Written by Amy Gahran
A journalist friend recently asked me:
“What’s the real difference between a blog and web site? Can I have a link to my favorite sites, favorite videos, host a forum, etc. on my blog, or am I better off just building a Web site…and maybe having a blog on that. Likely I will probably only do one or the other.”
My take on this is that the difference between blogs and web sites is steadily vanishing. These channels are definitely converging.
In fact, they started out converged. After all, a blog is nothing more than a kind of web site supported by a content management system that provides a useful collection of features: Comments, a permalink for each post, categories, tags, a home page where the latest content automatically appears on top and earlier stuff scrolls down, etc. (If you thought a blog was something else, see: What’s a Blog? Bag the Stereotypes)
So what’s someone who’s just starting out online with a blog or site to do?…
Keep in mind that blogging is far more versatile than it used to be. You can embed video or audio or photo galleries in your posts, use the blog as a base for a podcast, integrate widgets or interactive tools, and have separate static pages for things like your bio. It’s not just text anymore.
However, today’s “blogging tools” generally can do so much more than mere blogging. For instance, WordPress, which started out as an open-source blogging platform, has grown to become a full-fledged content management system. Blogging is just one part of what you can do with WordPress. You also can integrate static pages, forums tools, media libraries, and virtually anything else you’d want to have on a “web site.”
So my answer to Dan is: If you think you’ll want to do more than blog, choose a platform that will let you expand. If you think you’ll want things like a forum, video library, or wiki, you’re probably better off building a site in on a more full-featured platform like WordPress, Drupal, Movable Type, or Expression Engine. Then you can start with a blog and grow from there.
In contrast, if you’re pretty damn sure you’ll never ever want to do anything more with your site than blog, then you’re probably fine with a hosted blogging service like Typepad. It’s technically simpler, the cost is low, and you don’t have to update your software.
If you’re not sure, then I recommend either starting with a full-featured CMS and just use it for blogging at first. That gives you room to grow later.
The important thing is: Your site should have its own domain. Don’t settle for a subdomain like dan.typepad.com. Having your own domain not only improves your search visibility — it also makes it more feasible to move your blog to a different platform or host if necessary. (Never fun, but sometimes necessary.) If you decide to start with a hosted blogging platform like Typepad, be sure you map your domain to it right from the start, so every page on your site bears your domain in its URL.
Also, your site should definitely include a blog, even if it’s not limited to that. And your blog probably should appear on your site’s home page. Why? Search engines love blogs. They really, really, love blogs. And if you’re in the media business, you want search engines to love you — because like it or not they have become the arbiter of your career.
Think of your blog (or the blog portion of your site) as Media Career Insurance. If you use it right, it can allow opportunities to keep finding you, regardless of what happens with your current job or employer.