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My Father Asked Me How to Start a Blog
The better question is where
7.5 million blogs are published every day. Internet Live Stats estimates a staggering 1.97 billion active websites in total. That’s one-fourth of the world’s population.
But do you know the answer to this basic question: What’s the best place to start a blog?
My father asked me this exact question a couple of days ago, and I thought it was easy to answer until I thought about it some more.
455 million active websites use WordPress in 2022. That’s a boatload of traffic for one of the most popular blogging platforms on earth.
You can’t go wrong with WordPress, right? Well…
If my father had asked his question a decade ago, my sure answer would have been WordPress. After all, that’s how I started blogging in 2009.
Now, it’s not so simple.
What’s the point of a blog
Before answering my father’s question, we must precisely lay out what a blog can and should do.
For my father, a blog needs to be one thing above all else: Simple to use.
My father is no tech newbie, but he’s still limited in what he can do and is willing to learn in his late 60s.
For him, a blog must deliver the following:
A custom domain
Easy setup and no or little customization (for complexity's sake)
A simple and functional editor to write, writing is the main goal after all
free (or inexpensive), the domain should really be the only cost for him as a beginner at a few bucks per month
What’s the best platform
Those 4 needs limit the list of possible blog destinations substantially.
WordPress.com is free but only with a subdomain (name.wordpress.com) while wordpress.org is too complex and difficult to set up, maintain, and frankly even too complex to just write. That last point is true for wordpress.com as well. The editor got clunky and difficult to understand.
Where does this leave us?
Blogger.com, Google’s blogging platform, might be a solution. It’s the easiest of the bunch in my experience. It is limited in capabilities, though.
Then, I had another idea.
By the way, if you’re looking for a comprehensive list of website tools, as well as plenty of other tools for writers, check out my free Online Writing Resources.
Surprising competitors from another sector
If you (like my father) want a free platform, with an easy-to-use editor, simple setup and navigation, some customization, and basic statistics, there is a category of platforms that do serve this purpose very well. Newsletter tools!
Think Substack. Substack is very easy to use, the editor is dead simple but offers anything you need as a writer, including advanced functionality like adding audio, creating podcasts, and even video content.
On Substack, you can combine a blog with a newsletter without hassle and get the best of both worlds. For free.
The only downside to Substack is the price for connecting a custom domain at $50. But this is a one-time payment, better than monthly fees.
Revue is another newsletter platform that offers both newsletter and blogging capabilities. Even better, Revue’s custom domain integration is free. I do prefer Substack’s editor and aesthetics, but Revue isn’t bad.
Other newsletter and email marketing platforms offer blogging functionality too. Even shopping & e-commerce platformslike Payhip or Gumroad can be used to run a blog for free with custom domain integration.
The bottom line
WordPress and dedicated blogging tools like blogger.com, Ghost, svbtle, micro.blog, etc. are great, but for a beginner like my dad, many come with substantial downsides like cost, ease of use, capabilities, support, and more.
Simple tools like Substack or Revue might be better suited for blogging beginners and simultaneously serve as subscriber aggregators.
As for my father, I suggested Substack for a couple of reasons:
Although it costs $50 to connect a custom domain, that’s a one-time payment (and he is willing to pay that)
Substack is a beautiful, feature-rich yet simple, easy to use and navigate
The editor works like a charm and supports Markdown
The integrated discovery feature helps with growing your audience
Let’s see how it turns out!
What would be your platform of choice if you started a new blog today (as a beginner)?
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