Presented by WordPress.com and CreativeMornings, Own Your Content inspires and helps you to build your home on the internet. On the site, you can read interviews of creative leaders on the web and toolkits, or practical posts, that curate their collective wisdom. In a world where social platforms compete for our original content, what are the benefits of having your own blog or website? Three influencers break it down.
Writer, designer, podcaster, online course teacher, software creator
When it comes to building your business, Paul Jarvis advocates for staying small — and making it better, not bigger. The author of Company of One and writer of the Sunday Dispatches weekly newsletter talks about the disadvantages of housing your content on platforms you don’t own.
On the benefits of building your own mailing list (via a service like Mailchimp):
Mailing list data is owned by the sender and not governed by changing algorithms. No one company controls email. No single company can get between a sender and their recipient (even though Google tries with those damn tabs and their spam policies).
On owning your blog or website, and being able to export your content and take it anywhere:
Same goes for blogs that live on servers you pay for. You own that content, it’s yours. No single company controls hosting and servers, and if you want to leave and move hosts at any time, you can pack your data up and leave. Your ownership stays in tact. Same goes for content management systems that power blogs—if you want to switch from one to another, you can typically grab an export of the data (since it’s yours), and migrate to something else.
And in comparison, Paul’s insights on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter:
Try exporting your “page likers” from Facebook or even your followers on Twitter… oh wait, you can’t do that?! That’s because those platforms own your data and own your social connections, not you. They own the connection you have with the people who connect with you there. There’s no portability and they can absolutely take and use those connections to further their own bottom line.
Printmaker, surface designer, textile artist, teacher
As an artist, writer, and teacher, Jen Hewett has built a career on weaving her diverse skills together. Understanding, too, that “perfection is the enemy of craft,” she encourages doing hobbies and personal projects, even unpaid or unrelated to your work, to nurture your creative voice and to add joy and fun in our lives.
Jen’s definition of “owning your content”:
As an artist, my content is my livelihood. This is true whether it’s the work I create or the curriculum of my classes, or the list of tools and materials I use to create my work.
Owning my content means I have the right to determine what I’ll share and where I’ll share it, whether or not it’s something I want to be paid for, or something I want to give away for free.
Her thoughts on starting a blog in 2006 and printmaking in 2008, which remind us how valuable a blog — and one’s own space — can be to the creative process:
Part of the beauty of both those outlets in the early days was that they weren’t about having just one, perfect photo, or sharing one, tight sound bite. We could iterate, provide context. Blogs in those days felt like digital zines — crappy, raw, and democratic. We were all beginners in the early days, and we were very often kind to each other because we were all on the same boat.
Designer, author, longtime blogger
Khoi talks about how important his blog has been over the past 20 years:
It’s hard to overstate how important my blog has been, but if I were to try to distill it down into one word, it would be: “amplifier.” Writing in general and the blog in particular has amplified everything that I’ve done in my career, effectively broadcasting my career in ways that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
On the distinction between content and writing:
Not that the work I do is all that important or memorable, but I prefer to think of it as “writing” rather than as “content.” And for me, that’s an important distinction. Content and writing are not the same thing, at least the way that we’ve come to define them in contemporary society. Content is inherently transactional; its goal is to drive towards some kind of conversion, some kind of exchange of value. This is why platforms just think of it all as “content”; for the most part, they’re indifferent to whether it’s good or bad writing, or even if it’s writing at all. It doesn’t matter whether it has any kind of inherent worth, whether it’s video or animated GIFs or whatever— so long as it’s driving clicks, time spent, purchases, etc.
Again, I’m not suggesting that what I do has any superior worth at all, but what I will say is that the difference between content that lives on a centralized blogging platform and what I do on a site that I own and operate myself—where I don’t answer to anyone else but me—is that what my writing on Subtraction.com has a high tolerance for ambiguity. It’s generally about design and technology, but sometimes it’s about some random subject matter, some non sequitur, some personal passion. It’s a place for writing and thinking, and ambiguity is okay there, even an essential part of it. That’s actually increasingly rare in our digital world now, and I personally value that a lot.
On finding real success on your own site:
I don’t think it works to do something like writing a blog or whatever just because you see it’s something that other successful people have done, and so you want to use it as a method of replicating that success. I think you can only do it successfully if you can find a take on it, a spin on it that’s reflective of who you are and the change you want to effect on the world.