A bunch of frustrating weeks with Medium snapped me :(
Now that we're finally done migrating from Medium onto a self-hosted Ghost setup, I am reminiscing why this was such a good move, and how I decided on Ghost as my blogging CMS of choice.
When I first started the @ShySensationalist blog, I was looking to kickstart off a nifty set-up with minimal investment that can get me off the ground ASAP.
No 'plans', no content calendar, no ambitions for a greater audience.
What I had was some stuff to say, but nowhere to say it. That's when I decided to start the @ShySensationalist blog - my li'l real estate on the internet. I chose Medium over WordPress for a bunch of reasons:
- Minimal $5/month or $50/year membership with no ads
- Butter smooth UI that's aimed at writers & content creators
- FREE cross-promotional opportunities for Medium's millions of readers
- Seamless support for branded publications & custom domains
This worked out okay in the beginning - Medium helped develop my writing habit, while offering a decent blog format and custom domain to boot. A bunch of articles even benefitted from Medium's internal audience - I was set.
The relationship sours...
As I adopted writing as a daily habit, and got a bit more serious about my posting schedule, Medium's shortcomings were way too obvious.
- Basic control over the blog's UI & UX
- Bad performance & barebones analytics
- Lack of scalability options
- The Medium pop-ups are unmistakable
Most of these were obvious, given we were hosting the blog for FREE on Medium's servers - there had to be a trade-off. It's like buying a $70 Xiaomi smartphone, and expecting it to work like the latest iPhone 13.
That won't happen.
But besides the minimal control over the UI, what wrankled for days was that the content was often inaccessible. Our readers pinged us mentioning how they weren't able to load our website, and Medium's insistence on pushing their mobile app didn't help either.
Enter Ghost Blogging
Ghost blogging is an open-source tool for independent journalists and writers worldwide. It is also known as the best headless Node.js CMS for professional publishing.
Frustrated by the complexity of WordPress, the former deputy lead for the WordPress User Interface had the idea of having a dedicated content management system for online blogs & publications. Since its initial launch in 2013, Ghost has become a popular alternative to Medium, WordPress & Substack users around the world.
The Tech Hurdle
Once we decided to self-host our Ghost Blog, the job was two-fold - to figure out which hosting service is reliable yet affordable, and HOW to pull off the finger-numbing manual migration from Medium. After all, I'm an English literature graduate with basic tech skills.
The two top contenders for ghost blogging hosts were Digital Ocean and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The cheapest tier on AWS cost $20 per month (approx Rs. 1500), and the cheapest droplet on Digital Ocean cost $5 a month (Rs. 370) with $100 worth FREE credits - more than enough moolah to host all 3 of my blogs - the Shy Sensationalist, Deal Dada and Mello Musings for FREE for over a year and a half.
Setting up Ghost on a DigitalOcean droplet was really easy, and I left the hard work of manual migration, theme customisation & newsletter setup to a kickass seller from Sri Lanka I found on Fiverr. It cost me around $50.
I also had the time of my life picking out FREE ghost blogging themes from the Ghost Marketplace - I settled for Tawau for Shy Sensationalist, Genki for Mello Musings and Okiro for Deal Dada. You can always visit Creative Market or Theme Forest for a splurge.
Why the @ShySensationalist chose Ghost for Blogging
You might be wondering why we chose Ghost. Here are 10 reasons why I chose a self-hosted Ghost server over Ghost(Pro), WordPress & Substack:
- Strong SEO & social integration options
- Seamless UI designed keeping blog editors & contributors in mind
- Light & efficient Ghost blogging engine, i.e. faster loading times
- Open-source (total control) & affordable ($60 for 3 blogs on Digital Ocean)
- Flexible (unlike Medium) and secure (unlike WordPress)
- Rich editor - add images, embeds, videos, Markdown, and HTML.
- Super admin access, i.e. you can collaborate with a team or guest authors
- Native Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - performs better than Medium
- Native registration forms, member management & email newsletters
- AMP support - rank higher in Google’s mobile search as well!
Ghost blogging hit all my checklists. Also, Ghost's Koenig editor reminds me of Medium's editor - so I don't feel too out of place either!
All in all, our migration from Medium to Ghost was a runaway hit for all my blogs. As the curtain falls on 2021, I am looking forward to a new year - with new opportunities to create, collaborate & mediate a bit more...