I began my WordPress odyssey one year after Heather and I married on an island beach in the Caribbean. So when I say that I’m leaving WordPress for another CMS, a lot of emotions are involved. It’s an odd predicament, transferring my 11 year-old blog from WordPress to Medium. It feels like quitting a job in which I’ve achieved mastery in order to do something entirely fantastical and, at least in the minds of some, entirely impractical.
I want to take you briefly through the history of this site’s evolution and wrap up with some reasons why this change had potential to work.
Phase 1: The Store & The Placeholder
In 2005 I registered CultureFeast.com with plans to create an online bookstore. A few months into research, I couldn’t find a solid e-commerce platform that I understood well enough to deploy on my own, so I set aside my dreams of “booksellerdom” and set up aWordPress blog as a placeholder.
To give you some idea of the digital landscape, this was the last year or so of MySpace supremacy. I had already been blogging on MySpace, but was enamored with the idea of monetizing my content, so I moved to my own domain.
For the next several years, I published my own thoughts and responses to pop culture, whether tv shows, music, politics, or relational patterns in society.
Phase II: The Multi-Author Experiment
I opened up CultureFeast.com to guest writers for a couple years. Six other writers produced weekly articles that kept the content fresh and diverse. But in the process, I lost my passion for the project, and eventually, I backed out.
I handed over the reins to a brilliant couple of writers who wrote mostly about architecture and foreign films until they too lost the will to press on.
Culture Feast lay silent gathering virtual dust for almost three years, until I could bear it no longer. This was my baby! I had to revive it and redeem it.
Phase III: Launching A New Mission
In 2016 I re-launched CultureFeast.com as a blank slate. A new logo. A new mission. And eventually, a new platform. You’ll find no historic content here. All historic content has been relocated to DanielDessinger.com. You’re welcome to browse around there if you’re curious.
You might be wondering why, after getting so comfortable with the WordPress platform for eleven years, I would consider switching to a content network that will likely prioritize paying content producers over organic. While I recognize that as a legitimate possibility, I saw some glaring holes in self-hosted WordPress blogging that simply weren’t getting fixed.
3 Problems WordPress Hasn’t Fixed
- Self-Hosted WordPress is an island. People live and congregate on social networks, and your WordPress blog is isolated, requiring you to venture out to social networks or Google to entice people to follow you back to your home to visit.
- Self-Hosted WordPress has no solid answer for ongoing community.WordPress comments are left by readers and then never touched again. Someone replies a day or a week or even a year later, and the person they respond to has no idea. The conversation dies. Of course, you can install Disqus or Jetpack or Subscribe to Comments or even Postmatic on your WordPress site, but these mostly contact people via email of a comment reply. Too many sites & too many clicks involved to maintain the flow.
- Comment structure for WordPress is linear, and overwhelming to keep up with for popular posts. Not a solution I would consider conducive to ongoing conversation.
These issues have, over time, effectively killed the close-knit community feel for most blogs. What started as a two-way conversation hobby grew into a single-direction broadcast business. The most popular blogs are now hybrid blog/news/websites that look more like magazines and really have no intimate connection with the reader.
Blogging was historically innovative for three reasons:
- Anyone could publish their ideas and have a voice to the world.
- Anyone could respond to the author and begin a conversation about their ideas.
- Bloggers and readers would talk back and forth ongoing about the blogger’s ideas. There was a real sense of connection.
Medium combines the convenience of a social network with the simplicity of the simplest blog user interface on the market.
But What About Monetization? How Will You Build Your List Or Ever Sell A Product?
In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that these are questions I have yet to solve.
Option A: The Subdomain
Selling a product may require a subdomain down the road — Maybe something like shop.culturefeast.com. I can create a custom CNAME with my registrar that points a subdomain to a SiteGround or Pagely hosting account. This involves more steps and gets potentially much more complicated as I then face the need to style the subdomain design to match or flow with the Medium design. It’s an option, but not one that thrills me.
Option B: The Separate Personal Domain
I have WordPress installed and in use on my personal domain, DanielDessinger.com. The changing of names might confuse some, so there’s inherent risk there as well. But if we are ever going to establish our own names as brands rather than hiding behind company or optimized keyword brand names, this could be a valuable long-term play.
Option C: Harness External Third Party Software
There are plenty of softwares out there, including LeadPages and SurveyMonkey, which offer externally hosted tools for capturing emails and selling products. I don’t actually HAVE to own the space wherein I conduct my business. Renting is a serious option.
In 2017 I scrapped Medium.com as a blogging platform. My main draws to Medium were the stupid simple writer interface and the social connectivity of all content published.
Also, while the name “CultureFeast” was a serviceable brand name, it doesn’t really embody the message or the content of what I’m about, so I’ve set it aside in favor of other projects I’ve been planning.
CultureFeast.com could resurface some day as a culture magazine with multiple writers. Honestly, nothing would surprise me. But for now, you’ll find me contributing most often to Blogsteading.com, Useful Humans, or Twitter.