If you're looking to start a blog, a blog-hosting service may be a good place for an amateur, or sometimes even a professional, to launch one. If you're interested in getting online as quickly as possible, and don't need a formal blog, you might also want to consider using a social networking site, such as Facebook or MySpace, which will allow you to create a blog-like profile page. If you haven't yet reviewed the section of this guide on evaluating different online platforms, you should do so before committing to use one of these services.
There are a number of blog-hosting services available. For the sake of brevity this section discuss the three most popular services: Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress. We do not endorse any of these services. You should select a blog-hosting service that meets your specific needs. Many of the services' elements below are marked with a + for a positive aspect of the service, - for a negative, and = for an aspect that is neutral.
Blogger is one of the oldest and largest blogging sites around and is where most people will probably start their first blog. If you want to see what blogging is all about or if you are anxious to start blogging now, Blogger may be a good fit for you. If you want a lot of customization and flexibility, however, you may want to consider other sites. On the other hand, Blogger is reliable, flexible, and its Terms of Service provide a journalism-friendly approach to content removal.
Functionality and Ease-of-Use:
+ Very easy: Blogger claims that you can expect to start blogging within ten minutes of your initial visit to the site.
+ Template access: Blogger allows access to template codes.
- Categories: Blogger lacks any method to categorize posts other than by date.
- Blogging only: Blogger doesn't support non-blog pages, files storage, etc. Just blogs.
= Age: According to Blogger's Terms of Service, you must be at least 13 years old to use Blogger.
= Customization: While it is easy to set up one of the basic, plain templates, more significant customization takes quite a bit of HTML and CSS knowledge. The available templates are attractive, but due to Blogger's popularity, they all look familiar, and it may be difficult to make a name for your blog if it looks just like a million others.
- Blogs are given a .blogspot.com subdomain. If you create a blog called Blog123, your address would be blog123.blogspot.com.
- Blogger allows you to use its software on your own website. For example, if you own "www.MyBlog.com," you could use Blogger like normal but then send the Blogger files to your website so that a visit to MyBlog.com doesn't just redirect to your Blogger page, but actually displays your blog on MyBlog.com. Using Blogger this way -- when combined with some quality customization -- gives you the same ease-of-use, but you gain credibility because of you are set apart from the masses who are using Blogger on its ordinary platform.
- Blogger allows you to easily upload video to incorporate into your blog either as an embedded clip or a regular videocast.
- AudioBlogger is a great feature that allows you to dial a number on your phone and easily post audio recordings to your blog.
- There are no traffic or storage limits.
- The Google Toolbar has a feature that allows users with Blogger accounts to post links directly to their blogs.
Terms of Service: Here are portions of Blogger's terms of service that may be relevant to journalists. Each bulleted summary is followed by the actual text in smaller print. Blogger is owned by Google, therefore the Google Terms of Service will be applied to Blogger users as well.
From Google's Terms of Service
- Google reserves the right to remove whatever content it wants, whenever it wants from any of its sites. Fortunately, through a terms of service document specifically created for Blogger (see below), it clarifies how it treats content in that area of its services:
- Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service.
- Blogger makes their respect for freedom of speech more overt than other sites:
- We respect our users' ownership of and responsibility for the content they choose to share. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.
- Users can flag content they deem offensive. If Blogger finds the flagged material offensive, it may place a warning page before your blog, refrain from publicizing your blog on its main page, or remove it. All sites reserve the right to remove content. It is rare that a service provider will investigate user claims in this manner and pursue remedies other than removal:
- Hate speech and other objectionable content may be flagged for review by our users. When this happens, Blogger reserves the right to warn others of the potentially offensive content through the use of a warning page. Other content, such as adult material, may be depublicized so that it does not appear in frequently-trafficked places such as the homepage of Blogger.com. Just because a given blog has received votes through this mechanism does not mean that any particular action will be taken. For example, blogs that are flagged because readers disagree with the political opinions expressed in a blog will not be acted upon.
