Over two years ago, I decided to set up a small online philosophy project, bringing world philosophy to a wider audience by email. I called it Looking for Wisdom. Since the project started, I have interviewed philosophers from across the globe, written about everything from the Ubuntu philosophy of South Africa to the art of philosophising while drunk, and generally had a blast.
I initially set the project up using Ghost, which is a beautiful newsletter platform. I love Ghost. It is a great tool, and it makes writing an absolute pleasure. But over the past year, as my life and work have both changed, I have begun to realise that Ghost no longer really fits my needs.
One thing is that Ghost is particularly well-suited to paid newsletters, and I didn’t really want to monetise (I hate that word!) what I was doing. But with a subscriber-base of 600 people — not large, but steadily growing — the costs of running the site were beginning to mount.
But another thing I started to realise is that I wanted a bit more flexibility with what I did with the site. So, some time before Christmas, I decided to rebuild everything from the ground up. I exported all the content, fired up a new Hugo static site on my MacBook, and began the painstaking task of importing something around a quarter of a million words. Plus images.
The lull between Christmas and New Year has been great for working on this. And by a couple of days after Christmas, I had a working version of the site. It is fast, pretty (if anything, much prettier than before), and works well.
But what I also needed to do was find a new newsletter tool to import those subscribers into. I don’t like the clunkiness of MailChimp. I’ve tried Convertkit in the past, and it’s fine, but I don’t love it. Revue worked well for a while until Twitter went into a nosedive, and Revue died. And I’d been spoiled by the delightful writing experience in Ghost.
Enter Buttondown, Justin Duke’s lovely little newsletter tool. It’s small, elegant, and integrates well. And it is also eminently affordable. So I moved my subscribers over, integrated Buttondown into my new Hugo site, and I was good to go.
For the technically-minded, the site is generated using Hugo, pushed to Github, and then deployed on Netlify. The running cost for all this goodness is exactly zero. Buttondown is costing $90 a year, which works out as something like £1.40 a week. I can live with those numbers.
So, a couple of days back, I switched over my domain settings to point to the new site. And I’m delighted to say that it is looking gorgeous.
There are a few glitches to iron out. I’m solving a small problem with the DNS settings so that deliverability is good (the gods of GMail are stern and unforgiving, so there are a few hoops to jump through). But by the new year, I should be ready to send out my first newsletter!