Innovation

How publishing platform Ghost plans to save journalism

The Markdown-based content publishing platform launched a cash endowment called Ghost for Journalism that will fund and provide cutting-edge tech tools for independent publishers.

ghost.jpg
Image: Ghost

Ghost wants to save independent journalism, and the independent content management system has the money and tech to fund it.

Launched in 2014 with a successful Kickstarter campaign, Ghost is a simple but powerful publishing platform inspired by robust content management systems like WordPress and Drupal. Users are free to download and run the open source software on their own servers or pay to use a commercial hosted instance. Both versions of the code are maintained and regularly updated by the Ghost team and community.

Ghost won't disappear anytime soon, and Ghost founder John O'Nolan structured the company to support long-term goals. The company raised over $300,000 in initial funding and is now supported by the commercial product. Ghost is cashflow positive and currently generates about $720,000 in annual recurring revenue. "[We're] a self-funded non-profit organisation, and [the code] is given away for free without any licensing restrictions... This means we're building technology which is going to be around for a long time and which legally cannot be sold to [another company] or be shut down due to investor pressure," he said.

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The platform is used by independent bloggers, media companies, and large enterprise organizations like IBM, Square, Tinder, Sky News, VEVO, and Zappos. "Ghost... runs on the same technology as the world's leading startups," O'Nolan said in an interview with TechRepublic. "At its core, it's a self-consuming JSON API with a Node.js server and an Ember.js admin client. In practice, this means it's fast. Really, really fast. Under average load Ghost is roughly 3,000% faster than PHP based content management systems."

A tech-first publishing service, the desktop client relies on Ember.js and provides developers deep data hooks to post and platform content, as well as integrations with services like Slack. "We run a fully managed Platform as a Service offering," O'Nolan said. "This is our own cloud and allows publishers the ease and flexibility to run Ghost under optimal conditions without needing to worry about any back end infrastructure concerns."

Ghost for Journalism emerged from O'Nolan's passion for journalism and media. "The Ghost for Journalism [program] is our way of ensuring that we're building the right things and making a dent in online journalism," he explained. "We've put together a program whereby we will partner with three new independent publishing organisations and devote our engineering team to building the technology they need. We're giving them each a grant of $15,000 for infrastructure costs and unrestricted access to our internal tools, data, and technology partners."

O'Nolan hopes to provide small publishers with the same technology resources as large media companies. "Modern media organisations such as BuzzFeed, Vox, and Vice are tremendously successful because they operate more like a tech startup than a media organisation," he said. "Their engineering teams are often larger than their newsroom teams and as a result they have a distinct competitive advantage in reaching their audience. The only downside is that all of their technology is proprietary."

Ghost for Journalism's goal, O'Nolan said, is to level the playing field of technology-powered journalism. "[We're] building an... open platform that can be used by anyone. So that good reporting, once more, becomes the primary competitive advantage in who wins the war of attention."

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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