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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.

Blogging Tips

 

About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • http://meganahill.wordpress.com Megan Hill

    I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress and am happier with WP. It took some getting used to, but it’s a much better format, ultimately, for my needs. Blogger seems to produce a much less professional, more informal product.

  • http://www.paul-sullivan.com Paul Sullivan

    I have to agree with Megan here. I prefer WordPress in terms of both looks and functionality — and the fact you can add it to a domain makes it a really great, cheap choice for ppl who want a pro-looking website but don’t have much cash. Learning about CSS is a reasonable trade off for those results I feel…

  • http://www.tvrotsyourmindgrapes.com/ Marissa

    What a helpful breakdown, and great timing since I’m considering finally starting my own travel/preparing-for-travel-while-enjoying-my-city blog. Thank you for this!

  • http://paudecanela.net/kiwivera vmcalves

    I switched from blogger to wordpress a while ago, after buying my first domain. the only thing I regret is not having done it earlier, as wordpress gives me a lot more freedom to make it look the way I want.

    I’m not a code-ninja so I learn little bits here and there. My blogs need a lot of work still (and really, they should become one singular blog…) and blogger wouldn’t allow me to do what I have in mind for them. I guess it really comes down to what people want to do with their website – if they don’t want to have a go at playing with the format and just want to use it for quick posts, for example, to update friends & family on their lives, then blogger might be just what they need. If they want to go a little bit further, then wordpress is a much better option.

    I also agree with Megan – blogger looks “more informal” than wordpress.

  • Christy

    I have a Blogger and a Live Journal. No one seems to use Live Journal anymore though! :( Every time I discover a new blogging site I want to join it but I don’t want to have posts all over the place so am sticking with these…I think I should use the Matador one too though!! :D

  • Alan

    Can’t forget about Drupal, Joomla, and Mambo. Although I think they’re suited for more advanced users. Doesn’t hurt to check them out, though!

  • http://collazoprojects.com Julie

    David-

    Great, practical article.

    I think the other consideration folks should take into account when they’re deciding which blogging platform is best is whether they ultimately want to have multiple blogs– and what each blog is for.

    I have my Matador blog, which I don’t plan on giving up, because it’s really my online home for my travel writing. As you mentioned, it’s an ideal platform for finding a community, not only of readers, but of people to form friendships with.

    I have my own WordPress hosted blog with my own domain name that my husband and I use as a sort of online portfolio for all the writing/photography we do but don’t publish elsewhere. I really like that WP has as many plugins as it does– you can roll your Flickr feed on there, a Twitter feed, whatever.

    And then I have a WordPress hosted blog with the basic WP extension that I use for blogging about pregnancy (and parenthood, soon!).

    Each of these blogs have a different function, and require different capabilities, so when you’re making a decision about the platform you ultimately want, do take the purpose of your blog and your target audience into consideration.

    And as Alan says, Drupal and Joomla are other options (Joomla seems to be particularly popular in the Spanish speaking Caribbean and in South America).

  • joshywashington

    Solid break down, great advice.
    I have jumped around and have tried to adapt as best as I can but ultimately your sentiments about smaller community with an affinity for focussed subject matter is the most rewarding for me.

  • http://musictravelwrite.wordpress.com Michelle

    What a ridiculously helpful article! This confirmed what I thought about WP and Blogger, but I was unfamiliar with Tumblr. Really great breakdown of info here.

  • http://www.travelcalling.blogspot.com Angela Corrias

    I have Blogger for my blog and WordPress for my website. WordPress has more options, but Bloggers is much easier to use.. Before WordPress, I had Joomla CMS installed on my website and I couldn’t go beyond the “About me” page: way too complicated for my tech-abilities…

  • http://beautygirlblog.com Brittany

    I have to say WordPress is the best! It’s so easy. That’s what I use for all my websites.

  • http://lindaintogo.blogspot.com Linda

    I was thinking about getting a new blog at WordPress with my own domain but am also interested in a Matador blog for the community. Double-posting? Is that just too much?

  • http://musictravelwrite.wordpress.com Michelle

    Linda: I have a WordPress blog and a Matador blog. I use WordPress for my personal and music related blogs (which do include travel stories), and Matador only for travel. It’s not too much to keep up with both!

    • http://lindaintogo.blogspot.com Linda

      Thanks, Michelle! Now… must find self-discipline and get started.

  • Adam Roy

    I’m definitely a WP man. Love the community at Matador, though.

  • http://thecassidyexpedition.com thecassidyexpedition.com

    I’m all about WordPress. I feel that Matador is good if you are not familiar with coding and what to join an awesome community. However, if you want to start your own website up, then I think a person should use WordPress. Just my two cents.

  • http://amanofnonation.blogspot.com/ Kevin Post

    My girlfriend swears by Joomla but I am not sure why because I find it very difficult to use. We are in the process of setting up my site and as long as she helps me run it I’ll stick with Joomla. If not, I’ll probably switch to wordpress.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    I agree with Megan. My experience has been the same: Blogger to WordPress.

  • Marybeth Bonfiglio

    I just switched to squarespace… I couldn’t bring any old content over but it was easy to design myself. but I don’t feel it’s as strong a presence as wordpress. it’s the industry standard for a reason, I suppose.

    • Georgia Cranston

      And I switched from squarespace to WordPress lol.

  • Anonymous

    Hi. I’m planning to move my blog form Blogger to some other, more professional site. Which is better? WordPress or Weebly? and does Weebly offer services like importing the posts on my old blog to the new ones? I know wordpress does.

  • Andrija Tanja
  • abu

    sad

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