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A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged ghost

Ever since Ghost – the lightweight publishing platform – looked like it would actually happen, co-founder John O’Nolan has been talking about it facilitating journalism. And he’s been putting Ghost’s resources where his mouth is – several students of mine have had free Ghost(pro) accounts for the length of their studies, and one group ran a site on it for the (now defunct) online journalism module at City.

Ghost is taking that commitment a whole step further, as they announced today, with Ghost for Journalism:

Journalism by Ghost

We’ve created the very first Ghost Journalism Development program to find and work with three great new publications.

Our goal is to find three fantastic new publishers to work with and help them grow their audiences throughout 2017, as we build out these features (and others) explicitly around their needs. In addition, we’ll be offering up $45,000 in Ghost(Pro) credit, along with access to our internal tools, data, and technology partners.

This is basically an offer to become your hosting and technology team for a year, for free. That’s your second biggest cost – after people – out of the equation for the first year of a journalism startup. That’s huge.

Scaring up some revenue for journalism

What’s the other major problem with a journalism startup? Revenue, of course. That’s why Medium is taking a step back to explore it – and Ghost wants to work with its partners in this scheme to help figure out some useful models. And they’re willing to put development time behind it. The major next step in the platform’s development is around making money from your content.

Ghost has three priorities:

  1. Memberships: Logged-in experiences for visitors & better data for publishers
  2. Subscriptions: Content delivered directly to readers, wherever they are
  3. Payments: Integrations to allow publishers to build new revenue models

All three of these are direct revenue models that could potentially help support niche sites – and the future is niche sites, unless you have truly massive scale. I’ve been planning a switch to Ghost for a while, and this is even more of an incentive for me to just get on with it. I’ve been keen to launch a membership model for this site, providing deeper analysis for busy people in journalism, in a model not unlike that of Ben Thompson’s Stratechery – which i subscribe to and read avidly – and this has the potential to turn Ghost into a one stop shop for those sorts of business models.

Why is Ghost getting itself enmeshing in one of the biggest challenges for journalism in such a public way? I asked John, and this is what he said:

So many reasons. But really it all boils down to one core truth: No amount of features or good design for a platform matter if journalists aren’t getting paid.

Can’t argue with that.

By no means am I suggesting that we have the all in one solution to fixing that problem, but providing a platform which independent journalists can build on top of to easily take payments directly – is solid a prerequisite to anything else.

Being able to build something like TheInformation or Stratechery is something which should be widely available, easy to set up, and free from the impending fear of a VC-backed overlord shutting it down. That’s the goal 🙂

Indeed, the aim of building something new – with new revenue models – pretty much demands that you adopt a really tight approach to costs. And if what you’re selling is content – and the intelligence that underlies it – technology’s main job is to facilitate that, not to be a competitive advantage that you spend huge sums on developing. That’s a mistake we need to stop making.

The sort of journalism Ghost is looking for

If you’re interested, here’s the sorts of startups they’re looking for:

  • Local, political, social, cultural and investigative reporting
  • Scientific, economic and philosophical analysis
  • Journalism about journalism (ooo meta)
  • Memberships, subscriptions & audience engagement
  • New revenue models for journalism
  • Use of emerging tech like chatbots, data, VR & APIs

Don’t hang around though – you’ve got around a month – but it looks like people have been pretty interested in the announcement:

Once you’ve got an idea and team, applications close on February 15th.

Here’s an actual product moving overseas thanks to the UK government’s moves on digital privacy (as opposed to a notional one):

The UK’s newly elected Conservative government recently pledged to scrap the Human Rights Act – which includes trivial rights such as “respect for your private and family life” and “freedom of expression”. The Netherlands, by contrast, has some of the strongest privacy laws in the world, with real precedents of hosting companies successfully rejecting government requests for data without full and legal paperwork.

Ghost is much written about in these parts – and may well be the future home of this blog.

The move isn’t just about the political situation – it’s driven by a hosting partnership with Digital Ocean – but it’s interesting to note nonetheless.

If you’re reading this, I’ve pulled off a technical challenge I’ve been putting off for years – literally years – now. This blog is now running on WordPress, rather than Movable Type.

