcoming, but his personal vision is to do the exact opposite and ask, "What doesn't change? What's still going to be the same 10-15 years from now? We're going to focus on that as a company," and that's Amazon, obviously.
With Ghost, I don't know how true or how useful that model would be because you're dealing with the publishing industry with writing, which is changing pretty rapidly. Amazon is selling products, which I'm not going to say is not changing, but people are just going to buy mops 10 years from now, I'm pretty sure. Your estimation, what are some things that haven't changed and won't change in the future with publishing?
I think Jeff Bezos's example, that one is shipping times, right? People are always wanting to have—
more fast shipping.
No matter what. Ten years from now, people are not going to want to get something they order on the internet any slower, so invest heavily in infrastructure and delivery. It makes a lot of sense for fulfillment. It makes perfect sense. From Ghost's point-of-view, there's a few things which definitely won't change.
I think the world needs journalism and that's not going to change and there'll be a desire to do some form of journalism, storytelling, content creation, sharing, no matter which way you want to frame it. I would argue that a lot of these new YouTubers are a new form of journalism and, the very least, new form of publishing.
I don't think that's going away, although the format's in which that takes shape probably will. I would offer the hypothesis that someone will always want the written word. I think a lot of formats do come and go but the written word is the cheapest to distribute and the most broadly understood, the most easily translatable, the most data friendly in terms of band width, and there will always be some form of published, written word that is unlikely to become completely irrelevant.
Those are probably the only two big constants that I think about. Like you say, I think everything else is evolving pretty quickly. I think the next 10 years, definitely, something that we are going to see more is publishers that are trying to earn a living and that overlaps with the Indie Hackers maker-creator audience, as well, in terms of people trying to make an independent living, start a small business and sustain themselves.
Generational studies, we're Gen. Z, whatever is coming next after millennials, is just starting to enter the job market for the first time and a lot of the early signs show that they are equally entrepreneurial, if not more than the generation before them.
I think that's not going to change. I think we're going to see a lot people trying to start their own thing, work independently and have some form of financial independence, one way or another.
I think it's a fascinating topic. It's one I think about a lot, too. Obviously, running Indie Hackers. We're entering a golden era of the individual maker making a living online by themselves. Especially now, Ghost 3.0 helps facilitate that.
You're allowing to set up their own publication, write for their own audiences and charge money for their content directly without having to set up a bunch of different individual pieces of that in a complex way. What are you seeing in that space? You think it's a growing area? You think Indie Hackers can succeed there and if so, what are their best options?
This whole space I'm massively excited about. No surprise, right? It's such an interesting point in so many different regards, in terms of what's possible for independent business owners, regardless of what you publish. You might publish codes, you might publish words, you might publish videos.
If you're putting something out into the world, I would argue that you're publishing it, and you have an audience for it, then you're a publisher. Where we are now in the more traditional kind of journalism space is for a while, you had advertising, and that worked great, then Google and Facebook came along, and they ate all of the advertising dollars. They just disappeared completely. Traditional media has no money anymore.
It has no money what-so-ever and it's all drying up, but we're starting to see new media business models succeed, like Ben Thompson's Stratechery, like smaller publications and here in San Francisco, like the information. People in Europe like The Correspondent, who've also just opened in the U.S., were aligning the incentives of an audience, who get value from content that's been produced and being willing to pay for it directly, are able to do so thanks to technology like Stripe with recurring subscription payments and that's getting easier and easier.
There’re people starting to have more and more success with it and then you've got the whole new creator movement with Patreon and even Open Collective, to a lesser extent, on the open-source site. There's this new wave of Indie businesses, which realizing that the internet is now big enough to support niche businesses. Niche businesses are no longer tiny.
A niche business can be a big business because having a very specialized thing now has a large enough audience to be able to actually make money from it. Software is the first example we've got there. We had on-premise software and now we have Software as a Service, whereas 20 years ago, no one would pay for something in a cloud, now, I can't imagine having a piece of software that it comes on a CD or that doesn't live in a cloud.
Why would it not be in the cloud? Paying subscriptions to stuff's completely normal but there's all these other business sectors, which could have subscription payments but it's not easy. Right now, you still need a competent developer to understand the Stripe API and be good enough to work with it and build the same bit of subscription billing over and over again.
We tried with Ghost 3.0 to solve this problem for publishers and we build memberships and subscription billing directly with Stripe into Ghost. Within under 10 minutes, if you have an existing Stripe account, you can set up a website, you can connect to subscription payments and you can start getting customers immediately.
I think that's the first move towards a new type of business model that, I think, is going to become more ubiquitous just as we've seen e-commerce explode and e-commerce platforms enable a lot of that. I think subscription commerce has a very healthy future and platforms, I hope including Ghost and like Ghost, will make that easier and easier overtime.
I think for Indie Hackers and Indie Makers, what we've built now is almost like a good prototype. You need a site, you need user sign-ups and you want to be able to bill these people monthly, you could set up a Ghost instance, which does all those things, and then you can focus on building your product.
The only thing you have to do is connect the user system at some point so that your members have access to whatever it is you've built, written, created, whatever it is. It's almost a good step in the door even for potentially no-code movement, start-up founders, people who are interested and getting an MVP out as quick as possible. I think in practice, that whole space is going to grow tremendously as we have more and more people building stuff.
I think if you're a writer, you look at the ecosystem and it's just so many options for where you should be publishing content. Should it be on social media, on Facebook and Twitter, where you can build a following?
Should you be starting a newsletter, where you can collect email addresses and then keep those to yourself? Should you be on a platform like Medium or should you start your own blog that you host?
Should you install Ghost? How do you think people should think about this array of options? I realize that you're biased here as a person who runs Ghost. Maybe a better question is why choose Ghost or some of these other platforms if you're trying to make a living for yourself?
I'm very biased, but I'll try and give an honest answer. Previously, the answer for why not to use Ghost, maybe that's a good place to start, is the distribution mechanism. The biggest advantage Twitter and Medium definitely had, past tense, was that you could go and write there and the network affects you would get would mean you could grow an audience from nothing.
You could write something, hit publish and it would find an audience and that audience could grow much more effectively than on the open web, where you could just publish into the ether and never know if anyone's read it. I think what we are starting to see now is social media feels like it's a little bit on its last leg, or at the very least on the way down.
Medium is just pop-up hell now. Unless you agree to put your content behind their paywall, they don't distribute it via their network at all anymore. That doesn't happen. The network effect is gone. The reason why Ghost is important, or why we think it’s important, is because no matter what happens with network effects or anything else, you still own the platform.
If any of these other companies get sold or shut down or change, your writing disappears with them. Open Source movements always hypothesize that that would happen but there weren't very many examples of it actually happening enough to scare people into really believing it.
Whereas, in the last few years, we've really seen the dark sides of what could happen with companies being bought and sold with data being leaked with centralized players, with massive amounts of data not necessarily being the best stewards for it. Increasingly, people are starting to care about this.
I think, increasingly, we're starting to see better de-centralized options, which still solve the network effect. We've got ActivityPubs back, which powers things like Mastodon, as an alternative to Twitter. We're starting to see better options that are not just in the centralized space.
If you're going to choose a platform, my advice is to choose something that you own, not just the copyright to your content, but choose something where you control how your content lives. Can someone else shut you down? If they can, I would argue you don't own anything or control it.
Then, figure out your marketing from there. Publish on something you own and figure out your distribution however you want. Distribution always changes, but ownership of content is consistent.
You're not taking a cut of the revenue that people make from Ghost's site.
No, we take 0%. That's the best bit. If you want to use Ghost memberships and subscriptions to get your business off the ground, we're not a middleman. No level of revenue can you scale to where Ghost is making more.
I think it's interesting because a lot of companies have what essentially looks like bait and switch over a long-time time horizon, where everyone's like, "My Facebook page is growing so well. This is like the new Medium," and then Facebook clamps down.
It starts limiting who you can access, starts charging you money, and people move off of Facebook. A lot of people-built publications on Medium and now the most common story I hear is people moving off of Medium because it's almost predatory.
I think there's a lot of merit to building on a free and open-source platform, where you guys have no incentive to screw anyone over or take their subscribers or do anything like that for the indefinite future. In fact, it probably would be impossible for you to even do that.
