I am not new to blogging. After a ten-year experience of blogging on both versions of WordPress, a five-year experience of blogging on Twitter, and an almost two-year experience of blogging on Telegram I can see that no blogging platform is perfect and each shines in only a few specific areas.
People who want to journal their lives publicly, state their opinion and showcase their photography along the way have a number of options, some dating back years and some only gaining traction. The choice is a daunting challenge for both professional and new bloggers. They should all prepare for the absence of a clear winner in the race of blogging platforms. In many cases you will have to adapt to the platform rather than platform is adapted to you.
WordPress vs WordPress
WordPress is the mother of modern blogging, and the most used software for blogging. But WordPress comes in two versions — both children of their parent company Automattic.
When you hear that WordPress is behind 29% of websites CMS (Content Management System) software is meant. This is akin to a ready-made basic carcass that you can build upon to make it look as distinct from others as your coding knowledge and the thousands of available themes and plugins allow.
However, this freedom of making your place on the web unique comes at a price. You will have to buy a domain name and a space with a hosting provider. And you must manage to stay sane wading through many hosting choices and their technical ad lingo. Installation and initial setup are relatively easy nowadays with all hosting companies offering automated options. If you are serious about your plans I advise registering your domain and buying a hosting space for longer than one year — in this case, you will save a lot compared to investing into the first year and having to extend it for the next year (first-time 2 or 3-year plans are cheaper but do not commit you to a lifetime with this provider).
Managing a self-hosted WordPress blog has several other caveats beside paying for your domain and hosting. The owner of a self-hosted blog is fully responsible for it. The hosting provider usually promises all sorts of things, but if something goes wrong (and it sometimes does) you will have to deal with it. Make sure you have a friend who knows a few things about coding and maintaining databases because often this is your only choice. The same is true for changing a theme, adapting a plugin, making it all work seamlessly, and adding little things here and there to create a site that you are happy with. True, you may learn some things as you go thanks to online articles and support forums, but you will certainly need that friend of yours in the process because sometimes things just crash.
If this scares you and money is an issue, WordPress has a free blogging platform at wordpress.com. They have several paid plans allowing you to use your own domain, get rid of ads, even use some plugins, and extending space for the uploaded media. But for casual bloggers who may live with a blog URL including “wordpress”, it is a great option. No need to pay for anything, no need to maintain your blog beyond a few design things, no need to make friends with the tech-savvy. WordPress does most of the heavy stuff and lets you write. But forget about e-business, running your own ads, hosting video immediately on your blog, or getting rid of WordPress branding. Even paid plans come with certain limitations.
Where WordPress.org CMS software shines:
- Your website is yours with all of its contents.
- You are not limited when it comes to design and structure of your website.
- Your media uploads are only limited by the space you bought with your hosting.
- You can run ads and an e-store.
- You are not limited as far as the sharing options go.
Where WordPress.com wins:
- You don’t have to pay for domain name and hosting (but you can use your domain via a paid plan).
- You don’t need to maintain the database and experiment with coding.
- You don’t need to worry about backups.
- The core plugin functionality (Jetpack) is built into the platform by default and requires no additional setup.
- It allows you to register several blogs using the same e-mail address and login portal (though, this may bring certain inconveniences later).
Actually, with the limited amount of free themes and no plugins WordPress.com minimizes your time spent on choosing and fine-tuning these important aspects. So, you spend more time on writing. But you are not completely free from all the play with what your blog looks like and feels — whether you like it or not depends on you. In any case, an estimated 40% of all blogs worldwide are WordPress blogs — self-hosted or not.
Medium vs WordPress
Being the dominant blogging platform WordPress is not perfect. Even in its simplest form, it requires some fine-tuning as far as themes and navigation go.
Where WordPress falls short:
- You spend more time arranging your blog.
- There is no centralized community (and I am not speaking about support forums).
