Patreon vs Ghost, there are a lot of differences between these two platforms and I’m going to break everything down as best I can. I’ve used Patreon in the past and I currently run my own private Ghost blog which I use as a Patreon alternative.
To get started, let me first break down what each platform is intended to be used for at what niche the serve for you the online creator/publisher.
Patreon is a free membership website for creators
Patreon is not a donation platform as many assume; it is instead a done-for-you membership website where they take care of all the technical details of running your subscription service. In the past, creating and running a private membership website was a total headache and quite technical, but not anymore.
Now, with a service like Patreon, any blogger, podcaster, YouTuber and so forth can easily setup a Patreon page where they can offer a paid subscription option to their audience. You can have multiple tiers of subscriptions and provide your audience with members only access to private content. Your Patreon page will be found at Patreon.com/username.
Ghost is a feature rich blogging platform with email marketing and paid subscriptons
Ghost is a blogging platform with email marketing and paid subscriptions built in. With Ghost, you can have blog posts that rank organically and get free search engine traffic, leverage affiliate marketing, run Google AdSense, and have private blog posts that only paid subscribers get access to.
In addition, memberships are built into the platform, so it’s your choice if you want to offer a free, paid or combination of the two subscriptions. Last, you can have private content only readable in an email client and you can email people who subscribe to your website whenever you want.
With Ghost, you’re not just creating a “page” like with Patreon, you’re building out a complete website with email marketing and paid subscriptions.
Ghost vs Patreon Breakdown
Pricing and transaction fees
The most massive difference and the reason you may want to use Ghost over Patreon is that Ghost does not charge any transaction fees. This makes an enormous difference if you start successfully growing your membership website.
If you have 500 subscribers who are paying say $7 a month, you’re earning $3,500 a month. If you’re using Ghost you’re only paying $9 a month to host your website. If you’re on Patreon’s mid tier “Pro” plan you’re paying 8% transaction fees or $280 a month.
$280 a month vs $9 a month in this reasonable example alone makes Ghost that much more of a compelling option. But, let me break down the costs further:
Ghost charges a flat monthly fee based on how many email subscribers you’re able to attract known as “members.” The starter plan allows for 500 subscribers and access to all the free themes. The “creator” plan allows for 1000 subscribers, access to a wider array of themes, Zapier integrations and 2 staff members (meaning two people can log into the site).
For most, the starter plan is quite good and very lucrative once you start getting paying subscribers because the monthly cost is so low and you don’t have to pay for any transaction fees.
Patreon is free to signup and use. If you’re not making money you don’t need to worry about any costs to get started. However these transaction fees become excessive once you actually start having success.
Currently, there are three plans: Lite, Pro, and Premium. Lite is suitable to create a Patreon page and offer a simple subscription with private posts and images. The Pro is their best plan as you can provide multiple tiers to your audience, and you get access to analytics, integrations, and promotional tools.
The premium plan is ideal if you know for sure you want to start offering merchandise to your audience and you have a team helping you run your business.
Honestly, once you do the math you will see how much money you can save using Ghost. Andrei Jikh (a YouTuber with 1 million+ subscribers) currently has 725 subscribers and he is making $5000 a month. On Ghost he would be paying $25 a month. But because he’s on Patreon he’s paying $400 a month in fees (at 8%).
Patreon is infamous for kicking creators off their platform whom they disagree with politically. Imagine building up your Patreon like Andrei has, making thousands of dollars a month, and then getting your account suddenly closed because you said something someone in California does not agree with.
With Ghost, you don’t have to worry about heavy handed censorship for ideological or political bias like you do with Patreon. However, if you’re going to be making content that’s not social commentary focused you won’t have an issue with Patreon.
You can create the content you want and have your audience support you without worry that an arbitrary middle man will turn off your income source.
Design and branding
Design and branding is another big difference between these two platforms.
Patreon pages have a great, simple design that converts. You can adjust the hero image at the top to something more custom and branded and then you can display your subscription options below.
Underneath the subscription options are the private, “Patreon member only” posts so users can get an idea of the content your creating as they can see the titles but not the content of the posts.
Last, I really like how Patreon incorporates social proof by allowing you to show how many subscribers and “exclusive” posts you have.
The only issue I have is that all Patreon pages have a cookie cutter design with minimal customization.
Ghost.org allows you to build out a full fledge website with your own branding, themes, custom domain, pages, content, email list and private subscriber only content.
There are multiple themes to choose from as well depending on your plan:
The only criticism I have of Ghost is that you have few themes to choose from on their cheapest plan. But if you upgrade your plan to the “creator” plan, you can have the whole Ghost.org experience.
But upgrading only makes sense if there is a specific theme you want or you have a developer designing a custom theme. For most, the default free themes are adequate to get started.
Ghost wins because you can build out a full website with blog posts, videos, pages, a custom design, custom URL, email list and offer paid subscriptions. You have more flexibility too because you can make your Ghost website totally private like a Patreon page, or public, or a mix of the two.
There is a little comparison here because you can’t blog with a Patreon page. Patreon is designed for you to send traffic to it from another already established traffic source, like a popular YouTube channel or a podcast. You can create posts, however, that are publicly available or for a select subscriber tier.
Ghost.org by contrast you can blog, create content that ranks organically and attract new subscribers that way. You can also use a Ghost.org website like I do as my personal, branded Patreon alternative.
With Patreon you can create basic text posts with an attachment, text, tags to help organize posts, set who can see the post and set when the post goes live.
Patreon posts don’t rank and will only be viewable by anyone you send to your Patreon page.
Ghost is a powerful, feature rich blogging platform where you can create search content that ranks organically. Below is my post on the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam ranking on the first page of Google:
With creating content on a Ghost website again you can choose to create content that is private for subscribers only or content that is publicly available.
