Over the past few years, as a few longtime content producers announced that independent websites were taking a backseat to Facebook and Twitter, I just shook my head.
There’s a fundamental difference in the way people who build web properties for a living think when compared to those who publish online for other reasons.
For me, there’s really no appeal in spending a lot of time creating “user-generated” content via a social networking application.
That’s like remodeling the kitchen in a house you rent.
Hugh McLeod kicked off the discussion with his post Blogging is Dead? According to Whom?.
He said, in part:
I guess my point is, if you’re one of these people considering giving up on blogging in exchange for paying more attention to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, or whatever they throw at us mere mortals, bear in mind you are giving up on something rather unique and wonderful.
Darren Rowse elaborated on Hugh’s thoughts with an anecdote about a reader who now regrets his decision to shut down his blog to pursue a social networking strategy:
I was offered a job through my blog….
I have 9000 ‘friends’ at facebook and myspace….
I used to know most of my readers by name and knew that they all knew mine — even though there were only 200 a day….
I know a lot more people see my profile on facebook — but most of them just are hunting for friend bait….
I used to spend hours writing things that meant something on my blog….
I now spend hours updating people on the lattes I drink and people I meet on Twitter….
I had a brand of my own on and on my own property on my blog….
I now have a brand on someone else’s property….
If nothing else, that final point of regret is key.
As I commented on Darren’s post, people who abandon their own sites have gone from developing a digital asset of their own that could have real value, to becoming someone else’s user-generated content.
My plan for Copyblogger from the beginning was to use it as a vehicle to become known in online marketing circles, but to also build an asset that has independent value.
That’s just the way I think, and I see this approach becoming more prevalent. Whether or not this approach feels right for you, consider this:
Sites like Freelance Switch and Zen Habits have grown big fast because readers tend to value the independent publication approach, and at the same time more value is created for the owners. I believe this is the route that business and corporate blogs must take to succeed, too.
In other words, every smart company is a digital media company.
Valuable content on a site you own is a classic win-win for readers and the site owner, while publishing original material on Facebook is a lopsided relationship that favors Zuckerberg and his data-hoarding cronies.
Social networking is highly useful for driving traffic back to your own web asset (and we use various platforms to do just that). But I have no interest in becoming someone’s user-generated content, especially at the expense of my privacy … or my business.
What about you?