It seems like everyone is out to make publishing sexy and engaging for content creators. Medium has a silky-smooth editor experience, while Facebook entices us to upload more video. Snapchat gives us (another) messaging platform, and Instagram goes to 60 seconds of recording time.
The more we create, the more eyeballs we get. It’s an endorphin rush straight out of the slot parlors. We’re driven by these numbers, shouting, “We need to put our content where the people are!” All the while feeding a machine that thrives off of our free labor. The more we give to them, the more cachet they have over commanding ad dollars and revenues. Sales and marketing teams using our content to monetize the stream.
The stream, which sees increasingly rising fences around our content, as to be sure to get a proper headcount of new app downloads and signups as they come through the door. After all, engagement matters to platforms.
But content shouldn’t be given away for free. Content is hard, content is artistic, content is our conscious, content is — our very being. It’s our inner voice being ripped out from the chambers of our brain and spilled across the digital landscape. C’mon, I’m not just going to give you that for nuthin’.
So you’ve decided to allow me to make a little coin now? Splendid! But who sets the price? At what revenue share? If I feel my content is worth $1 million dollars (and I do) will you let me charge that? Sponsored content, another earth-shattering idea, will scan my content and match “the perfect ad” to read next. The next time I blog about my family cookout, my reader will receive a 600 word infomercial for Trump Steaks. Yeehaw.
Or when companies invest in putting their best content into a platform, only to have a competitor bid up for the “next article” link. Well, I guess they could outbid their competition? Bet the platforms would love that.
Fuck platforms; give me WordPress.
WordPress, a platform of my very own, where I don’t need to give up ownership of my content. It’s mine and mine alone. I can publish anything I want, without a corporate moderator or algorithm scanning my copy matching for in-line product placement. I can structure, design, and display content the way I want. I can do a lot or a little — it’s my platform.
With WordPress I can:
- Create my own paywall & membership system
- Sell digital products
- Sell traditional products
- Capture leads
- Publish video
- Control my own SEO
- Grow a community
- Engage in comments
- Measure traffic
- Extract/retain/save/migrate my content at will
Even with all of this control, I realize we’re still not free and clear.
We’re still paying our vig to the original gangster, Google, for precious eyeballs to show up. Yes, we still need to get traffic to our own platform, so for the time being, we settle with the last mile. Further, WordPress isn’t easy, which is every platform’s favorite argument. Just keep that between you and me though. And yes, the experience is fragmented, but for brands (or individuals) that care to wrangle it all together to develop their own experience, professionals exist.
Give me WordPress, or give me the idea of it!
Is WordPress really the last bastion of hope I’m painting it to be? Certainly not.
WordPress needs saving from WordPress from time to time too, but it’s the best tool I have to rage against the platforms. For instance, who really owns “WordPress”? As much as I’m rallying a call to arms to use it and fend for it — I can’t register the domain WordPressWillSaveUs.com. I’d get sued.
I make a living contracting out creative WordPress services and I sell themes & plugins, but no one “from WordPress” fights for me to keep it going. I certainly can’t afford the pay-to-play fee ($30k last I checked) to become a VIP partner agency even though I know we could service that clientele. And in terms of overall direction, I’m unsure who really gets the final say around here?
But this piece isn’t about the intricacies of WordPress, it’s about my ability and freedom to write about them.
Alas, WordPress is still ours, imperfect as it may be.
There’s a war going on.
A war where platforms depend on us to feed their juggernaut locked in the basement. They attempt to coerce us with siren songs of synergy, gorgeous UI, share count and social reach all the while monetization teams gather like Uruk-hai in the bowels of Mordor.
Can we win this war? Is it even worth fighting? My two-pronged strategy:
1. Let them fight it out
I say, let the big boys and girls feature-fight it out. So Instagram goes from 15 seconds to 60 seconds, what’s next, five minutes? At that point I might as well post to YouTube or another app with better camera controls. Really, the only unsung hero here is Twitter. If they ever go to more than 140 characters, what’s the point? I might as well post to Facebook. Or my WordPress blog.
They will continue to feature-fight to the point where publishers have all the same fancy bells and whistles no matter what app we use. The more they change, the more they look and stay the same. Content had a chance when content had to follow a certain guideline. Get your witty message captured in 8 seconds or craft an epic statement in 140 characters — there were rules.
It was fun when we could see what creators could do with those rules. Now, platforms will duke it out until everyone has the same blank canvas.
2. You can keep my fucking taco photos
A clever person will use platforms as they use us.
I hear ya, dawg. “Go where the peeps are,” I get it, but do it with all roads leading back to the platform you control:
- Compose teaser content on Medium
- Create trailers on Facebook
- Upload one piece of the puzzle to Instagram
- Tweet a simple excerpt
marketers people do this. Use platforms as channels, not for their home base.
Hey, I’m not saying I’m against publishing on platforms, I’m just saying not for the content that affords me the ability to provide for my family or pay the bills or protects my rights or expresses my beliefs.
If I want to upload an amazing photo of Mexican cuisine, so be it. You can artificially intelligence ad placement until the cows come home against that type content. I don’t care about that. Just keep your filters away from my work, my art, my voice, my soul.
It goes deeper
I don’t mean to dumb down the value of this conversation to just pithy business transactions and marketing efforts either.
What we’re dangerously close to losing is our collective voice, the freedom to publish our own thoughts freely without the oversight of a Terms of Service. Or for platforms to become walled gardens where we have to pay, with our personal information or monies, to access information.
It’s easy to give up our taco photos now, but what happens five years from now? When a business can’t share content from one platform to the next, what happens to the bottom line? Who do they end up paying to get access to the next fire hose? Customer data. Who owns it?
Or for the sake of humanity, when you want to write an emotionally moving piece to raise money for someone you know in need, but can’t, because TOS doesn’t allow for it or the algorithm doesn’t allow enough people to view it — or you can’t accept donations? What if publishing your words freely without a filter or corporate control could save a life? Millions of lives?
These are all the reasons we shouldn’t give up our content control to platforms. It is a battle worth fighting. While my words and tone may feel like a rant, it is coming out of my passion.
This is why I publish with WordPress.