As you might have noticed, I’ve started blogging on my own site after a period of almost 18 months of regular writing on first LinkedIn and later Medium. After just a few days it feels great to be back inside WordPress again and to be in full control of my own content.
Why the change? Many have already asked me via email and in this brief posting, I wanted to share my thinking on going back to a standalone blogging platform like WordPress and my reflections on abandoning the LinkedIn and Medium publishing ships.
How I started blogging
Let me start with some background that has helped shape my thinking. Long before the term content marketing rose to the current hype, I’ve regularly written articles and shared from my learnings, in particular from J. Boye group meetings and conferences.
I started out writing for Martin Webb over at irt.org (Internet Related Technologies) back in circa 1999. I had much to learn, but Martin was a kind, gracious and forgiving mentor.
For a couple of years (circa 2005 to 2009) I was also a regular contributor as an analyst at Real Story Group (then called CMS Watch). The way I remember it, I would write my piece in Microsoft Word and then Tony Byrne, the founder of Real Story Group, would do a great job editing, marking it up in the content management system and then publishing it on the site. This not only dramatically helped improve my writing, but also played a big role in getting readership outside Denmark.
Later and with big support from former employee Peter Sejersen, we rolled out the J. Boye blog based on WordPress. For about 4 years (circa 2008 to 2012) this had regular content, also from other contributors than me, in both English and Danish.
Somewhere in the process, I decided to retire my own site and simply just redirect it to my profile page on jboye.com. Seemed pointless and like too much extra work to maintain my own site.
We drove WordPress into a cul-de-sac
The decision to move away from WordPress was based on multiple factors, mostly related to the fact that our WordPress install had become clunky, hard to maintain and we also had numerous problems with downtime.
Over the years different internal team members and external agencies had added custom modules, customised bits and pieces here and there and with the regular need to update WordPress to avoid security breaches (we had some), it was a real pain.
To make matters worse, we had many WordPress installs. One per conference per year, which meant that we had a WordPress blog for our J. Boye Philadelphia 11 conference and another one for our J. Boye Aarhus 11 conference 6 months later. And so on for each year. This probably did us some good in terms of SEO, but it was a nightmare to maintain and left us with content silos.
LinkedIn will make us great again
I published my first LinkedIn blog posting back in June 2015. My hope was that this would both provide a way out of the WordPress pains as well as help attract new readers with visibility to my LinkedIn connections and the LinkedIn activity stream.
To be honest, LinkedIn did both. Readership numbers were up, many postings were even receiving comments. A bit further down the road, it also helped pave to way to simplify our own digital setup at J. Boye. A great start.
During the 7 months where I considered LinkedIn to be my home for sharing on the Web, I slowly came to realize the problems.
Two main weaknesses drove me away:
- A big part of J. Boye membership, in particular in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, are not users of LinkedIn. Instead they use Xing. To many of them reading articles on LinkedIn was a strange choice of platform
- My stories are in one big pile on LinkedIn with all kinds of different stories. Some of them good and interesting, but many of them quite poor and a waste of time. Did I want to have my own articles be a part of this mixed bag?
And at some point Amsterdam-based Web pioneer Steven Pemberton pointed out that hosting your content on third-party sites has proven to be unsustainable. His point is that you need to manage it yourself for it to last for decades. Unfortunately this point did not hold me back from trying out Medium as the next step.
Next stop: I’m with Medium
Back in January 2016 I published my first posting on Medium. It seemed the right thing to try out. Several of the people I find inspirational were using it. It looked nice, clean and free of the ads that I also dislike about LinkedIn. While LinkedIn postings can also be read by non LinkedIn users, it genuinely seemed a better and more meaningful choice of platform.
To be honest, Medium was off to a less impressive start than my LinkedIn postings. Readership numbers went down. Very little interaction in terms of likes and extremely few comments. I wanted to give it time, so I added a few articles every month.
Perhaps a coincidence, but the most popular posting I’ve shared on Medium is titled 5 things that will sink LinkedIn’s empire and was based on a conversation with Silicon Valley-based Andreas Ramos. The weaknesses of the LinkedIn publishing platform did not make the list of 5 things.
I probably stayed on Medium longer than I should. One of the reasons is that it’s such a pain to have content all over the place and I did not feel like going out looking for a third publishing platform.
Besides the fact that Medium never really took off for me, what finally drove me away from Medium was the lack of control. Quite similar to LinkedIn, if you publish on Medium, your stories appear on some strange rotation with what Medium deems to be similar and related articles.
It might seem a very technical reason, but the clunky and long URLs on Medium also did me no good. I’ve noticed that you can now set up Medium to point to your own domain, but that was not a big appeal to me.
Hello world. I’m back on WordPress
To paraphrase Scott Adams from The Joy of Work
Blog postings are like childen. No matter how ugly they are, you’ll think they’re beautiful if they’re yours
I’ve been thinking for a while about the best way forward. Last week we held our 12th J. Boye Aarhus conference and I used some of the hallway conversations to get advice on what to do next. In particular conversations with members like Bernd Burkert from German consultancy KPS, Finnish web expert Perttu Tolvanen and our wunderkind Valur Zophoniasson at J. Boye really helped me make up my mind.
It is all fine and good to have content on LinkedIn, Medium and even Facebook and other places, but what I hope to achieve here is to have my own island – my own silo if you like – where I can share on my own and hopefully take my writing to the next level, without the content drowning in everyone else’s writing.
With big help from Valur, it took us less than 2 hours to get this WordPress site up and running. Looking at how far WordPress has come since last, yet how familiar it still looks, made me feel like seeing a long lost friend again. It’s great to see you again.
Finally, you might ask, why not blog on the J. Boye website? I looked at great folks like Alain Veuve and Dries Buytaert for inspiration and made up my mind. Others, incl. UK-based information management expert Martin White, have previously advised me to have my own blog. The company has come a long way in the past 5 years and is about much more than me. Our plans at the moment is to make the company blog more about our members and the great work happening in the J. Boye community.
There’s a plenty of work to be done and so much fascinating happening in digital right now.
Thanks for reading so far and being part of the journey.