Get Blogging!

Your easy guide to starting a new blog.

A blog is an easy way to get started writing on the web. Your voice is important: it deserves its own site. The more people add their unique perspectives to the web, the more valuable it becomes.

Write your own blog

To get started writing your own blog, you'll need to set up your own blogging site. If you just want to write, this can be as easy as signing up for a service, picking a name for your site, and starting to type. If you want more customization or you're more technical, you can host your own site on your own web server, configure your chosen platform to do exactly what you want it to, or even write your own.

Remember that your blog is yours! Your posts can contain exactly what you want them to: a sentence of text or a novel-length essay; photos and videos; audio; links and bookmarks. What you want to share is entirely up to you.

Whichever route you choose, it's a good idea to add your own domain name. That way if you decide to change which service you use, you can still use the same website address you've already shared with everybody. Otherwise you may be locked into using the particular service you signed up with. Domain names don't have to be expensive: every blogging service listed here offers them, and they can be as cheap as $3 a year, depending on the name you pick.

This guide is split into free services, paid services, and self-hosted platforms. We also discuss dedicated apps for writing blog posts on any platform. We only list platforms that allow anyone to read on the web without creating an account. All the platforms listed below also provide feeds so anyone can subscribe to your content with a reader app.

Free services

Note that all the free services listed here have paid service tiers that support more features. But crucially, you can start and maintain a blog for free forever.

WordPress.com

WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform. Over a third of the web is powered by it, which is a testament to its flexibility and power. Over the last few years, it's gained a new, more powerful editor, which makes it even easier to post.

The free WordPress service gives you access to a huge number of themes. Be warned, though: because WordPress can be used for any kind of website, some themes are better-suited for storefronts or startups. Still, there's plenty here to get going with.

The free plan is ad-supported; the paid plan is ad-free and includes your own domain name. Apps for all mobile platforms are available.

Substack

Substack is probably one of the biggest blogging success stories of the last few years: a newsletter platform that is also a blog, complete with feed reader and (for a fee) custom domain use.

Bloggers on Substack can choose to make some of their posts accessible only to paid subscribers, and the platform does a good job of recommending new blogs to people who are already subscribed to others. As a company, it has rightly received criticism for very lenient content moderation policies that allow for some hateful views to thrive, but the software itself is solid.

Blogger

Blogger is one of the original blogging sites (pre-dating WordPress). These days, it's run by Google and is tightly integrated with Google Analytics.

Its interface is not the most modern around, but it does everything you need from a blog: a custom domain name, themes, and subscription feeds. Be warned that Google has a well-known tendency to discontinue services without much warning, however.

Medium

You can join Medium and write for free, but it's at its best when you're a member of the paid Partner Network. It's worth noting that when you publish content to the Partner Network, it's placed behind a paywall that will encourage readers to sign up as well. As a result, it's a great place to publish if you're comfortable being part of Medium's walled garden, and authoritative writers can make quite a bit of money doing so. It technically qualifies as a blogging platform, too, but that's not its focus.

You can think of Medium as less of a blogging platform and more of a big magazine that everyone contributes to. Still, when you set up a publication on the platform, you can use your own custom domain name and provide your own feed for others to subscribe to from any platform. Note that Medium won't actively distribute your content unless it's part of the paid Partner Network.

Micro.blog

Micro.blog is an easy-to-use blogging platform that is designed to be as simple as posting to a social network. In fact, it also includes one: by publishing to a blog on Micro.blog, you can see content from everyone else who is doing the same, and reply to their thoughts. It's an active community that really cares about blogging.

The platform supports custom domain names and themes. The premium tier also lets you host short videos and your own podcast.

There are iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps, and like all blogging platforms, you can also blog from any web browser.

Ghost

Ghost has centered itself around being a platform for the creator economy: people who want to turn blogging into a business. In reality, it's still a great choice for people who just want to share their own thoughts from a slick, modern interface.

You can use your Ghost blog to power a newsletter, and charge for premium content. Fully-featured analytics dashboards let you stay on top of your metrics. You post to Ghost via the web.

