Sometimes the hardest part about blogging is just choosing which blog platform to use.The tips in this article complement the curriculum of the Travel Writing program at MatadorU.

Recently we looked at 4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Published. One of the things we focused on was dedicating time to your blog. I wrote:

Simply put, writers who blog well and often are more accessible, relevant, and interesting than writers who don’t. Two examples that come to mind immediately are Sherman Alexie and Dennis Cooper.

This brought up a good question: which blogging platform is best to use?

WordPress

WordPress is the most sophisticated and powerful blogging system available. It’s an Open Source project, meaning that a worldwide community is continually helping to develop and upgrade its technology and features.

It also means that it’s completely free and infinitely expandable. As new plugins and technologies are created, these can be added right to your blog. You can either have a free blog hosted at WordPress or you can buy your own domain, web hosting service, and then Download and Install WordPress onto the server.

All this said, WordPress isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone. Even though the tutorials and instructions are written and organized in a very intuitive and user-friendly way, there is a certain level of tech and computer knowledge assumed on the part of the forums / writers. In other words, unless you’re already a savvy computer user you might find yourself completely lost and discouraged in the process of setting up your own site on WordPress.

Secondly, WordPress is available and usable via a pre-made themes. There are thousands of them available, however, unless you have dev skills or know how to play around with CSS, you can’t really customize much yourself.

The best way to see if WP is for you is to go to WordPress and play around. If you’d like to set up your own site, Craig Martin gives a complete tutorial on How to Set Up a WordPress Travel Blog.

[News update 8/24/09 - Matador was just featured in the WordPress showcase, a collection of the best-designed WordPress sites.]
Blogger

Blogger is Google’s blogging system. Its main advantage is that it’s very simple to use and customize. It’s not as powerful / expandable as WordPress, however, unlike WordPress, you can play with the coding and look of your blog in a preview screen. This is a great option for people without a lot of tech savvy but who may have a certain artistic vision of what they want their blog to look like.

Another advantage of Blogger is that you’re automatically part of a community of people worldwide. The backend of Blogger makes it easy to follow other people’s blogs and vice versa.

Tumblr and Posterous

With everything becoming about speed and mobility, people have gotten tired of having to go through several steps just to post a blog. This has led to new blogging systems set up where you can post just by sending an email (although this feature is also available at WordPress) or by cellphone. Two of the most popular are tumblr and Posterous. Basically they’re just streamlined blogging systems that focus on the content and not any other extra features, which, perhaps inadvertently, leads to an appealing aesthetic, a kind of minimalist style.

The main disadvantage of using tumblr or Posterous is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Posts created through tumblr or Posterous are simply not as visible to Google and people searching for content as blogs set up on WordPress.

The bottom line however, is that as a writer, what should matter most is that you’re writing. As long as you’re consistently adding content and communicating with other writers via social networking, you should be generating a following regardless of the SEO of your blog. In this sense, you should choose your blogging platform based on whichever blog system seems like it will facilitate writing the most.

Matador

For some people, what matters most isn’t the structure of a blogging platform, or the features, but simply the opportunity to blog at a place where you’re more likely to have a captive audience for your work. Using any of the above platforms, the one disadvantage is that you’re just one of millions of other bloggers.

Setting up your blog at a smaller community such as Matador assures that your writing will gain people’s attention.


Ultimate Set-up

Ultimately, if you’re productive enough, you can set up multiple blogs, each of which takes advantage of that blog’s particular features / advantages, and then tie them all together through one main blog. Take developer Lisa Brewster’s blog for example. She has incorporated a tumblr-style ‘log’, plus a porfolio, a twitter feed, and other information, all on one WordPress blog.

The most important step: just pick one blogging platform and get started!

Community Connection

Please reference the original article that prompted this one: 4 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Getting Published.

*The travel writing course from MatadorU gives you access to freelance leads for paid travel writing, travel jobs, and press trips, as well as connections to travel editors at Matador and beyond.

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