It would be. Maybe this is a good point to pull on in terms of your audience. When you're the early stages of building any Indie Hackers business or any business, I think one of the best consistent thought exercises you could have is, "How do you align your incentives with the incentives of your audience or your customers for the long term?”
If you do that, there's few ways in which you can lose. The decisions you're making, the things you're building will over time be better and better for your users and your customers. It's very difficult for that to get turned on its head or turn around. Whereas, if you're doing something, which overtime will get worse and worse for your customer, say taking a 10% payment transaction fee or if I take 10% of your $1,000 a month, hypothetical revenue.
Probably fine but over 10 years, if you scale your revenue to a few million or a few hundred million, well suddenly, you're paying a completely outsized amount for me providing the exact same service, just at a slightly higher level. The economics are getting worse for you and better for me. If that's the case, you're probably going to want to move off, go to a different competitor or do something completely different.
Versus if you are paying the same amount but getting more value from using Ghost overtime, then that's going to be better for you. This is a very trivial example, but if you can align your incentives with that of your audience then they will continue to be happy with you as you continue to be happy with the market that you're in.
These things solve themselves. It's where the incentive don't align, and advertising is a perfect example of this, where overtime, things tend to go to shit as people figure out you've got their private data and you're selling it and they don't like that and you've leaked all of it.
Some guy calls Alex, I can't remember what his name is, from Cambridge Analytica, and now has the keys to your whole personal life. That's a good thread to come back to in terms of aligning incentives, as much as possible solves a lot of difficult questions
I think one of the biggest worries that an early stage Indie Hacker has is just growth. A lot of the times, their just worried, "Is anyone going to read what I'm writing? Is anyone going to buy what I'm selling?" I think that creates some of the allure for these platforms that promise to help with distribution, where they have a built-in distribution network.
Running Ghost and seeing so many different people making money from their blogs and their websites, what's your advice for somebody who is trying to figure out how to grow and they're in the very early stages?
I think, in a lot of ways, finding the audience is almost the more difficult, initial problem and the more important initial problem than what the idea that you have is because it's such an instant mechanism for feedback and validation.
When Ghost started, I already had 15,000 followers on Twitter, and I've been writing a blog for a few years. I already had an audience to validate product ideas against. In conversations like this is someone says, "Oh, validate your idea. Ask people what they think," but if you've got nobody to ask or you've only got a very small statistically not significant group of people to ask, then your data is not going to be very good.
Building an audience is an unbelievably valuable thing to do, whether that's by blogging, podcasting, starting a YouTube channel, whatever it is you want to do, building any kind of audience ideally within the market you want to sell to or create something for is one of the best things that you can do, full-stop. It'll give you the ability to get feedback on whether or not an idea is even good.
If it is a good idea, it will get natural traction. If something is a good idea, people will bite your head off to take it. I had all sorts of business ideas before Ghost, which I wrote blog posts about, and got no traction or that I launched and got no traction. All they got were vanishingly, frustratingly small amounts of traction that felt like there might be something there but there wasn't.
When I first wrote the blog post about Ghost, it was 300,000 views in a week. A quarter of a million and 30,000 email addresses in my opt-in form. That was instant, "Okay, this is what I have to focus on."
I think finding any mechanism for getting that feedback and being able to have any kind of audience is so valuable and it requires nothing other than creating something, putting something out into the world and talking to your peers.
Having conversations, any form of creating something and interacting will start to build that audience but just building products in a box without talking to anyone rarely leases success.
One of the things you mentioned is that the internet hitting full-speed now-a-days is enabling all sorts of people to create different businesses they've never been able to create just because the niches that you can target.
You can be so specific and so idiosyncratic with what you're working on and there's still hundreds of thousands of people on the internet who want that. My favorite visual example is imagine you live in a town with 100,000 people and you start a business that 10 people care about.
It's probably not sustainable, it's not enough but if 10 out of 100,000 people on the internet cared about that, that's millions of people and suddenly you can create a business of the likes which could never have even existed.
We live in a world where now there's millions of unexplored ideas and things people haven't created that they could eventually create and almost no matter how specific and weird your interests are, you can create a YouTube channel for that, you can write a blog about that, you could have a newsletter about that and people will probably take an interest if you can find out where they are. What are some of the more interesting niches and weird things you've seen on Ghost, if any come to mind?
