Consider this first:
These new publishers were bringing the business model of Software as a Service (SaaS) to publishing, and proving that subscription commerce could work in that space, just as it had in software. As a subscription software business ourselves, this was a set of problems we understood all too well, and a set of economics which we knew inside out.
When it comes to subscription billing, the hard part isn’t actually the subscriptions or the billing. The hard part is the publishing platform to integrate with the subscriptions and the billing – that’s the part nobody else is doing – and we were getting pretty good at building a flexible, modern publishing platform.
Using a service that is built on open-source solves both of these problems: first, there is competitive hosting. Stratechery is currently hosted on WPEngine, but there are a host of competitors in the managed hosting space, and even more options when it comes to self-hosting. Moreover, you can run the entire service yourself on AWS, Digital Ocean, or even your personal computer.
This also means that if you are unsatisfied with your host it is easy to switch: not only can you change where your domain points, but it is far easier to seamlessly move content between servers, because they are all running the same software (this entire section, by the way, also applies to those who want to build their own CMS).
I was wondering if Ben Thompson from Stratechery had a specific custom CMS in mind, but it appears to be running from WpEngine. This is similar to what I am using right now. Most of the writing is repetitive, with “open-ended statements”; while they provide some context, but not the “end-point” of the argument. Deep linking means linking to your own content (as a reflection of what you have written in the past) and can possibly come in the background if you remember what you have covered earlier. I assume he has a separate system for “notes” (or writing) and then publishing it separately. I write directly on the web interface.
Selling subscriptions (as the only way to survive) is not exactly foolhardy, if you know (and understand) the “influential marketing”; therefore, you have to create your own echo chambers to sustain and push through ideas. For example, if I want to push through only a specific niche (and a vertical of oncology), I need to write about it and create “podcasts”. Twitter is where amplification takes place, but algorithms completely determine the visibility. Facebook or other social media requires “investments” in ad-tech, which can promise “targeted viewers”, but conversion rates to actual paying customers are far less.
Therefore, the “next best thing” is to invest in “AI generators” or “SEO funnelled spam” to gain more visibility on the search engines. The business side of blogging is indeed tough barring specific individual breakthroughs.
A little more perspective:
That is why I have been and continue to be an advocate of using WordPress. Particularly with the Gutenberg Editor it is a pretty easy-to-use blogging set-up (yes, there is still a lot of cruft there), but you have the capability in place to do far more in the future. Moreover, the ecosystem of plugins and themes means the tools to do that future thing are probably already built. I’m no great shakes as a developer, but I was able to launch not just Stratechery but also the first version of the Daily Update thanks to this ecosystem of plugin developer and theme builders (today’s Stratechery theme was professionally developed, but that is another way of making a point about ecosystems — there are a lot of WordPress developers out there).
So definitely is hosted on WordPress with a separate system to publish, possibly.
My issues to use a separate system (or application) have to do with the problems of context switching, which deflects the attention. I will try to incorporate past links (by redefining my workflows) and should be a worthy challenge. However, I am completely ignoring the business side of the blogging.