Write.as

Write.as is a simple, clutter-free blogging platform. Although it doesn't provide themes, its free plan is ad-free. As well as RSS feeds, Write.as is a part of a decentralized social network known as the fediverse, meaning that people can also subscribe to your content on participating social media platforms like Mastodon.

Write.as is privacy-first, so readers and writers aren't tracked as they use the platform. You can write fully-anonymously.

Free plans are disabled for now. The paid plans allow you to use your own custom domain and even support micropayments so people can pay you for premium content.

Self-hosted platforms

Self-hosted platforms allow you to choose your own web host and then install the software wherever you like. This gives you the most flexibility: the code that powers your site is yours, and you can change hosts at any time. You can also usually customize the code with plugins or configuration options for even more power.

The downside is that you have to keep the software upgraded, which requires a little regular maintenance every month. For a lot of hobbyists this isn't a bother - most even consider the process to be quite fun.

WordPress.org

As well as its popular hosted platform, WordPress is a fully open source self-hosted blogging platform. This is where you get the most power: thousands of themes and plugins, and an active community of people who are excited to expand the platform in lots of different directions. There's even a series of WordCamp event to attend all around the world.

While it does require some upgrade maintenance, the experience of using WordPress has improved in leaps and bounds. There's a reason it's so popular.

Ghost.org

Likewise, Ghost can be self-hosted too, albeit on a slightly smaller set of web hosts (because of its underlying Node.js-based codebase). Like WordPress, you get more flexibility and power if you go it on your own server.

WriteFreely

WriteFreely is the open source, self-hosted platform behind Write.as (see above). As such, it has a clean interface, and also allows people to follow your content from fediverse platforms like Mastodon.

Known

Known is an open source indieweb platform, which means that Known sites can all reply to each other (or any site that supports the indieweb standards). While it can be a traditional blogging platform, you can think of it more like an open source social profile: status updates, photos, bookmarks, location check-ins and more are all supported.

Originally founded as a startup, Known is now a pure open source community, maintained by a community of enthusiasts.

Jekyll

Jekyll generates static websites that can be hosted for free on sites like GitHub. (In fact, it was originally developed to be used with GitHub.) Because it requires use of the command line, it's not a good choice for people who want to easily blog from mobile devices - but its users swear by the fast, secure sites it creates. Many themes are available.

Writing apps

Regardless of which blogging platform you pick, you can often use third-party apps to write to your blog. These are made possible by open standards and are designed to provide a better writing experience than stock blogging apps.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit has been around for longer than most blogging platforms and continues to evolve. It works with WordPress, Micro.blog, and anything that supports the MetaWeblog and AtomPub interfaces. You get a distraction-free full-screen mode that supports WYSIWYG, HTML, and markdown. It's also got deep integration with WordPress in particular, so it'll understand your customizations.

iA Writer

iA Writer is a deliberately minimalist markdown editor that can publish to WordPress, Micro.blog, Medium, Ghost, and Known. While it doesn't manage metadata or images, it forces you to focus on the most important part of any blog post: the words.

Do more with blogging

Once your blog is set up, check out the indieweb community for ways that you can make it more social. It's a thriving community of people who care about building an independent web full of diverse voices like yours. And the technologies the community produces can be used to add both value and functionality on top of what you're already doing. There are also regular Homebrew Website Club meetings you can join.

Read other peoples' blogs

It would be pretty boring if we had to go visit every blog we read individually every day - although you can do that, of course!

All blogging platforms support a feature called syndication. This just means you can subscribe to a blog's content and see all its updates alongside all the other blogs you subscribe to, just like you see your friends' updates on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter. But they all get to choose which platform they write with, and you get to choose which app or service you use to read!

Syndication is most often accomplished with a standard called RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. Any blog that supports RSS can be read using an RSS reader - it's as simple as that.

Readers

Feedly

Feedly's RSS reader is free if you want to subscribe to up to 100 blogs. You can also subscribe to your email newsletters in the same place. It also lets you discover new sources using a search interface.

