Skip to content

Goodbye, Substack! “Platformer” Migrates Newsletter to Ghost — Here’s What You Need To Know

  • 6 min read

The major tech newsletter “Platformer” is leaving Substack.

A few hours ago, Casey Newton, the founder of the popular tech newsletter Platformer, announced the publication’s migration from Substack to Ghost via email.

The WHY, the rationale behind his move, is interesting for every writer who’s writing on Substack or is on the fence about joining the platform.

Since I also received several questions based on the news that Casey is leaving Substack, I wanted to spark a conversation here and talk about his move.

405 likes, 30 comments, and 111 re-stacks also show it’s something you might be thinking about today.

photo credit: Casey Newton on Substack

Let me first give you some background information, based on today’s announcement:

Casey Newston’s beginnings on Substack

Platformer’s journey on Substack began in 2020, with Casey initially contemplating custom-built solutions centered on WordPress.

Substack presented itself as an attractive option.

Moreover, Casey formed a personal connection with Substack’s co-founders, who were enthusiastic about the publication’s prospects.

This partnership bore fruit as Platformer witnessed substantial growth over three years, attracting over 170,000 subscribers.

Nonetheless, Substack wasn’t without its share of controversies, primarily stemming from its hands-off approach to content moderation.

While the platform hosted content of varying viewpoints, some found it distasteful and offensive.

However, this content was initially confined to subscribers who voluntarily chose to receive it.

At this stage, the decision to host “Platformer” on Substack resembled choosing any web hosting service.

Substack is undergoing a lot of changes

The turning point emerged when Substack expanded its ambitions beyond being a simple hosting platform in 2022.

It began emphasizing the value of its network of publications, developing tools to promote this network.

These tools encouraged writers to recommend other Substack publications and launched a Twitter-like social network called Notes.

This ecosystem led to remarkable growth. Casey’s publication Platformer added over 70,000 (!) free subscribers in 2023.

While these features didn’t resonate with everyone, Casey recognized their effectiveness in growing a publication.

This success raised concerns about Substack’s potential to promote various types of content, not just quality journalism.

“Hate speech” on Substack

November 2023 saw the publication of an article in “The Atlantic” highlighting Nazis using Substack.

Initially, this revelation didn’t prompt Casey to leave Substack. He assumed Substack would enforce its existing policy against inciting violence.

However, when Substack’s response came in December 2023, it stated a reluctance to intervene in content moderation beyond credible threats of violence.

This was a pivotal moment for Casey, raising concerns about Substack’s stance on “hate speech”.

Here’s what Substack’s Content Guidelines say:

photo credit: Substack Content Guidelines

He engaged in an investigation, reaching out to experts and journalists to identify publications promoting extremist ideologies.

While seven publications were found explicitly supporting Nazi hate speech and calling for violence, Substack only removed five.

Moreover, the leaked information about the publications’ low subscribers and revenue seemed to downplay the issue.

Platformer found a new home — Ghost

As a result of these events, Casey decided that his newsletter “Platformer” needed to find a new home.

For him, the lack of proactive action against hate speech and extremist content became untenable.

He consulted readers from his community and found widespread support for the move.

So a few hours ago, he announced the decision to migrate “Platformer” to Ghost.

Why Ghost, you ask?

Photo credit: Ghost website
  • open-source software
  • good, solid infrastructure for internet and newsletter business
  • you can build a website, blog, membership, newsletter etc. all in one place
  • its terms of service ban content that “is violent or threatening or promotes violence or actions that are threatening to any other person”
  • Ghost founder and CEO John O’Nolan committed to Casey that Ghost’s hosted service would remove pro-Nazi content
  • it has no plans to build a recommendation infrastructure similar to Substack (or ConvertKit)
  • no 10% revenue share
  • Ghost doesn’t seek to be a social network.
  • you can have an audience of up to 500 people for free, then you have to pay $9 up to $199 per month

What do we want as writers?

I’ve been in the business of email marketing for over 15 years now.

As a consultant and later manager, I’ve been growing the email list of brands, celebrities, services, and companies.

When I started my newsletter journey for my personal brand about 13 months ago, I chose Substack because it made it super easy to set up my newsletter, write posts, and grow my subscriber base to 3,350 as of this writing.

More than 900 of my subscribers come from Substack’s recommendations infrastructure which the platform introduced in April 2022.

I never have tech headaches and I love that it’s (usually) a low-drama place to write and do business. I recommend Substack because there’s no algorithm, no gatekeepers and it’s writer-centric.

Here’s what Substack’s Content Guidelines say about what’s not acceptable on the platform:

I’ll stay on Substack and won’t migrate my email list to Ghost or ConvertKit — for now.

What do you think?

A — You can't censor away extremism.

B — Substack needs to update its terms and conditions/guidelines.

C — I simply want to write/read my newsletter/s, that’s it.

D — I’m afraid and am thinking about leaving Substack

E — This can also happen on Ghost and any other platform.

F— There needs to be (better) community moderation on Substack.

G — I’m worried about Substack’s future.

H — …

P.S. I’ll soon interview Christina Loff from Substack. Anything I should ask her for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *