Many of us are feeling an increasing unease, even disgust, with the sanitised, shrink-wrapped, handholding platforms that make it oh-so-easy to get your thoughts out there …on their terms …for their profit.
I think the bit I've quoted from Keith's piece is an important distinction to make. Some of the platforms that do make it easier to publish online do not use your content for their benefit like Tumblr and Medium do. WordPress.com (if you pay), Squarespace, Barley CMS, and others, allow you to publish a site easily while managing the hard parts for you. A service most definitely worth paying for. Because, as Jeremy also stated, "Publishing on your own website is still just too damn geeky."
Squarespace doesn't make money on your content. They make money on providing an easy to use, solid web publishing service. Tumblr makes money on your content.
If you're making a decision on what platform to use to publish your content, or build your site with, there are a lot of things to consider. The "network effect" is important for some cases. If I was Time, who already has their own site but needs a way to reach a broader audience with its content, I would agree that they should try to share their content on Tumblr or Instagram. They can leverage those networks to draw people into their main site or apps. And they can do it for far less effort and money than most traditional advertising would afford.
However, if I'm someone that wishes to have an online presence that I completely control, that can be ad-free, and that allows me to publish anything I want whenever I want; I'd look for the following features in that platform:
- Is the data portable? Meaning, can I both import and export all of my content?
- Can I pay a fee to make the platform ad-free?
- Can my URL structure go with me? In other words, if I were to change from one platform to another can I ensure that all of my previous URLs will live on or be redirected to their new locations?
- Do I trust the owners to do the right thing if/when they should go out of business or be acquired by another company?
This discussion over the last few weeks has caused me to add a few features to the Barley CMS near-term roadmap even though customers are not even asking for them at this point. First, make data import / export something the customer can do easily on their own. We have the tools internally to import from and export to a few popular platforms and schemas but we've never made those tools available to the user because, so far, our customers require a bit of handholding for these action. We should and will make this something the customer can do on their own without contacting us. Second, adding support for things like webmentions. I can almost guarantee that none of Barley's customers will ever ask for this but I think we should do it anyway. It is a great feature for any publishing platform to support.
I've said it before but I'm very happy that this discussion is happening, out in the open, and that so many smart people are chatting about blogging again.