It’s not been an easy move – and I’ll outline the process in another post – but it’s now complete, and this site is living on a new host, running new software in the background. And I’m excited to get blogging with the new setup.

Here’s why I moved.

Movable Type: big in Japan

Movable Type, contrary to popular belief, is not dead. It’s alive, well and still being developed by Six Apart – which is now a Japanese company. However, in the English-language world it’s largely being targeted at the corporate and professional market, with a price tag to match:

Movable Type price

So, I’m not moving because it’s dead. But I am partially moving because I don’t want to pay more than £300 every couple of years for a new version of the software. The advantages MT offers don’t outweigh the price difference between free and £300.

The need to experiment

I’m also moving because my web host was getting more and more grumpy about me running it on their servers, and I came to the conclusion that if I was going to go to the bother of shifting hosts, I might as well shift platforms as well. Because, as alive as MT might be, it’s not well-supported. Try finding themes for it. Or new plugins. Or even other web services that support talking to its API. They’re becoming vanishingly rare.

Increasingly, being tied to MT was stopping me experimenting with new tools, and I don’t like that feeling. Part of the joy of blogging for me has always been in the experimental aspects of it – playing with new pieces of software, and figuring out how they might help me publish better. To keep that feeling, I needed to move on from the comfy familiarity of a blog platform I’d been using for over a decade.

Five years ago, much of my working life centered around MT. No more. I have no clients using it, and a whole bunch of them working on WordPress. I really need to understand it much more deeply than I do – which is why my most-used blog needs to be on it. If nothing else, that will force me to explore its quirks and advantages.

And I’m just one of many sites making the move.

My Ghost-ly future

That, incidentally, is why I’m on WordPress rather than the platform I suspect I’ll move to next – Ghost. Ghost is still very young, and needs some more development before I can switch. But I value this time getting to know WordPress, too.

So, there we are. New One Man & His Blog, living in WordPress and hosted on WPEngine.

What do you think?

Markdown guide image

One of the single best investments of time I’ve made in recent years was learning Markdown. This sums up why:

Once you get the hang of Markdown, it’s an incredibly powerful writing tool which will allow you to write rich content for the web far faster than almost any other method. To get to that point, however, there’s a little bit of a learning curve.

And to help, the nice people behind the Ghost blogging platform have put together an Ultimate Guide to Markdown that really smooths the process of learning to write in it. If you’re serious about time-efficient writing or the web – take a look.

Movable Type 6 logo

I’ve just done what I suspect will be the last major upgrade to the Movable Type system I use to run this blog. While MT itself seems to march along merrily, it’s clearly targeting large commercial users (I paid for the software upgrade that I’ve just installed), and I’m ready to jump ship to something else.

That said, having taken a long look at migrating to WordPress, I’ve decided to hold fire for a little while, to see how Ghost comes along – its 1.0 release is a way away yet. If I end up going to that system, then I’d rather only do one migration, and its focus on Markdown looks handy, given that I mostly blog using that at the moment.

Movable Type 6 (which is what I’ve just installed) is the fifth version of MT I’ve used, since I switched from Blogger a very long time ago…

Hey, remember Ghost, the blogging platform concept I blogged about a few months back? Well, development has continued apace, and they’re now running a Kickstarter to get it funded:

The Kickstarter’s been running 48 hours – and they’re 70% funded already. I’ve just backed it to help push closer to that finish line, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be there by the end of the week.

It looks really, really good – the first blogging platform built for the multi-device age. 

GhostWell, this looks interesting. No, not ghost blogging (I did a very little of that early in the year, and it’s not an experience I’m in a hurry to return to). Ghost is a proposal for a blogging platform  – a “lite” fork of WordPress that focuses back down on it as a core blogging platform. Like Movable Type before it, WordPress has become a steadily more sophisticated and powerful CMS – but it’s becoming overkill if you just want to blog.

If this goes anywhere, it might finally tempt me to switch from Movable Type.

But then, I’m cautious. I’ve had great hopes for a fork of an existing blog platform once before, and that went nowhere…

[via PandoDaily]