Why we moved DESK magazine from WordPress to Ghost
by Tobias van Schneider
If you read DESK closely enough, you know we recently moved our entire system from WordPress to the Ghost platform. Here's the how and why.
We had been wanting to move to a more publishing-focused platform for a while now (for reasons I’ll share in a moment), but picking up five years and hundreds of articles worth of content was daunting. Thankfully, the Ghost team offered to help, and we made it happen pretty seamlessly together.
When we launched a few months ago, I promised more details about why we chose Ghost and how it’s working out for us. So today, we’re getting into it.
Why we needed to make a change
DESK started as a personal blog, and since my personal portfolio is already built on WordPress with Semplice, it just made sense to put my blog there too. Then DESK grew to something bigger. I now have a small editorial team working with me, publishing articles more regularly. I also publish a newsletter (on a different platform) for 30k+ readers. With growth comes new ideas and systems, and here’s where we started to feel limited with WordPress:
1. Our article and newsletter processes were completely disconnected.
This translated to a lot of copy & pasting, reformatting and rebuilding articles in a separate email platform. With Mailchimp, we were confined to a rudimentary, custom-coded email template. Just adding the content without breaking something was difficult enough. Making it relatively nice to read was maddening as the Mailchimp editor is incredibly outdated and frustrated to use. There was also no easy way to catalog or provide an online version of our newsletters so people could bookmark and share it. Unless we used the Mailchimp archive links, which would create a duplicate version of our blog...the problems were endless.
2. We wanted to build our audience and reward our most loyal readers.
DESK is an independent and self-funded publication, and we’d been thinking about ways to better sustain and support it for a while. We knew we wanted to start by rewarding our loyal readers and building up an exclusive “member’s only” reading club. This would allow us to eventually offer tiered levels for those readers who want more from DESK (and those who want to support it). To solve this with our existing system, it would mean we would have to add yet another tool to it, making our progress even more fragmented and frustrating.
WordPress just isn’t built for this type of strategy. As we soon discovered, Ghost is.
How Ghost solves those problems
The Ghost platform is made specifically for content publishing. This includes everything from writing, editing, publishing and distributing it to your readers. While WordPress can do a few of those things, it’s not its only focus. We needed a tool that was really good at one specific thing (the best tools usually are) and Ghost fit the bill.
1. Prepping and publishing in Ghost is a much more pleasant experience.
The interface is simple and streamlined, with minimalistic options specifically for writing. On a clean white screen, it’s just as easy to compose an article or newsletter straight within Ghost as opposed to copy and pasting it from another platform. And we can easily lay out our articles with images, videos or styled headlines.
And I know how trivial this sounds, but the smoother and simpler the writing experience is (within the editor) the more motivated I feel to write a new article. The more clunky an editor feels, the less likely I feel inspired to write and need to choose yet another tool to create my drafts. Ghost makes me want to draft my articles straight inside their tool.
2. It’s all in one place.
Once we write our article in Ghost, we don’t need to copy it over to a separate email platform to send it as a newsletter. We just select the audience and hit publish. It’s all integrated, meaning no double work, rebuilding or clunky formatting. We lay it all out as an article and it looks exactly the same in the email.
Even better, the email automatically has an online version (which is the actual article) so people can save and share with others.
3. Member tiers and exclusive access.
Ghost offers the ability to gate your content, whether you want to put it behind a paywall or require readers to sign up for free membership to read. For now, we’re experimenting with a free members-only reading club. We can mark specific articles as “members only” which will require readers to enter their email address to access it. Thus, we are simultaneously creating an inner circle of readers and growing our newsletter list.
The beauty here is, it all is connected. Publishing an article is also publishing a newsletter and publishing a newsletter is automatically building your audience.
What's next? Well, hopefully less thinking about the platform and process, and more writing, publishing, experimenting and growing.
We can't thank the Ghost team enough for helping us move DESK to its new home.