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Why writers use platforms

Platforms offer a number of benefits over self-hosting your writing. One is the network effect. Us writers, the little parasites we are, latch onto a big whale platform and benefit from its marketing department. Using an army of other people's bachelor's degrees, algorithms, and tribalism our posts gain the implicit trust readers place into platforms. Our words like dandelions on the wind of its success. The more users who visit typically result in a higher chance of being noticed. This can be great! In the early days of Substack, while it positioned itself as a bastion of free speech and self-expression in the face of cancel culture, joining and writing there lent your publication the impression of a brave rebel. For some, this was the pivotal moment in their career. Bari Weiss, after resigning from her job at the New York Times, martyred in the culture wars, was able to successfully launch her own publication. Riding off the success--and marketing budget--of Substack which was looking to capitalize on the drama.

It can also be terrible.

When Medium first launched it was a breath of fresh air. Clean simple profiles, a CMS that got out of your way, and most importantly--after some delay--a method of making money. I was even a part of its premier publication test--I was a freshman in college, don't shoot me. But what soured Medium in my eyes was, over time, it losing focus on its core mission: Letting writers write. Medium's partnership program was its own undoing. Unlike Substack, where writers solicit subscriptions from direct readers, Medium would allocate payouts from a pot. Funded in part by members of the Medium platform, and allocated by clicks, likes, and other engagement metrics. This introduced an incentive of overproduction. If you could produce the most engaging content, racking in the most readers, you'd stand to make the most money. SEO sludge was produced on an industrial scale. Now, most of the readers I know skip over medium articles, assuming they're from a content farm or not worth their time.

If you're writing on Medium today, informed readers will come away with that bias as part of their first-impression. Luckily, writing on the internet is about the easiest thing to get started with. There are hundreds of platforms targeting every niche of writer. If you prefer the simple, fast, and private try Bear Blog. They have an open algorithm, let you use a custom domain (you'll need to buy the domain and pay to use it), and have a pretty customizable, but sparse, theme. If you're more for the Apple minimalist look, try Dustin Curtis' Svbtle. I used it for years, and never had any complaints other than the theme is so minimalist it makes it hard express yourself. Other writers may not care.

There's also the argument for forging your own path. Self-hosting your writing is the best way to display your work as true to itself as possible. Unfortunately, you'll need some technical knowledge. There are guides on how to set up your own WordPress site, Ghost is a modern open-source blog engine that offers hosting plans. Either way, self-hosting typically costs money. Or you have to develop your own solution--like I did--and then you can possibly get away with hosting for free if you've got the right technical stack.

What's platform do you use to write? Or do you self host? Write in and let me know.