- Blogger is not hasty to remove content on a simple notice of a yet unproven defamation accusation:
- Users should not publish any content that is unlawful, defamatory, and fraudulent. Note that an allegation of defamatory expression, in and of itself, does not establish defamation. The truth or falsehood of a bit of expression is a key element in establishing defamation, and we are not in a position to make that sort of fact-based judgment. That said, if we have reason to believe that a particular statement is defamatory (a court order, for example), we will remove that statement.
- Blogger responds to copyright complaints in the manner prescribed by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act:
- It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). If we remove a blog/post or disable access to a blog to comply with the DMCA, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of each affected site so that they may make a counter notification pursuant to section 512(g)(2) and (3) of the DMCA. It is our policy to document all notices of alleged infringement on which we act. A copy of the notice, with any personally identifying information removed, will be sent to a third party who will make it available to the public. Please note that in addition to being forwarded to the person who provided the allegedly infringing content, a copy of this legal notice may be sent to a third-party partner for publication and annotation. As such, your letter (with your personal information removed) may be forwarded to Chilling Effects (http://www.chillingeffects.org) for publication.
- The administrator of an affected site or the provider of affected content may make a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. When we receive a counter notification, we may reinstate the material in question. To file a counter notification with us, you must provide a written communication (by fax or regular mail -- not by email, except by prior agreement) that sets forth the items specified below. Please note that you will be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is not infringing the copyrights of others. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether certain material infringes the copyrights of others, we suggest that you first contact an attorney. A sample counter notification may be found at http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca/counter512.pdf.
Advertising: Blogger automatically integrates with Google AdSense. It also allows access to the blog template code to enable use of ads from different sources. This functionality may make Blogger the most desirable of the free sites for traditional and non-traditional journalists seeking to make money from their blogs.
Cost: All of Blogger's services are free.
Example Sites: outonthestoop.blogspot.com; googleearthlings.blogspot.com
TypePad is popular among professionals, but isn't free and doesn't cater to beginners. There are loads of features, but make sure to check out TypePad's price comparison chart, so that you know what you're paying for. If you are familiar with other services offered by TypePad's parent company, Six Apart, you may have an idea of how TypePad works. Six Apart is the force behind Live Journal and, perhaps less well-known, Movable Type. Movable Type is the blogging program TypePad utilizes, which you can download and install on your web server for free (as long as it's for non-commercial use). See Movable Type's website for more information.
Functionality and Ease-of-Use:
+ Customization: TypePad has extensive customization options, including the ability to create sidebars. However, the full array of possibilities is only available to those with the most expensive accounts. Customization is complicated, but does not require learning a programming language.
+ Code Access: TypePad allows access to the template code, but only to the most expensive accounts.
Features: The availability of these features will vary depending on which type of account you sign up for. Some are available to all levels, while others may only be accessed by those with the highest-cost memberships:
- Typelists makes it easy to build lists and connect items on those lists with web sites without changing anything in your templates.
- Categories allow you or your reader to view certain groupings of posts.
- Domain name forwarding is available.
- They will automatically notify Google, Technorati, and other blog search engines when your blog is updated.
- Lots of anti-spam tools.
- Blog by email.
- Blog with certain cell phones.
- Photo galleries (as opposed to normal picture-in-post functionality).
- Storage limits based on membership range from 100MB to 3GB.
- Bandwidth limits based on membership range from 2GB to 20GB.
Terms of Service: Here are portions of TypePad's terms of service that may apply to journalists. Each bulleted summary is followed by the text in smaller print.
- If the credit card you use expires, TypePad may delete all of your information:
- If your credit card is invalid for any reason, the Service may be canceled and all the information contained within deleted permanently. Six Apart accepts no liability for information that is deleted due to an invalid credit card.