Its paid plans allow you to follow more blogs, subscribe to Google News, and generate automated insights if you're subscribing to blogs for business.

Feedly has apps for iOS and Android, and you can read on the web.

NewsBlur

NewsBlur is a personal newsreader. Its free plan lets you subscribe to up to 64 feeds; subscribing to up to 1000 costs $36/year. It'll also show you the full text of every story, even if that text hasn't been included in the RSS feed. You can also follow sites like Twitter and YouTube that don't support RSS!

NewsBlur has apps for iOS and Android, and you can read on the web.

Inoreader

Inoreader is free for up to 150 subscriptions, but is ad-supported. Paid versions are ad-free and include the ability to subscribe to email newsletters, add your own annotations to content, and search all public articles.

Uniquely, as well as non-RSS sources like Twitter and YouTube, Inoreader lets you subscribe to Telegram channels. It also lets you receive custom push notifications for specific content you're interested in.

Inoreader has apps for iOS and Android, and you can read on the web.

Feedbin

Feedbin provides a slick interface for reading RSS feeds as well as YouTube, Twitter (including unrolled Twitter threads), and newsletters. It provides two iPhone and iPad apps: one for text-based feeds, and another for podcasts. An account costs $5 a month.

It provides a full-screen mode for distraction-free reading. It also includes automatic filter-style actions for new posts and significant integrations for sharing posts elsewhere.

Reeder

Reeder is a beautiful RSS-reading app for iPhone and iPad. As well as letting you subscribe to feeds directly and sync via iCloud, it also can be used to provide a slick front-end for most other RSS readers. Its features include the ability to pull the full-text of content even if it's not contained in a site's RSS feed, and a Bionic Reader mode that makes it easier to read through content.

NetNewsWire

NetNewsWire is a native app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Feeds sync via iCloud, so if you read on one of your devices, the status will update everywhere. It's open source, completely free, and well-loved.

Unread

Unread is an RSS reader app for iPhone and iPad only. It's free, but you can pay to add features like better caching (for faster reading), actions to share articles with bookmarking sites, and support.

Finding blogs

It can be difficult to find other blogs to subscribe to. Most RSS readers let you discover new blogs to read, but there are also a few sites specifically to check out.

Blogroll

Blogroll lists personal blogs and is continually updated as a labor of love by Ray. As an added bonus, it includes an RSS reader that reveals latest posts from every site in its directory.

πŸ•ΈπŸ’ - An Indieweb Ring

Just like the webrings of yore, this is a directory of independent, personal websites. Each one lets you click through to another one at random. Add yourself to the list to discover and be discovered.

More about blogs

Why are they called "blogs"?

Originally blogs were called weblogs: a log of activity that you wrote to the web. Peter Merholz jokingly split the term into two words to make it an activity: we blog. Ev Williams started to use it as a verb and a noun: to blog. And the rest is history.

Why shouldn't I just write on Facebook?

Of course you can! But if you only write on Facebook, Facebook controls who sees your thoughts, what you can write about, and how you write. If you control your own site, your thoughts aren't subject to the policies of any other company or individual.

If you're a business, it's important to control your relationship with your audience. As an individual, giving a company control over how you share your ideas gives them outsized influence on how you represent yourself.

What should I write?

Whatever you want to share. That's the long answer and the short answer.

What you shouldn't worry about is whether what you're sharing is valuable. If you want to share it, it's inherently valuable: a reflection of who you are and how you think about the world.

If you want to use it to build a business, then do that. If you want to share more about yourself, then do that. There are no wrong answers.

What gives you the authority to write this guide?

Hi! I'm Ben Werdmuller. I've been blogging since 1998: first by writing my own HTML, and then using a series of platforms that include MovableType and WordPress. These days I blog using Known. In my day job, I work to help journalism and education get the best out of the open web, currently as CTO at The 19th. This website is mine and doesn't represent any current or past employer.

Here's my ulterior motive: I love reading blogs, and start every day using Reeder and NewsBlur. If more people blog, there's more for me to read. So by adding your voice to the web, you're improving my personal experience of it.