How Outpost Can Turn Your Blog Into a Mini Media Empire

It’s for indies, not billionaires

Key Takeaways

  • Outpost makes it easier for creators to connect with their audiences and get paid.
  • Readers get a better experience, easier sign-ups, and more personal contact.
  • Outpost takes way less money than competitors.
Freelance businessman working on his laptop at home

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Outpost may be cheaper, better, and more sustainable than Substack.

If you wanted to start a blog back in the olden days, you’d have to buy a domain name, find web hosting, find a way to upload your work, then create an RSS feed so people could subscribe. Then came Blogger, which let you just write in a web browser and hit publish.

That’s Outpost. It takes all the annoying parts out of making your own small media empire, so you can just make stuff. Readers can subscribe with a click, get bonus extras, and even leave a fly-by tip if they love your work.

"In the big publisher model, there's a whole lot of antagonism going on, like 'how many ads can I stuff in the page?'" Ryan Singel, founder of Outpost, told Lifewire via email. "Whereas [with] the mentorship-driven model, somebody pays you because you give them a good experience. So, we decided to jump in."

1,000 True Fans

There are countless ways to publish on the web, and if you want to get paid for your work, the world has never been better. You can start a paid newsletter with Substack, put ads in your YouTube videos, or start a subscription-only podcast.

But there are two problems. One is that services like Substack take a huge cut. 10% may not seem like much, but you get very little for your money. Think about it this way: Would you want to give away an extra 10% of your paycheck, just to send a few emails?

"Outpost is a publisher co-operative. We're not and never will be VC-funded, and we don't take a big percentage of a membership site's revenue."

The other problem is tying all this stuff together. Just like the bad old days before Blogger, you need to do too much busywork just to keep it all running. For instance, say you want to offer your paid members a discount on a new book you’re making, or to email them outside the usual newsletter schedule, or to do anything that isn’t a basic newsletter. It’s a pain.

For users, this means you constantly have to deal with glitches in your subscription. Maybe you miss out on a deal from your favorite musician. Perhaps you have to keep signing in every time you visit a site.

Less Annoying

Outpost is built on the open-source blogging and newsletter platform Ghost. Unlike Substack, which takes a percentage of your revenue, Outpost charges a per-member fee, which is measured in cents, not dollars. The idea, says Singel, is to help creators keep the money their fans pay them, and to make it easier to concentrate on creating things. He says it’s like a "small media company in a box."

Woman working from home on her phone and tablet

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Instead of a distracting dashboard filled with data about your miniature media empire, for example, you get a daily newsletter with only the important details. You can also easily create one-off subscription plans (for a poor student, perhaps, or just as a swap with another self-supported creator).

Outpost also will work with creators to do marketing, and promote their sites.

"I don't think enough small media companies, or people that are just doing newsletters, are doing much in the way of marketing other than posting stuff on Twitter," says Singel. "If they thought of themselves as small companies, they’d do a lot more marketing to get the word out there."

But Outpost isn’t for everyone. "For most people starting out, Ghost is probably enough," says Singel. "[Who] we’re best for [are] people who already have hundreds of paid subscribers."

The savings can be huge, too. Outpost’s first client, The Daily Poster, saved around 50% when it moved from Substack, and that includes what it paid for Ghost.

"Outpost is a publisher co-operative. We're not and never will be VC-funded, and we don't take a big percentage of a membership site's revenue. We don't take any fixed percentage," says Singel.

For Readers

This is all great for creators, but what about the readers? Well, if you’re paying someone to read, watch, or listen to their work, then you clearly like it. With Outpost, creators get more of your money, and can spend more time producing new work, rather than futzing with their back end. Readers also can sign up in more ways, using payments other systems don’t support, like PayPal.

It’s also dead easy to quit a subscription.

"In the big publisher model, there's a whole lot of antagonism going on, like 'how many ads can I stuff in the page?'"

But really, it’s about your experience as a reader. You’ll get a better, more personal connection with the people you support. You’ll be able to enjoy discounts, promotions, and other members-only benefits.

It’s not that this stuff can’t be done on other platforms. It’s just that Outpost makes it so easy that creators will get more, well, creative with their tools. In the same way that Blogger let budding writers concentrate on their writing, Outpost lets creators focus on creating.

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