- TypePad can delete your account and any of your content at its discretion, without prior notice. Any money you've paid for an account will not be refunded:
- You agree Six Apart, in its sole discretion, may terminate your password, and/or account, and remove and discard any Content within the Service (including, but not limited to your Blog Site if you are an Account Holder), for any reason, including and without limitation, the lack of use, or if Six Apart believes that you have violated or acted inconsistently with the letter or spirit of the TOS. Any contracts, verbal or written or assumed, in conjunction with your deleted Blog Site (as applicable) and all its parts, at Six Apart's discretion, will be terminated as well. Six Apart may also in its sole discretion and at any time, discontinue providing the Service, or any part thereof, with or without notice. You agree that any termination of your access to the Service under any provision of this TOS may be effected without prior notice, and acknowledge and agree that Six Apart may immediately deactivate or delete your Blog Site, as applicable, and all related information and files. Six Apart reserves the right to bar any further access to such files or the Service. You agree that Six Apart shall not be liable to you or any third-party for any termination of your access to the Service. Paid accounts that are terminated will not be refunded.
- TypePad will disclose (and, alternatively, preserve) your content in response to legally valid requests for documents from parties in litigation and in other contexts when it believes that disclosure is necessary to protect its rights or respond to claims that your content violates the rights of others:
- You acknowledge and agree that Six Apart may preserve Content and may also disclose Content if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process; (b) enforce the TOS; (c) respond to claims that any Content violates the rights of third-parties; or (d) protect the rights, property, or personal safety of Six Apart, its users and the public.
- Offensive material is not allowed:
- You agree that you will not: (a) upload, post, transmit or otherwise make available any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortuous, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy (up to, but not excluding any address, email, phone number, or any other contact information without the written consent of the owner of such information), hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.
- If you are a high-level user (one that pays for an expensive membership) and utilize TypePad's proprietary advertising services, the company reserves the right to withhold money from you for various fees. Also, there are several ways that you can lose your ability to access, use, or withdraw your reported earnings:
- (You can lose your ability to access, use, or withdraw your earnings for reasons including, but not limited to): (a) If you in any way violate or otherwise breach this TOS and/or the TOU; (b) If you engage in any activity intended to, or the result of which could or would, defraud Six Apart or any third party, including, without limitation, with respect to any advertising activity arising on your Blog Site, taking any action to inflate or otherwise manipulate traffic or click-through counts from your Blog Site to participating advertisers or merchants through the use of any manual or automating device, program, robot or other automated means, or otherwise permitting or allowing any third party to conduct the foregoing, including via repeated manual clicks. You understand and agree that repeating clicks produced manually or automated clicks produced by robots, programs, or other artificial automated devices or means that do not represent, or based upon evidence available to Six Apart, do not appear to represent, an actual individual live web user conducting a bona-fide click-through transaction will not generate Earnings; (c) If your account is suspended for not making a required membership subscription payment; (f) If Six Apart ceases providing the Commerce Services in its sole discretion and you fail to utilize or otherwise withdraw your reported Earnings in the time period permitted by Six Apart. . . . Six Apart will charge you a fee for providing the Commerce Services, which may include, or be in addition to, any fees charged by any third party to Six Apart, and which may change from time to time, in each case at Six Apart's sole discretion.
Advertising: TypePad offers two easy advertising tools to its users with the two most expensive accounts (Pro and Premium): TipJar and TypePad TextAds. TipJar allows you to earn "tips" (donations) when users fill out a form. TextAds functions very similarly to Google Adsense. If these features are the only reason why you're thinking about an account upgrade, consider that TypePad allows you to bring in ads on your own, and that the combination of TipJar and TextAds functions similarly to having AdSense and PayPal donations button (for which you'll only pay PayPal per transaction).
Cost: There are four levels: Basic, Plus, Pro, and Premium. The monthly charge for these accounts ranges from $4.95 to $29.95.
Examples Sites: endicottstudio.typepad.com; obscurestore.typepad.com
WordPress, like Blogger, is free and easy to use. Unlike Blogger, WordPress imposes more restrictions on its users and offers certain upgrades for a fee. WordPress also makes an open-source, blogging program that you can install on your own web server if you have one, much like Six Apart's Movable Type (see description of TypePad above). You can find information about this aspect of WordPress at http://www.wordpress.org. This downloadable software is substantially more flexible than the service offered through WordPress.com.
Functionality and Ease-of-Use:
+ Non-Blog Pages: Ability to create web pages that aren't blogs (like an "About Me" page).
