Blogging has never been easier. You don’t even need a website. With platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and even Facebook, you can sit down at your desk, enter your content into a pleasant interface, and hit publish. There’s no setting up of web hosting, domain names, and SSL; no performance optimization, design issues, or financial expense.
Why bother with the hassle of owning and managing a website if you don’t have to? It’s a question that’s worth asking, but as someone who regularly writes and publishes content online, I’m uncomfortable with the thought of relying on a platform owned by a company whose interests do not align with mine.
These platforms exist to make money. They may not be monetizing yet, but no one launches a large-scale publishing platform out of altruism. In the end, it has to make money or go the way of the dodo.
I’d like to make the case that — as old-fashioned as it may seem — ownership of a publishing platform is essential for writers and bloggers who intend to build an audience and monetize their content.
The list of publishing platforms that have been “sunsetted,” acqui-hired, or pivoted is long. Building a platform that attracts advertising or paying users and makes a profit is difficult, especially for publicly-traded companies that have to please shareholders — Posterous is an obvious example.
Owning the means of publication of your content allows you to set the agenda — you won’t have the rug pulled out from under you after you have invested in building an audience.
Recently, Ev Williams announced that Medium is not a publishing tool. Instead he envisages Medium as a social network. This came as a surprise to many of the writers who had been happily publishing on Medium. It came as even more of a surprise to the writers who wrote for Medium’s publications — The Nib, The Message, and Matter — on whom much of its reputation rested and which no longer exist in their original form.
None of which is to say that Williams’ vision for Medium is flawed, but it may well move in a direction that is not beneficial for writers. What’s certain is that the decisions made about Medium’s future will not necessarily prioritize the interests of writers and bloggers.
Owning your own platform frees you from the inherent unpredictability of platforms like Medium.
If you blog for a living, controlling the presentation and monetization of your content is vitally important. Being able to sell your own advertising, set your own rules, and make your own decisions about what happens with your work is essential to managing a successful blogging career. The most successful bloggers know this, and it’s why you won’t find them publishing on platforms owned by other entities unless they are being paid for it.
There’s nothing to prevent you from owning your own platform and publishing on sites like Medium. In fact, it can be great for audience-building if you publish on your self-hosted WordPress site and syndicate content to a platform like Medium or Facebook. But if you’re a blogger who is in it for the long-haul and who wants to retain control of her content, you should own the primary means of publication.
About the Author
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.