How is Outpost different from Substack/Patreon/Memberful/Pico?
The three big areas of difference: business model/financing, cost, and features.
Unlike those services, Outpost is a cooperative, where each site is a member with voting rights and a financial interest in Outpost’s success.
Outpost has no traditional Venture Capital investment and never will. If you aren't familiar with how that kind of financing works, by not taking venture capital Outpost does not have to grow extremely fast and does not have to have a business model that requires making billions of dollars.
In simple terms, we can charge less and care more.
Since Outpost is a cooperative, Outpost member sites get a vote and a say in how the business is run, and in the future, will get rebates at the end of the year like you do at a food co-op or at REI (also a co-operative).
Outpost’s bylaws also have strict rules on the business being sold, so flipping it to Google for a quick payout won’t happen. It also means that Outpost doesn’t have to make decisions to please investors, it has to make ones that benefit co-op members.
Ghost, the CMS underneath, is fully open-source and run by a non-profit that's financially healthy and employs more than 30 people now. It's not going away or flipping to Google, either.
Also unlike any of those companies, neither Ghost(Pro) nor Outpost takes a set percentage of a site’s revenue.
Outpost's fees are tied to the services we provide, such as the number of emails sent per month and the number of subscribers.
Ghost(Pro)'s very reasonable hosting fees are tied to the number of subscribers, staff members, support level, and other variables.
Sites still have to pay credit card & payment fees directly to the processors. (Figuring out a better alternative to credit card networks is beyond the scope of what we do, but we fully support the idea).
In practice, that means that large subscription-based businesses using Outpost and Ghost(Pro) can pay up to 75% less for more features than Substack.
- Substack takes 10% + credit card processing fees, and does not allow you to get paid outside its system.
- Patreon takes 5% to 12% + credit card processing fees.
- Memberful and Pico each take 5% on top of credit card fees, and you also pay for the emails you send, and your website hosting and maintenance.
On the practical side, we think all of their rents too damn high.
On the philosophical side, we don’t think indie writers and artists should be making billionaires richer.
That makes an Outpost-enhanced Ghost site far more affordable than running a site with services that take a set percent of revenue. Since our pricing and Ghost(Pros) are based on tiers, sites also know how much it will cost month to month or annually.
Or as we like to say: Better, smarter, faster, cheaper. Choose 4.
Feature and Tech Differences:
Outpost vs Substack: Substack is an all-in-one solution with very limited tools for publishing, building a community or communicating with members. It’s nicely simple, which is nice, until you run into its limitations.
An Outpost-enhanced Ghost site is great for those who outgrow Substack and want to accept tips/other payments, design their own site, host online seminars or livestreams on their website, group content by tags or kinds of content, have content recommendations on their website, have multiple authors, control their communications with their members, and have multiple tiers of benefits, etc.
Outpost vs Patreon: Patreon’s creation tools aren’t very good, its member management system is lacking, and the percent cut it takes keeps going up.
Also all payments go through Patreon, so you can’t take your payment relationships elsewhere.
That’s no way to run a membership site.
So visually that’s something like this:
Outpost-sites run on Ghost, which has membership fully baked in. If you set up protected content, readers are either in or they are out.
Memberful, owned by Patreon, is a complicated WordPress plugin. When someone comes to your site, your site has to call up Memberful ask "is this person a member?" every time a user shows up.
That's slow and inelegant. It's also too expensive given it takes a 5% revenue cut and you still have to pay for your website hosting, tech help, and any emails or newsletters you send.