Many of the leading blog hosts had the right idea a few years ago when they branched into hosting mainstream websites. And why not? Blog platforms are fairly customizable and make it easy with preformatted stories, text and photo editing, archiving, and plug-ins for everything from Twitter feeds to comment sections. CNN uses WordPress, The Huffington Post uses Movable Type, Newsbusters uses Drupal, Engadget (and others in the AOL network) use the Blogsmith platform, and so on.
Blogs have never been as sophisticated or powerful. They're frequently updated to be in compliance with new standards, the code is clean and compact, they make it easy to arrange static and dynamic information, they archive well, they're a cinch to use — no HTML or CS3 knowledge required for the most part — and they are optimized for search engines. There's really no downside.
But blogs are also fading, and are being replaced by services like Twitter and Facebook.
One of the reasons is that companies — which accounted for a good number of the active blogs out there — follow the people, and people are doing more social networking than blogging these days. As well, a big reason for having a blog a few years ago was to share links, but social networking does that just as well — if not better — than blogs. Blogging never really had a good, centralized index for sharing information.
But while blogs are on the decline, there's still a future for out-of-the-box websites. They're not just for narcissists and stay-at-home moms anymore...
1. Blogs are great for resumes. There's no better way to show that you're keeping up with the technology than actually keeping up with the technology. And while a lot of people doing the hiring at companies will stick to the traditional resumes and cover letters, a few will look at personal websites before taking the next step and arranging an interview. They're great for maintaining and updating a portfolio of your work.
2. Blogs are great for hobbyists and experts. Whether you're into collecting model cars or doing Arduino projects, carpentry or 3D printing, some of the best information out there can be found on blogs. In fact if you add the word "blog" to any search term you'll probably find a lot of useful information. The fact that most blog platforms are both free and easy to use makes them ideal for amateurs of all stripes.
And that includes amateur journalists and experts. A lot of blogs emerged to cover stories and events that were being ignored by the mainstream media (at least until media got on the social networking/blogging bandwagon), and there is always a place — and readership — for that kind of perspective.
3. Blogs are still great businesses. Some of the most popular websites out there are blogs. Huffington Post is a blog. Daily Motion is a blog. Reddit and Digg are blogs. Engadget and Gizmodo are blogs. Lifehacker is a blog. Gawker is a... well, you get the idea. If you have an idea for a web platform and the goal is to distribute it to a wide audience, you might want to start with a blog. Blog platforms even have systems in place that will allow you to start making a share of advertising revenues based on the number of page views you're getting.
As well, you can use a blog to set up an online store. Tumblr in particular specializes in e-commerce, so if you have something to sell a blog might be the best way to get started.
4. Blogs are sometimes the best tool for the job. Take the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the biggest showcase of electronics in the world. Go to their website at www.cesweb.org and you'll get information about the conference itself, like where to go and how to book a space at the 2013 show, but if you want information about the electronics themselves and what's actually happening at the show you click on the Blog button.
5. Blogs are perfect for events. Let's say you're going on a six-month trip around the world and want to keep your family up to date on your adventures. Starting a blog — then linking to that blog through Twitter and Facebook — is the best way to record your adventures, file photos and video, let people know where you've been and where you're going next.
They also work great for events of all description, whether it's a local charity run or your wedding, and can be taken down at any time.
There are some concerns about the future of blogs, and at what point they stop being free for users. But if you're looking for a web presence they're still a great way to go.
A list of the top blogs includes WordPress (www.wordpress.com), Blogger (www.blogger.com), Tumblr (www.tumblr.com), Movable Type (www.movabletype.org), Expression Engine (www.expressionengine.com), TypePad (www.typepad.com), Drupal (www.drupal.org), Squarespace (www.squarespace.com) and Posterous Spaces (www.posterous.com).