Writing For An Online Audience
A writer is a writer, no matter what platform they choose.
At Micro Camp 2021, Patrick Rhone did a talk on writing a book and he delved into the topic of blogging, which he framed as writing essays for an online audience. His point was that if you are a blogger, you are a writer. A writer for those who read your content online. It was an inspirational talk in how it shifted the way you can think about your writing and your readers. A little change in perspective can go a long way when you are trying to motivate yourself to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, in this case.
One of the things I’ve noticed when writing online is that people read very differently and prefer to get their content across different mediums. Even within my family, my writing is more likely to be read by certain individuals if it is presented in a way that they prefer. For instance:
- My mom is most likely to read something if she sees a link on Twitter. Less so if the content is delivered via email, partially because her inbox is out-of-control.
- My sister is more likely to read what I’ve written if it comes through email. She is not on very many social media platforms, and won’t see anything I’ve posted to Twitter.
- My wife is more likely to read an email, as well. She is heavily on Twitter, and follows a lot of people, so sometimes my posts get lost in the stream.
It’s apparent that how I share something and on what platform is important, if I want it to be accessible. My preference is that content is made available via:
- The open web (for general traffic and new readers)
- RSS (for the more tech savvy - this is my preferred way of reading)
- Social media (short posts to syndicate to services like Micro.blog and Twitter and a good way of getting public comments)
- Email (for folks who like newsletters and for email replies, which are a good way to get private comments)
There are four solutions of which I am aware that do all the above well. Write.as, Ghost, HEY World and Micro.blog. I know a lot of people like Write.as, which has a social component, somewhat similar to, but not as complete as Micro.blog and also has email options for blog posts. I haven’t tried Write.as, because honestly I don’t love the aesthetics and the theme or app design. I have tried Ghost, both self-hosted and the Ghost Pro hosted solution, several times. Although, I ran into a lot of trouble with Mailgun (for newsletters) and upgrades with self-hosted Ghost, so I don’t recommend that solution. Ghost Pro was really nice: increasingly stable and reliable with a set of features that was powerful but didn’t overwhelm. Their support team was responsive and helpful. Ghost is built for bloggers who want to “monetize their content,” though, and I’m not in that group. I’m writing because I enjoy it. I don’t want to strategize about expanding my audience, something Ghost is always pushing. So, for now, I’m sticking with Micro.blog and HEY World, the former for its customizability and social component, the latter for its complete lack of those features and its simplicity.
I’m grateful that blogging services are starting to take into account all the ways people want to read writing from an independent publisher. This is especially helpful when, let’s face it, traditional blog commenting systems are not great. They invite half-baked responses (I was guilty of this, back in the day) instead of real conversation. Don’t even get me started on anonymous comments, which remind me most of someone yelling from a car window as they pass you by on the road. With email and some of the micro-blogging platforms, the discourse is improved, both privately and publicly, because of the robust ability of those systems to handle discussion and the level of accountability that comes with using a real identity (Twitter can sometimes be an exception here).
Even with the popularity of social media, it has never been a better time to consider blogging. There are all sorts of ways to reach those who may want to read your thoughts.