Ghost CMS launches tools for building paid communities
The two year anniversary of writing this newsletter just came and went without me noticing it, but despite all that time elapsing, few tools have emerged that simplify building member-supported communities.
Ghost CMS is looking to change that with its 3.0 release, making it easy to spin up a paid publication like Stratechery or reCharged, built right into a CMS. It allows writers to take money for memberships, without giving up a major cut as with services like Memberful, instead directly wiring up to Stripe.
John and the team at Ghost have been working on this for a long time, and in their launch post for memberships, he says that "The hard part is the publishing platform [integrating] with the subscriptions and the billing - that's the part nobody else is doing."
When I started this newsletter, that tooling didn't exist; I wrote my own plugin for a different CMS, Craft CMS, which basically tricked it into being a hastily-assembled subscription platform. For the better part of 2019, I've been working on building that into something more compelling, but I can say from experience: it's really difficult to get right and requires knowing a lot to cobble it all together.
Ghost, by contrast, is making it easy to just take money from subscribers while owning your own content, rather than the Patreon model in which Patreon owns both the direct relationship with your customers and the content that you make.
Memberships might be the jolt in the arm that blogging, which seems to be fading over time, needs. I find it difficult to imagine giant, well-funded publications coming from memberships, but I do see it spurring a new generation to get paid for their work and encouraged to write more online.
I know that's what motivated me to write this newsletter every day, now clocking in at some 416 editions, more than any amount of blog posts I could have ever convinced myself to write—because someone like you was willing to pay me and support that work.
It's unlikely I'll get 5,000 paying customers, but even at 300 people paying, that's serious money, and probably the most compelling push to write I've ever experienced. Advertising on my blog never got me out of bed in the morning, but this does.
What is difficult about memberships is growing them and finding new people to join the community—particularly given it's paywalled work—I've struggled to do that in the last year and still think about what I'll do next on this front a lot. Perhaps I just need to get better at telling people about it, or the industry needs to normalize memberships, given I was early to the space.
It's easy to get into a conversation about subscription overload with newsletters, but I don't think this is going to be the case here: each creator, given the right niche, doesn't need thousands of subscribers to make it sustainable, just a small bunch of fans paying to read their work.
Thousands of these individualized niches will exist, and while subscribers might have 2-3 memberships at most simultaneously, the pool of potential customers on the web is enormous—and much of it doesn't need to overlap. Like early blogging, monetization allows writers to hone in on what they're good at, and build a smaller audience.
Ghost jumping into this space is great because it'll help anyone monetize their work, and it'll normalize paying for great writing. At least, it's a better outlook for the web than any ad-based banner ads have ever given us.
P.S - One of the creators of Ghost, John, is launching his own paid membership on top of the platform, which I've subscribed to as well!
Softbank is moving to take control of WeWork
Lord, this situation has gotten bizarre. Under Adam Neumann, WeWork was able to do whatever for years, unchecked, as Softbank poured in billions of dollars. Now that he's been outed as a liability, the company is throwing him under the metaphorical bus, while paying him $200M to go away.
Microsoft introduces 'secured core' computer certification
TL;DR is that Microsoft is working with manufacturers directly, like Lenovo and Dell, to build 'secured-core' computers that build in deep firmware securities. This is largely focused on industries that need next-level security, such as government and financial services, but is an interesting new way to resist 'persistent' attacks that go after the kernel, and can be hard to get rid of even with an OS reinstall.
NordVPN was hacked
This VPN company came out of nowhere a few years ago, and now I see it advertised everywhere on YouTube videos, podcasts and even banner ads. Its service is pretty good! But I've always been suspicious of these VPN services as money makers, and question their actual security, and while NordVPN has generally had a good record, this is a reminder that a paid-for VPN is not the fix all solution for security. After all, you are just sending your traffic over someone else's network instead.
Firefox is finally getting built-in language translations
And it's private by default. I have tried to switch to Firefox a number of times, but when I lived in the Netherlands, this was the killer feature that kept bringing me back to Chrome.