- Regulation: More restrictions on controversial content and marketing than most sites.
= Code Access: No access to template codes unless you purchase the upgrade.
- Each post gets a neat URL that is search engine friendly.
- Blog posts are searchable (this is actually uncommon).
- Great categorization and tagging capability. By taking advantage of the tagging system, you can more easily become a part of the WordPress blogging community.
- Widgets allow you to bring in certain content to your page without messing with the code or template. Sidebar widgets include del.icio.us, Flickr, and Meebo.
- Easy import/export features when migrating from another site or taking your blog with you when you leave.
- They require a small amount of personal information to create an account: a username and email address.
- WordPress will register a domain name for you at a relatively low cost. This is great if you want the ease of use that WordPress provides, but do not like the yourname.wordpress.com site for credibility/distinctiveness reasons. There is one drawback to this approach: the domain name can ONLY be used for your WordPress blog.
- Storage is unlimited for posts, pages, and comments. Space for images and other files is capped at 50MB, but WordPress offers upgrades from 1GB-10GB for a price.
Terms of Service: Here are portions of WordPress's terms of service that may be relevant to journalists. Each bulleted summary is followed by the actual text in smaller print.
From WordPress's Terms of Service
- WordPress frowns on misleading promotion of your blog or its posts:
- You must not describe or assign keywords to your blog in a misleading or unlawful manner, including in a manner intended to trade on the name or reputation of others, and Automattic may change or remove any description or keyword that it considers inappropriate or unlawful, or otherwise likely to cause Automattic liability.
- You may not drive traffic to or boost search engine results for third party sites:
- the Content is not spam, and does not contain unethical or unwanted commercial content designed to drive traffic to third party sites or boost the search engine rankings of third party sites, or to further unlawful acts (such as phishing) or mislead recipients as to the source of the material (such as spoofing).
- WordPress reserves the right to remove content and terminate accounts:
- Without limiting any of those representations or warranties, Automattic has the right (though not the obligation) to, in Automattic’s sole discretion (i) refuse or remove any content that, in Automattic’s reasonable opinion, violates any Automattic policy or is in any way harmful or objectionable, or (ii) terminate or deny access to and use of the Website to any individual or entity for any reason, in Automattic’s sole discretion. Automattic will have no obligation to provide a refund of any amounts previously paid.
- Termination. Automattic may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately. If you wish to terminate this Agreement or your WordPress.com account (if you have one), you may simply discontinue using the Website. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you have a VIP Services account, such account can only be terminated by Automattic if you materially breach this Agreement and fail to cure such breach within thirty (30) days from Automattic’s notice to you thereof.
- WordPress responds to copyright complaints in the manner prescribed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor Provisions:
- If you believe that material located on or linked to by WordPress.com violates your copyright, you are encouraged to notify Automattic in accordance with Automattic’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”) Policy. Automattic will respond to all such notices, including as required or appropriate by removing the infringing material or disabling all links to the infringing material. If Automattic takes action in response to an Infringement Notice, it will make a good faith attempt to contact the party that made such content available by means of the most recent email address, if any, provided by such party to Automattic.
Advertising: Users cannot add Adsense, Yahoo, Chitika and other ads services to their blogs. WordPress will block advertisements that are inserted when using an external blogging program. WordPress also prohibits:
- sponsored/paid posts including PayPerPost and ReviewMe;
- sponsored/paid links; and
- text ads.
A discrete link to your business in the sidebar or an "About" page is permitted. WordPress also allows one discreet link to Amazon per blog, so long as the primary purpose of the blog is not to drive traffic to the affiliate program.
In the site's own words:
- "WordPress has a very low tolerance for blogs created purely for search engine optimization or commercial purposes, machine-generated blogs, and will continue to nuke them, so if that’s what you’re interested in WordPress.com is not for you."
Taken from http://faq.wordpress.com/2005/12/08/adsense/
Cost: WordPress will host your blog for free, but requires a paid upgrade for certain services.
Example Site: http://www.problogger.net