Today: Looking at Svbtle, Medium, Postach.io and SettIn our last two posts, we discussed Should a Job Hunter Start a Blog? and Thinking About Blogging? We Have Questions for You. Finally, it’s time to start talking about where and how to blog.
If you want a quick and not-so-dirty solution to creating a blog easily, there are now a lot of simple online blogging tools for doing just that. Some have very limited formatting and a very minimalist look. Others allow you to add graphics and multi-media, handle user comments, offer e-mail and social media tools, and let you customize the look of your site.
What most of these sites DON’T do is offer much in the way of themes (to customize the outward look of your blog), plug-ins (to customize the control panel or editing side of the blog), or other customization. I wouldn’t try to do e-commerce, sophisticated portfolio displays, tables, offer e-books, create marketing pages, or do eCommerce with these tools.
But if you want to get started with blogging, get your name out on the web, and simply write — these tools can be a good start. (See also our upcoming posts on more advanced blogging tools, too.)
Although you can use these sites as your primary blogging venue, you can also use them for quick, temporary blogs, for workgroup communications (check whether they offer privacy controls), club info, classroom instruction, simple magazine and/or newsletter sites, or to promote your full-featured blog.
Easy and Fun Blogging Tools
Opened to the public this past January, Svbtle is a platform for drafting your writing, publishing your text online, and reading. Readers can subscribe to email updates. That’s about it. No comments or other feedback. No social media tools. You can use a custom domain name.
Svbtle is free for 30 days, then costs $6 / month. (Until a few days ago, they had free accounts with the option to upgrade. Previous users can keep their basic service, at least for now.)
You can format your text with Markdown (see our previous post if you don’t know Markdown). You can also change accent colors. You can add photos to your post; not sure if there is an upload tool or if you do that with Markdown.
The resulting posts show on a page with the writer’s photo in a circle on top, their name and a one-line bio. The page is on an off-white background and a one-column display. Very simple, with lots of white space. The pages resize for any size screen, so they are easy to read on a phone.
If you just want to write and publish your words on the web, Svbtle will do it for you in a bare bones, minimalist fashion. Not much else too it, although, with the paid memberships, they may add some features soon.
HINT: Svbtle doesn’t feature posts on its home page. To see what a Svbtle post looks like, you can Google site:svbtle.com. (You can also view samples of most other hosts by using the “site” command with their website name, i.e. site:medium.com or site:postach.io – make sure there is no space after “site:”.
Medium was created by two of the founders of Twitter. You actually register with your Twitter account and your posts are attached to that account. (No customized URLs or domain names here.) Like many of these simple blogging platforms, there are no plugins, themes, widgets or sidebars to bother you.
It has a “social layer” which, naturally, includes Twitter integration. You can ask for feedback and link, share or recommend other people’s posts.
Readers see a large title photo with Medium’s navigation icons on top, with the name of the blog and a tagline on top of the photo. Just like Svbtle, there is good use of white space and a simple one-column design. You can add photos. The site also resizes nicely for mobile reading, but there are no phone/tablet apps for writing on the service.
A nice feature is that readers can add comments to individual paragraphs, which are then hidden by a footnote-like icon. Others then click on the icon to read the comments. You can also submit your work to relevant collections and create an RSS feed. You can share drafts with friends, too.
The tagline for Medium is “Everyone’s stories and ideas,” and with no customization to speak of, you need to count on your story to make an impact. Medium’s editors have a weekly newsletter which promotes posts, and a monthly Top 100 section to feature the 100 most popular posts of the previous month. The site includes analytics (for view counts, “read ratios” and “recommendations”) and in-line comments.
If all you want to do is write and don’t care about customization, marketing yourself, adding pages or offering downloads, Medium may be a good choice, especially if you already have a large Twitter following.
Users of the popular notebook application with the elephant logo may already know that Evernote allows you to publish individual notes publicly to the web. Postach.io goes further and lets you add a domain name and URL for your posts. Not only does Postach.io make it easier for others to find your blog, it also adds the sophisticated comment tool, Disqus, offers Google Analytics and you can buy your own custom domain. You can edit your posts with Markdown (once again, see our previous post). Postach.io offers several ready-to-use Themes. In addition to text, you can embed tweets and Vine videos from Twitter, photos from Flickr or Instagram, YouTube videos, and Slideshares. The resulting blog is also fully responsive (meaning that it adjusts the look according to whether the reader is using a web browser, a phone or a tablet.)
