on deciding where a blog lives

2020-12-17

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~4 min read

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777 words

I don’t normally participate in forum discussions. I couldn’t help but weigh into a discussion about strategies for a tech blog. The concern wasn’t about where the content should be hosted (though that was part of conversation). Rather, the part that struck me was around cross-posting / teasing articles:

  1. Where should we publish the article?

If choosing between our own website and publishing platforms such as Medium, which one would you chose and why?

I’m thinking of publishing teaser versions of the articles in Medium and DEV.to and including links to our website’s full version. Thoughts?

I punted on the first half of the question (I can absolutely understand the attraction to platforms like Medium and DEV.to), but I couldn’t get past “publishing teaser versions.”1

The author would later expand on what “teaser” meant to them:

Hi Stephen, thanks for your insight.

Why do you think having a teaser isn’t a good idea?

When I said teaser I thought of an article that would still make sense on its own, but having an even-better version of the article on our own website would make sense from a SEO and Marketing perspectives. Do you think that’s negative?

I do think it’s a negative, though I will readily admit that I don’t understand the SEO / Marketing implications. My response in full:

My $0.02:

I will start by acknowledging that I am in absolutely zero way an SEO/Marketing pro. My writing has always served a different aim (namely, I write to learn), so you may be totally right.

My reaction to the teaser approach is based on the following:

  1. There’s way more great information on the internet than I could ever hope to consume
  2. If I decide to spend my time reading something, there’s an implicit contract that I have with the author that they’ll teach me something (this is not true for all types of writing, but I’m making a few assumptions about the fact that you’re writing a tech blog)
  3. The easiest way to break that contract is for the author to have a post that does not fulfill the promise of the title (i.e. “click-bait”)

I’m not suggesting that all teaser articles are click-bait. As you note: you’d write an article that could stand on its own before linking back to your site. I would counter that that is merely doubling your work. You’d now have to write two compelling articles (and the shorter one is likely to be the harder one).

On the other hand, the path of least resistance with a teaser article is to simply abridge the content so that a reader gets to the “good” part and then has to click a link. That’s annoying.

Think about reading a newspaper (the paper kind 😃). Articles start on the front page. If you start reading it, you have to flip a page. It’s frustrating. With print, there’s a legitimate reason to take this approach. Space is constrained. The internet has no such limitations and by artificially imposing them you’re not taking advantage of the new medium.

Again - I’m talking from a purely consumer perspective. There may absolutely be valid business (i.e. SEO/Marketing) considerations. However, if I’m building a business, I think you’ll be hard pressed to treat customers (in this case readers) right at every step.

I’d love if someone could point out the error in my thinking. Perhaps I’m misreading teaser articles and the value they bring. Until then, however, I remain convinced that one of the most valuable assets we (whether as an individual or company) have is our reputation.2

I’d prefer to have a reputation of treating folks fairly, honestly, and delivering value at every touch point. I think teaser articles miss the mark and undermine a reputation built by interesting and thought provoking writing.

It’s not because teasers are inherently bad. Movies have trailers. As I noted in my response, newspapers basically have trailers. It’s that the format doesn’t make sense on the web. At least not in the same way. There’s no reason to require a reader to move to another property to get the “full” scoop.

I’ll hop off my soap box now.

Footnotes

  • 1 I syndicate my RSS feed to DEV.to, though I’ve been negligent in actually posting my content there of late.
  • 2 Admittedly, this was a hard won lesson of my youth. I didn’t always appreciate the value of reputation nor how quickly it can be lost.

Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!