The Future of Blogging Lies in the Hands of Self-Hosted Solutions
Last weekend, I was trying to look for a privacy-focused alternative for Google Analytics for my blog and I stumbled upon some amazing alternatives on the internet. But, most of them did not have a minimal free version that I can use for my blog. They either had a paid tier that started at $6-7/month or had free versions that can be installed on a server at one’s own risk. Even though I wasn’t a developer, I’m good at following instructions and know my way around cPanel, Netlify, and GitHub.
So, I started with a mission to install one of the analytics alternatives on my shared hosting space in order to integrate it with my blog but failed after spending several hours scanning through endless pages of documentation and trying out different ways to execute it.
I went the extra length because I was curious and was willing to take the risk. Imagine someone who is just starting out with blogging. It would be an impossible journey and would finally push them to compromise for a platform that charges more and has fewer features. And they would have to do all this without being sure about whether their blog would succeed.
Being a blogger is not easy. It is like setting out on a quest. You won’t know what will come next, but you’ll come across plenty of challenges along the way.
With big media corporations fighting to make money with what’s left off Facebook, Google, and Instagram in advertising revenue; Independent writers and journalists trying to make money off subscriptions; And everyone providing valuable information in tweet Threads, conventional blogging has become an endangered content format.
Instead of reading a thousand-word blog post, a Gen Z person would swipe left on ten Instagram posts that have a hundred words each
The term blogging that once referred to text now has become an umbrella term for writing, vlogging, photo blogging, etc.
The real struggle of bloggers
A blogger is someone who is often trying to start his content game with zero capital. All they have is their ideas, their way with words, and the dream to make it big someday. But, the infrastructure to set up and run a blog is complex and expensive. There are free options with very limited features and there are expensive options that burn a hole in their pockets (especially for people who living in India or other Asian countries where the dollar to currency ratio is too high).
Let’s take a few examples.
- There is no good self-hosting alternative to WordPress. There is a lot of chatter around Ghost, but there isn’t one affordable (starts at $29/month), one-click installation option for Ghost like how Softaculous has for WordPress.
- There are some amazing alternatives to Google Analytics like Plausible, Fathom, Matomo, and Umami that offer paid as well as self-hosted versions. But, apart from Matomo, installing a self-hosted version puts one through a maze of instructions.
- Sending a newsletter to blog subscribers using RSS is a paid feature in most email marketing apps and options like Sendy are lesser-known among bloggers and also need some amount of developer knowledge to install and run it.
I’m not saying businesses who are currently selling their tools for bloggers and content creators to give away their products for free. Instead, they should come up with new and interesting ways to empower bloggers to take that first step at an affordable cost.
How can they do it?
Blogging platforms like Ghost and analytics platforms like Fathom can have a free tier for blogs that make attract up to 2000 views per month, which is the average traffic for any new blog. If the blog is getting beyond 2000 views they can allow it once and if it happens again, the blogger should pay for it because by then both the service and the blogger would know that it is not a one off incident, and the blog has started receiving regular visitors.
The starting plan of Ghost is for professional blogs that attract 100k views per month and costs $29 and Fathom at $14 a month. Imagine them having a $4-5/month price bracket for a blogs that get up to 10000 views. Plausible for example has such a plan where they charge $4/month for websites that attract up to 10k views a month.
Another way to make things easy for bloggers is by having a bundle pricing for all the essential blogging tools. Imagine a hosting platform that facilitates one-click installation of all the essential blogging tools for a small monthly fee. Let’s say $5/month. Instead of the cloud variant, the hosting service can give bloggers the option to deploy self-hosted versions of apps like Plausible, Fathom, Ghost, Discourse, WordPress, and an email service like Sendy and so on for a small price. This way, they can manage their entire blogging infrastructure in one place without spending a lot of money.
Is it possible?
Yes. As a community it is possible.
A couple of years back, developers struggled to deploy and run their side projects and apps as there weren’t many hosting services, and the ones that were available were very expensive. But, today the developer community is spoiled for choice. They got services like Vercel, Netlify, Heroku, Firebase, and several other tools that allow them to deploy and test their projects and apps for free.
Similarly, we need a strong community made up of bloggers and developers to bring such a transformation to the blogging landscape. Technical people who currently blog from JAMstack websites should also think about a solution for other non-technical bloggers who are waiting to get their ideas out into the world.
They should ideate and create platforms that enable small bloggers to test their ideas and make it big.
A good example is the number of tools and services that started coming up in the JAMstack space. Until last year, setting up and running a JAMstack website was really hard for someone who doesn’t know a lot of coding. But, with tools like Stackbit, one can choose their entire infrastructure including the theme, the static-site generator, headless CMS and repository, and build a complete website or blog for free within a few hours.
We need similar solutions for blogs and bloggers as well.
There are more bloggers who are waiting to bring their ideas and thoughts into the world. It is our duty to bring them to light. The world needs good ideas and good writing. Let’s work towards bringing them out.
If you’re a developer who is planning to work or working on something along these lines, I would be happy to help in whatever way I can. Feel free to reach out to me by sending me an email to [email protected].