Generally speaking, you want to make content that is going after a specific keyword public, so you have a change of ranking and your blog posts that are about whatever you want (social commentary, hot button issues, something private you don’t want to share with the world) private as a way to entice subscribers.
As for the actual blogging experience it’s similar to WordPress:
You have blocks where you can add in text paragraphs, h2 or h3 headers, images, custom HTML, markdown language, a divider, audio and my favorite, “email only” content block:
This block hides content in your blog posts that is only readable by people who subscribe to your website. Giving you another unique selling point to get people to subscribe.
For example, when you’re creating a blog post that will be publicly available you can reward your subscribers by including email only content.
Ghost again comes out on top simply by being more feature rich. With private content, publicly available blog posts that can rank, images, video, text, audio and exclusive email only content – you just have a lot more options with Ghost over Patreon.
Private members only content
Both platforms allow you to create private, members only content. Here is how they differ.
Patreon works by way of creating posts. Posts can be either text, image, video, audio, a poll, link, or a live stream. For all posts you can add a title and text too. However you can’t mix and match media in the same post.
With Patreon you can set if the posts you create are private for subscribers only or public. You can also set them to go live at a future date.
One feature that Patreon has that Ghost does not is the ability to offer a private livestream for your subscribers. Livestreams can be on YouTube, Vimeo or Crowdcast.
Ghost.org websites work by way of creating blog posts that are media-rich. You can have images, video, audio and text in one blog post. You can also incorporate content blocks like the high converting “product box” to push an offer or the “email only” content block that is readable in an email client only.
Patreon has an edge with integrating private livestreams; Ghost wins because you can create personal, media-rich blog posts for your subscribers. Both platforms have enough options to create valuable, private content.
With Patreon, your page will be found at Patreon.com/username. Your Ghost website, by contrast will be found at username.myghostsite.org. With Ghost you can set a custom branded domain name for your website if you like. With Patreon this is not possible.
Brand your website and create your own, personalized membership website.
Ghost.org has email marketing built into the platform; Patreon you have to purchase a 3rd party plan through an email marketing software provider. So there is nothing really to compare. Ghost offers email marketing and Patreon does not natively offer email marketing.
Patreon and Mailchimp
Patreon does offer a free Mailchimp integration. Mailchimp provides 500 subscribers on their free plan and limits you to 1000 email sends a month on the free plan. Beyond that you’re going to start needing to pay for Mailchimp.
Ghost.org email marketing
By contrast, the starter plan at Ghost.org allows you to have 500 subscribers and unlimited email sends. When you write a blog post, you can also decide if you want to publish it on your site and have it be emailed to everyone who is subscribed, or if you only want to publish on your site or email your list only.
On top of that, when someone subscribes to your Ghost powered website you can setup a dedicated “thank you” page where you can offer a coupon code, upsell, discord access or simply say “thanks for subscribing.”
Not only does Ghost.org not charge a transaction fee so you keep more of your money, you get email marketing included in your plan. Patreon has a mediocre at best Mailchimp integration which simply does not compare as the “free” plan on Mailchimp will have Mailchimp branding on all emails you send out where with Ghost.org your content has your branding.
Finally both platforms allow you to have monthly or yearly paying subscribers. Both also allow you to offer promo codes to get new subscribers. Here are the differences:
To subscribe to your Patreon, someone first needs to create a Patreon account. Then once logged into their account they are presented a feed for different Patreon accounts they are subscribed to.
Personally I don’t like this as it creates a two step process to get someone to subscribe and give you money because when they click on the “subscribe” button on one of your tiers they are presented with a “sign up for Patreon” account creation form.
Apart from this, it’s easy for your subscribers to manage their account and you can also create promo codes to get new subscribers which you can share on social media.
One thing Patreon does really well is to showcase multiple paid tiers on the homepage. You can also limited membership to each tier level to create scarcity and also incentivize your visitors to subscribe to a higher tier.
Ghost you can offer multiple tiers too, but on the basic plans Ghost only allows you to show two tiers to subscribe to.
Thank you page
With Patreon you can set a “thank you” page that new subscribers are direct to. On this page you can include access to a Telegram chat, Discord, coupon code or just say “thanks” for subscribing.
When a user visits your website powered by Ghost and clicks any “subscribe” button, a giant light box will pop up showing one or two subscription options. On higher tier plans, you can custom design every aspect of your Ghost website, but if you’re on the primary “starter” or “creator” plan, these are your design choices.
What I really like is that a user does not need to create a separate account for Ghost.org in order to become a subscriber. They simply enter their email, select the plan and then are taken to a payment gateway. A very simple, high converting process.
Thank you page
Like Patreon you can setup a “thank you” page for new subscribers where you can offer a wide variety of upsells or simply instructions for your new subscribers on what to expect.
Ghost does an excellent job of leveraging promotional offers for your tiers. With there promo offers, they are a custom link you can share on social media and your Ghost blog as a way to attract new subscribers.
Patreon I like more if you’re wanting to offer 5+ tiers for subscribers. I also like how you can limit how many subscribers at each tier are allowed. Ghost is better because the sign up process is fast and easy. The platform also allows for a better use of promo codes. Both platforms provide adequate “thank you” page customization.
Ghost vs Patreon conclusion
So that’s it for my breakdown of Patreon vs. Ghost. Overall I love using Ghost. No transaction fees and you can create content that ranks organically where you can engage in affiliate marketing or run display ads on your website like Google AdSense, custom design, and a custom domain. You also get unlimited email marketing.
Patreon has brand recognition, offers superior live streaming integration for your subscribers, and does a better job of showcasing multiple tiers. Apart from that, there are not many selling points when compared to Ghost. Particularly when you consider the excessive transaction fees.