There's so many, including some very bizarre and creative forms of pornography, which defy belief in terms of just how specific they are and how big the apparent audience is for them.
I think this is such an important point for Indie Hackers in particular because if you haven't gotten that first idea yet or you haven't necessarily found any successful idea yet, it's very easy to look around and see success and start-ups and big ideas and big audiences and read books where they say, "Everything has to be a $1 billion idea" and think "No idea is good unless it's the next Google or the next Airbnb or the next whatever." It's such an anti-pattern for what can be a really successful independent business.
Weirdly, there's a weird parallel here because a lot of local newspapers and news organizations, particularly in the U.S., went out of business as a result of getting this wrong. What happened with the internet evening the plane field of distribution was that local news orgs all over the world, especially in the U.S., started covering more and more global news. News outside of their immediate communities.
Whatever the leading newspaper in Kansas is would previously cover local issues. Now, they also cover not just national elections, but also what's happening in China and what's going on the internet and around the world. Initially, publishers found out the more and more they publish, the more clicks they'd get and the more clicks they'd get, the more ad dollars they get.
Publishing more and more things, which were useful to as many people as possible, getting the largest, shallowest audience as possible, was the thing that paid off. Eventually, that put him out of business because the Kansas Tribune or whatever the generic small-town newspaper you want to pick can't compete with The New York Times. It can't compete with the national, global publishers.
Where the global publishers can't compete where the Kansas Tribune absolutely could is in what's happening in Kansas, like what are the issues of one particular community that are absolutely irrelevant and not interesting to the rest of the world. The same is true for so many business ideas.
There are so many communities which are missing key products, which they would pay for. Key communities or newspapers that they would pay for but then no one is serving because it's not a big enough or not a sexy enough idea. I think a lot of times thinking smaller can lead to much bigger success than trying to be the next V.C. backed, enormous thing.
Increasingly, there's great examples of this. In the publishing space, you've got lots of new people on Substack and there's people making tens of thousands of dollars off newsletters about specific economic issues in China. One of my favorite newsletters, Stratechery by Ben Thompson, is really deep economic analysis of the tech industry. Ben is doing great, he's doing incredibly well.
He made millions of dollars five years ago from his subscribers, like I imagine today.
Right, and he writes one blog post a day. For a very specific group of people, people who work in tech who have very specific demands. They want to know economic details of what’s happening in tech and who are willing to pay for it and are economically able to.
There's a lot more ideas like that I think are ignored. If you look at smaller communities who really do want something and who really are willing to pay for it, there are maybe one million people rather than a billion.
I think one of the challenges here is that people have this conception that people don't pay for content. You can log on to Twitter whenever you want, follow people, it's free. You can read a bunch of different blogs and subscriptions online for free.
Do you think that's changing? Do you think people are becoming more willing to pay for content and if so, how do you, as an Indie Hacker, find out what kind of content people find valuable enough to actually pay for?
I think the second part of that question is the most relevant part because I don't think it's changed that much. I think consumers are becoming more use to the idea of paying for things online, particularly subscriptions. We've got Spotify now, we've got Netflix, we've got Apple TV, we've got Apple Arcade, we've got any number of other services you care to mention, Dropbox.
Things that people are familiar with paying a few dollars a month for to the point where that's no longer a weird niche thing. That doesn't necessarily mean they want to pay for them. The thing people get wrong when they think about whether or not people are willing to pay for news, in particular, is if the Kansas Tribune covers the national elections and wants me to pay for a story about it, I'm probably not going to pay that because they probably don't have better coverage of that than anyone else.
If they cover something that is completely local to their own community that I can't get anywhere else, I'm absolutely going to pay for it. The question is, of uniqueness and of value, is the thing being produced. Is it genuinely valuable to someone? It's not just a vapid set of care gifts. Is it available elsewhere? Is it easily available elsewhere? Is it a commodity? Is it available elsewhere either for free or for very low cost?
If you can pass both of those tests, you're creating something of valuable that is reasonably unique, then I think it becomes very easy to get people to pay for something. A great example of this, TechCrunch has a paid section called The Extra Crunch and within The Extra Crunch, they have a 21-page PDF deep dive analysis of Patreon, the business.
They call it EC-1 and their idea of it is it's like an S1, which is the documents people file before they go public, but it's the independent version. They've done this massive analysis of Patreon, really in-depth. It's very fascinating to read. It's not available anywhere else. It's not an easy thing to produce. There's no one else who's made something like it.
Would you like to pay TechCrunch $10 a month and get access to this type of content? I'm very interested in Patreon as a business. There's a lot of overlap between what we're building and what Patreon builds, so yes. I would absolutely like access to this and that's the only place I can get it.
TechCrunch has produced something, which is of significant value that's very unique, and that makes the selling process, to me, very easy. If you can touch on things like that, which are very valuable to a specific community, the notion of paying for it becomes almost trivial.
It's like, "How quickly can I pay for it? Just give me the checkout form already. I can't believe this exists. This is awesome." The smallest amount of creativity of thinking about what do people really want, there are a lot more ideas out there, which are simply not the big click-bait things. They're not like, "What can be the most popular?" It's, "What could be the most valuable to a small group of people who really find it valuable?"
The intersection of being valuable and being unique. Which you certainly can't do if you're trying to compete in an area where there's tons of other people writing the exact same thing.
It's almost antithetical to being big. Don't try and think about what would be the most big or the most popular because that will take you down the exact opposite direction.
Right. That's what I like about Ben Thompson from Stratechery is no theatrics about being some big company. He's just one person like, "These are my views and I put a lot of heart and soul into them and research them, but I'm just Ben Thompson".
It's not some huge industry and I think people sometimes try to be way too big and too lofty and they don't realize just how much value there is in what you're saying. There’re other examples, too. I talked to Sam Parr who runs The Hustle a few months backs and he's got a new thing called Trends. They're also doing this in-depth research.
I've seen that.
Yeah and they're charging subscription fees and people are paying and signing up for it, so it's pretty cool to see that you're able to generate revenue from content. I never did it with Indie Hackers. I was doing interviews with people like you. Maybe it wasn't that unique.
Maybe there are a lot of other places you could go to get that kind of content, but I monetize through advertising. I wonder what your thoughts are on that business model now-a-days if you're trying to write content and monetize. How much sense does it make to do what I was doing and call up advertisers and sell slots?
Increasingly difficult. I think for podcasts and videos, there's still a pretty big market but getting more difficult. For written word, I think it's pointless, honestly. I don't think there's any stable living that could be made from display ads against the written word no matter what you do. It's getting worse.
Ad blockers are getting better and better, so it's getting worse and worse for publishers. I still think there's quite a lot that can be done in this space of brand deals, which we see YouTubers making millions from if you get to a certain size.
To pull back to an earlier thread, the incentives are very misaligned because you are not doing what's great for your audience. You're making money by what's good for the company that's advertising. You're not necessarily aligning the way in which you make money with value being provided to your audience and over the long run, that pans out and solves itself, which is that your audience are not going to get the best deal.
What I like so much about subscription-based publishing, of any description, is that the incentives are heavily aligned. The only way Ben Thompson can keep making money from Stratechery is if he continues to provide direct, unique value to his audience. The moment he stops doing that, the moment he stops serving them directly as customers, is when his revenue dries up. The interests are completely aligned.
The only way you can continue to succeed is to continue to serve an audience really well. I think for Indie Hackers, I know you're with Stripe now, but it could have worked. I think a niche community with tangible advice for people looking to do something similar to the types of people who you interview is something I certainly would have paid for when I was starting out.
Particularly, if there's really substantive advice of the kind that is readily available for funded start-up founders, there's so much great advice if you want to go and raise funding or run a venture-back business. There's an incredible amount of advice and YC is almost like that type of community. I think Indie Hackers may be still could be something like that.
I think a really good point you mentioned about the incentives, because I was only selling ads for Indie Hackers for maybe two or three months before we got acquired by Stripe, so I didn't get to go down this rabbit hole too deeply, but a month and a half into it, I was already at the point where certain advertisers were requesting certain changes to Indie Hackers content, "Can you do this? Can you change your website like this?"
It's like you say, these are the people paying your paycheck. That's how you're making money and it's very easy to listen to them and that's not what your users want. You're pulled into these two different directions and I can't even imagine what's going on as some of the bigger media companies that are primarily ad funded.
What are they writing about that they wouldn't be writing about if they weren't dependent on advertiser dollars? What are they afraid to write about because advertisers will pull their funding?
That's a slippery slope that you can follow as far as you want down, and it never starts out being the fairest. It starts out as, "Hey, can you not mention this here?" Then, you've got a massive contract where you would not be able to pay your rent if you lost this advertising contract and now the advertiser wants the top story of the day deleted because it doesn't quite suit their interests.
What do you do? It'll be nice to say, "I would not pay my rent," but when you're faced with that scenario, reality might be very different. The simplicity of aligned incentives has a lot to answer for.
I, a while back, was reading some blog post or other about being a founder and dealing with competition. I think they have some practice questions on there, "What would you do if this was your type of competitor? What would you do if Google decided to open up its coffers and start funding or building a competitor product?”
I think someone responded and they're like, "You know what's even scarier than that? What would you do if a competent, free, and open-source product appeared on the scene and they started competing with you? What are you going to do then?"
It's funny talking to you because I've always thought about this from the point of view of the founder that has to deal with that, but you are that scary. You're the one who’s entering the scene that others have to worry about. Do you feel like Ghost is disrupting the industry?
We're in a unique position in two points there because on the one hand, yes, we're the open-source thing, but also our biggest competitor, or the most established alternative platform is also an open-source thing, which is WordPress, of course. It's a double-edged sword from that point-of-view.
It's almost like a baseline requirement to compete in this particular space, is to already be open-source because you've already had that one major platform be open-source. Competition is an interesting one. I think in some cases, yes. There's a couple of closed-source competitors who are struggling to find business models and increasingly the prevalence of really competent open-source platforms is becoming harder and harder to compete with, for them.
In other cases, no because there's some enterprise-ish solutions which require, more-so, a big sales and account management team than they do a competent piece of technology. It's bizarre how much that's true once you get to the upper end of the market. Big companies don't buy the best piece of software.
They buy the piece of software with the best sales and account management team, which is a really weird thing once you learn it. The quality of the product has nothing to do with it. It's how well do you manage their RFP process and contract and all the bullshit that they throw at you of, "Can you do LDAP?" and all these other weird types of authentication.
If you can do that then you get the contract for a very large amount and if you can't, then you don't. At no point does someone say, "Is the product any good?" In that end of the space, no it makes no difference at all. It's a little bit of a spectrum.
Listen, John. We could probably talk for six more hours. I have a ton of questions I would love to ask about being a profitable open source business, but maybe for a third episode at some point in the future. Thanks so much for doing this and taking the time. Congratulations on launching Ghost 3.0. Can you tell listeners where they can go to learn more about what you're up to at Ghost and what you're up to personally, if you still share that kind of stuff online, if you're still doing your vlogs?
For sure. You can find me on Twitter @johnonolan and I've actually just launch, fittingly enough, my very own page publication, much like Stratechery, publication and newsletter, which is members only, so eating my own dog food, very much.
You can subscribe to it? How much is it?
That's on rediverge.com. Right now, it's early access beta pricing, which is, think it's $5 a month or if you're like, "Hmm, this seems good. $20 for a whole year." That pricing's going to go up as soon as the early slots sell out. I'm establishing an early audience and then I'll put the prices up after that.
I'm using it as a way to do all the things we've been talking about for the last hour, so be able to publish more openly, more freely, share more about the behind the scenes of Ghost, behind the scenes of running a remote, independent business and publish for a smaller audience, where you can talk more freely and talk about the realities without the fear of public judgment, of all of Twitter.
It's a really cathartic exercise for me and being able to write more openly and for a really specific audience of people who are interested in this type of stuff. If you're interested, that's the best place to find what I'm up to right now.
All right, thanks so much John.
Listeners, if you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you took the time to reach out to John and let him know. You can find him at rediverge.com or on Twitter @johnonolan. Also, if you're interested in my thoughts and take a ways from this episode, you should subscribe to the Indie Hackers podcast newsletter. That's over at indiehackers.com/podcast. Thanks so much for listening and I will see you next time.
Did you know the Indie Hackers podcast has a newsletter?
Sign up to get insights, takeaways, and exclusive content from each new episosde, directly from the host, Courtland Allen.