All this is free. For $5 / month (or $50 / year), you can host several sites, feature multiple authors, and have a secure website.
The public Postach.io posts are stored in a specific Evernote notebook, rather than a separate database. The rest of your Evernote notes are still private. Alternatively, you can save your Postach.io posts on Dropbox. You edit new posts in that same Evernote notebook and add the tag “published” to send it online.
Looking through a number of sites, there is a wide variety of styles and looks. You can have a sidebar with bio, a list of posts, or links to social media. You can control the overall look with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). But if you already know CSS, you may want a more advanced web platform.
If you use Tumblr, there’s a tool to quickly import your Tumblr posts, too.
With better comments, the ability to add multi-media, and social media sharing, Postach.io should be attractive for those looking for extra-simple blogging, especially if you already use Evernote. (See our Frugal Guidance 2 post, Use Evernote to Remember ANYTHING, Frugally.) Before signing up, though, you should check out our in depth Frugal Guidance 2 review of Postach.io.
Sett is yet another new, easy, blog tool with extra audience-building and communications tools. They guarantee you 198% of the comments you were getting on your old blog — a bit of a strange marketing strategy. So if you got 3 comments on average in another blog, they think they can get you six. (Yawn.) More important is that Sett offers community building tools.
The way Sett increases comments and readers is with an InstantAudience recommendation system to draw readers to your site. Readers can also vote on the posts and comments. The disadvantage of this type of arrangement is that your readers will soon be off to look at the next recommended blog instead of spending time looking around your site. To help counter that, Sett allows users to subscribe to your blog and even engage in two-way email with you through its own email platform, MailGenius. Readers also comment and comments can build to become dialogues that can continue in your Community Section. Sett advertises very quick load times, but photos seemed to take quite a while to show in my browser. See their info page for more details.
You can also promote other people’s work on your blog, essentially sharing it as if it was a guest post. You can automatically import WordPress blog posts.
Curiously, nothing on Sett’s site talks about the writing environment, so I clicked on the button to start a post and all I had to do was enter an email address to get a blog they auto-titled The Laughingly Tender Hyena. Not having any better title ideas to use instead, I decided to draft an announcement for a community for suburban tender hyenas. The writing environment is a simple text box and toolbar with the same basic editing controls common to most blogs (this is the only site in this post that doesn’t use Markdown). When I clicked on save, it automatically took me to a display of what my blog looked like without any doing any personalization or changes. See the screen shot.
There are four levels of membership, including a minimalist free level (with no technical support). For a custom domain name, analytics, and basic email tech support, you pay $12 / month (at the “Hobbyist” level). They add more features, including Broadcast Emails, multiple moderators, a customizable sidebar and theme customization (and 24-hour guaranteed email support) for $19 / month. (There’s an Enterprise level membership at $99 / month, too.) $12 to $19 per month seems a bit pricy, especially with the imposed limits, but if you calculate the cost of hiring an independent email marketing provider, MailGenius makes $19 / month a bit more attractive. Exceeding your subscriber or storage limits will automatically trigger the next higher level for the next month, though.
Sett blogs show wide single-column posts, with a sidebar. Each post has the option of showing the author’s photo, name and some sort of star rating system. Authors can add photos, and a background photo or solid color. Pages are responsive for portable computing. Unfortunately, with more design options come the opportunity to make your site look more cluttered. There also appear to be no choices for changing fonts.
Sett is an absurdly easy-to-use writing site with commenting, subscription and community building tools, but offering only basic email tech support. Whether it’s a home for bloggers or for people who love reading and commenting (or arguing) on blogs is probably an open question.
In our next post we’ll discuss more new, easy blogging platforms, Posthaven, Postagon, Silvrback, and Ghost.
Searching man on a flying bicycle artwork is originally entitled “Voyage a la Luna” is from a French lithograph dating between 1865 and 1870, artist unlisted. Courtesy of the online catalog of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. Artwork cropped, adjusted and cleaned with Photoshop and Topaz Clean.
All other logos and screen shots are from the respective services’ web sites.