Ask LH: What's With New Blogging Platforms Like Medium? Should I Use One?

What's With New Blogging Platforms Like Medium? Should I Use One?

Dear Lifehacker, I keep seeing these new blogging platforms pop up, such as Medium and Svbtle. Why would I use one of these new platforms instead of more powerful classics like Wordpress? Sincerely, Blog to Live

Dear BL,

Medium and Svbtle are new to the world of blogging. While they're all blogging platforms at their core, they do certain things a little differently. Let's take a look at how they work and try to figure out if they're right for you.

What's Different About These Platforms

What's With New Blogging Platforms Like Medium? Should I Use One?

When you first head over to a place like Medium or Svbtle, they're barely recognisable as blogs. Instead, they're designed more like a magazine. On the home page you'll find different popular articles written by a wide variety of people. In general, these articles tend to lean toward topics like technology, design, programming or creativity.

Despite their outward appearances, both Medium and Svbtle are also blog-style platforms where you can write articles of your own. Once you create an account, you'll get your own page that looks a lot like a blog, and you can start writing. For example, here's a Medium page and here's a Svbtle page.

In either case, you're publishing into something more like a magazine than a standalone private corner of the internet. On Medium, posts are curated and picked up for the main page, and popular posts float to the top automatically. Likewise, Svbtle's magazine grabs popular posts and shows them off to a larger group. Basically, both platforms have a built-in audience that you don't really get elsewhere. The idea is similar to something like Wordpress.com's "Freshly Pressed", but they feel like they're highlighted.

Otherwise, the differences are all in what it's like to write a post. Both Medium and Svbtle have very minimal, text-based blog editing pages. Unlike something like Wordpress, you don't have a bunch of options for changing themes, editing multimedia content, or anything like that. You get a text box, a handful of publishing options, and that's all.

So What Should You Use?

What's With New Blogging Platforms Like Medium? Should I Use One?

So, now it's time to pick which platform is right for you. The shiny and new services, or the tried and true ones? Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Medium and Svbtle Are Great for Discovery, but They're Less Customisable

The big benefit for these new platforms is that they're not just blogging platforms, but also discovery platforms. They're all about the writing, so they make it easier for people to find and read your writing, and for you to find and read others'. If you're trying to gain exposure, writing on a platform like Medium and Svbtle is a great way to do it.

The most obvious problem with sites like Medium and Svbtle is, like any startup, they might fail. If they do, all your content goes with them, because you can't host them on your own server like you can with Wordpress. Sure, you can pull down your writing and move it elsewhere, but that's not a very reassuring thing when you're trying to build a repository of your writing.

Although Medium and Svbtle are both great-looking, easy to read and easy to write in, they're also not customisable in any way. They're made to look a certain way, and they stay that way no matter what kind of content you're creating. If you're sticking to their style and only writing, this is fine, but you can't really expand on that later on if you wanted to do so. Plus, if they ever do go through a redesign, you'll be stuck with that too, which could potentially prove disastrous if you don't like it. They're also made for single authors, so if you want to share a blog with a friend, that's not possible on either.

Lastly, these platforms have one other big problem: With Medium, you give them royalty-free access to your content. You still own the copyright to your words, but they can do whatever they want with what you write (you can always delete your blogs, but that kind of defeats the point). That means they can sell a blog post, use it for an ad or anything else, without paying you for your work. They don't seem to ever sell posts, but the point is they could.

The fact is you have a lot of choices for places to host your blog. So it's really about deciding whether or not you care more about customisation or ease of use. Svbtle and Medium are both stupidly simple to use, and it's incredibly easy to start writing with them. You also get built-in access to a lot of readers, and if your posts are picked up for the front page on either Svbtle or Medium, you'll get a lot of eyes on it. From a traditional point of view, Svbtle looks and works a lot more like a blog than Medium, but both are a means to the same end: to put text on the internet. The tradeoff is besides a lack of customisation, you're just giving away your words for free with no chance of getting paid.

Wordpress and Squarespace Have a Learning Curve, but They Offer You Complete Control

If you really want complete control of a blog, you'll want to go with one of the long-standing self-hosted solutions like Wordpress or Squarespace. These take a bit of time to set up initially, but once you get over that first hump you have complete control over every single aspect of them.

Whether it's Wordpress, Squarespace or anything else, you'll have a bit of a learning curve, and even when you've set everything up, none of them have a writing platform as simple as Svbtle and Medium. The classic blog powerhouses are made to power entire websites, not just writing platforms, so they have a lot more going on than these newer services. That means that besides your writing blog, you could also have a whole separate page for videos, art or whatever else. If you're more interested in multimedia, Wordpress and Squarespace are the way to go.

Once you install them, all your content can be saved on your servers and in your control, and you can retheme and redesign whenever you feel like it. You can also copyright your blogs, sell advertising on them, or not — it's totally up to you. They're a bit more complicated to use, but that doesn't mean writers can't use them. Chances are you probably won't want to spend your time writing your blog posts in Wordpress or Squarespace, but you have a lot of desktop minimal text editors that offer the same benefits. Just write there, copy and paste into Wordpress, and you're all set. Heck, you can even install a Svbtle theme onto Wordpress if you like.

Cheers Lifehacker

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