Here comes Medium. It learnt the WordPress shortcomings and built upon them. With Medium’s simplistic editing interface, no themes setting, practically no branding (beside your avatar), and bare-bones administration all you have to do is write. It certainly stimulates a lot of people. On the other hand, some may find the feel and look of their Medium blog bleak and somewhat impersonal.
But the best feature of Medium compared with WordPress is its main page where you can find other blogs and interesting publications. WordPress allows you to subscribe to other blogs and see their updates in the Reader section, but you would have to find those blogs on your own. Medium puts the content of others on the front page where you can discover it in a much easier and friendlier way.
Additionally, Medium has gained fame as a platform for serious writing, long forms, a community of people sharing their opinions on certain topics. And these topics, authors, and articles are put at your feet. Here the allure of Medium ends.
Where Medium shines:
- Simplicity of writing interface and administration.
- Reading discovery and lists.
- No ads.
Where Medium lags far behind WordPress:
- Limited editing options (not sure you can even try to insert a table into your piece).
- No option to work with the uploaded media. No way to even see what you have uploaded and re-use it in future articles.
- Very little stats and you cannot understand what half of it means.
- A lot of articles are behind a paywall. You can read only three members-only pieces per month, but the interface makes it easy to sometimes click on a paywalled article by mistake, therefore losing a precious spot on your free reading list.
- Commenting may be weird. And in many so-called publications, you cannot comment even though commenting is obviously open. (This may be reserved for members but there is no indication of that, which is very frustrating.)
- Articles URLs are not good — they include numerical sequences instead of dates.
- No additional pages (like About or Contact Info) functionality.
- Your articles, comments, and likes are piled in one place, which makes it look like an uncategorized mess.
When it comes to finding other bloggers both on WordPress and Medium you will find it difficult in any language but English. Like somebody said, no matter what country you come from, when you open Medium you get Trump and US issues all over the page.
It is hard to say if non-English-speaking writers are scarce on Medium or if they are all tucked away to “Search and pray”. I tried looking for articles in Russian and found out that in most topics/tags the latest date back to a few months back. The only exception was Business. Obviously, Medium is not popular in Russia. Whether it is because nobody knows or most prefer WordPress advantages I don’t know.
Telegram vs All
Finally, there is Telegram with its channels. These are blogs with minimal formatting and no titles (unless you use Telegra.ph for creating in an almost Medium-like environment). There are no navigation or sharing options.
Additionally, anonymity makes it possible to exercise your freedom of speech in a more reliable manner than with websites. I covered this in more detail here.
Everything is pretty basic because it is intended for smartphones. But this weakness is Telegram’s strength as people can read and write on the go. Conversely, Telegram is not particularly suited for longreads.
As you can see, there is no clear winner in this race of blogging platforms. There are other contenders, but they are similar in that they either require users to find a hosting or pay for the software.
I have been blogging for ten years on WordPress.com and also used to have a self-hosted WordPress blog for five years. Last year I deleted my self-hosted blog and returned to WordPress.com. It was rather expensive to pay for domain registration and hosting every year. It was a responsibility to make sure everything worked fine and was Google-friendly. Since the readership was modest I found it useless to drain my financial resources on something that was great as far as freedom of tuning goes but useless otherwise.
Though I have been on Twitter for five years (not the account listed here on Medium) it was not a comparable blogging option with its 140-character limit and no editing. But I had to quit because Twitter’s policy does not defend you from trolls, haters, and other scum.
Telegram does not give me such an exposure as Twitter used to, but Telegram is a much better place for all the other reasons.
I am also making my baby steps on Medium — already fascinated with its homepage but discouraged with many other little things. Every time I write there, I feel like I should probably duplicate it on WordPress and see where it gets more attention. I am not sure if it is because blog interface is sometimes too barebones or because I stumble across a paywalled article every time I am intrigued by a title or a combination of both. I would rather Medium ran some advertising but allowed free access to all publications.
Anyway, it is safe to say that the hunt for an overall better blogging platform is not finished. This aspiration somewhat keeps me from a state of satisfied writing, but I know that at the end of the day your writing is what matters more than where it is hosted or what it looks like.