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Underground Film Blogging Tips: Pick Your Platform

The nice thing about blogging about underground film today — whether you’re just starting or have been doing it for awhile — is that there are so many different options to choose from. Plus, if you get tired of using one blogging platform, it’s not that difficult to switch to a different one. But, what’s the difference between all of the platforms, e.g. Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, et. al.?

I’ll start with what I know best. For those that don’t know, I publish¬†the Underground Film Journal using a self-hosted WordPress platform. This is different from the freebie WordPress.com blogs you can sign up for. Self-hosted WordPress is free to install and use, but the cost comes from having to pay a web hosting company to hold my content. Luckily, there are lots of companies that offer dirt cheap hosting rates and WordPress itself maintains a list of them.

Serious web guys will poo-poo using a dirt cheap hosting company, but they’re a great resource if you’re going to run a website that’s probably only going to get minimal traffic. (And if you’re blogging about underground film, there’s a good chance your traffic will be minimal.)

Running a self-hosted website may sound a bit daunting, but, seriously, it’s not that difficult or involved. WordPress lists several companies that offer cheap hosting and will install the program for you — and some will help with program updates, but you can also manage that yourself through WordPress these days. Sometimes horrendous things do go wrong and you have to be prepared for that eventuality, but for the most part WordPress runs pretty smoothly.

If you’re really committed to blogging, I highly recommend running a self-hosted WordPress site for its ease of use and if you want to get fancy with it, you totally have that opportunity.

But, this isn’t an advertisement for WordPress and if you’re just starting out blogging it’s probably best to go the totally freebie route just to see if you like blogging and can actually keep it up. Blogging: Always sounds like a good idea, but is actually difficult to keep going. (Somebody should put that on a T-shirt.)

Honestly, I’m not so sure what the big differences are between the freebie programs these days: Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr and Typepad. They all come with different templates to choose your blog’s look from and do allow you to customize those looks if you want to tweak your design to suit your own style. The only platform I’m 100% unfamiliar with is Typepad, so I’m probably going to leave them out of the rest of this discussion. If you want to see what a Typepad blog looks like, check out Invisible Cinema.

One of the big differences in the free blogging programs is that WordPress.com doesn’t allow you to serve ads on your blog. Self-hosted WordPress blogs can, as you can see on the Underground Film Journal. But, the hosted version of WordPress won’t let you. So, if you’re a filmmaker, you can’t even put up ads for your own film. That might be a concern for some folks.

Blogger, as its owned by Google, allows easy Google Adsense ad placement and you could probably run other ad programs on your Blogger blog. Tumblr allows for ads, as long as you’re comfortable enough to muck around your blog’s layout to fit them in.

The ad issue aside, I’m also pretty biased in favor of the hosted WordPress.com blogs as a platform because I like the blog post editing screen so much. WordPress has many more options for editing a post, like having the ability to split a post somewhere so that only a portion of it appears on the home page and on index pages. Blogger doesn’t have that ability and neither does Tumblr. Plus, I think WordPress’ post tagging system is the most advanced.

Tumblr is more geared to doing quick “micro” blog posts, but I’ve been seeing this platform being put to good use for more complex blogs. For example, filmmaker Bob Moricz has been doing some great blogging lately using Tumblr.

So, I guess the real tricky thing about picking the right platform to use is all about which of them has the best interface that you’ll be the most comfortable using. However, you won’t know which interface is best for you until you start using them. The best I can say is: WordPress.com has the most editing options; Tumblr has a great ease of use; and Blogger is the simplest and most basic, but has the least options. WordPress and Tumblr also seem to have the best templates to start out with.

As I said above,¬†the Underground Film Journal uses a self-hosted WordPress platform. But, there are other advanced platforms to use beyond the total freebies. I’ve never used them, so I can’t talk about them with any authority, but just to let you know what they are:

Joomla!: To see what a site that uses Joomla! looks like, check out Experimental Cinema, a nifty, well-developed website devoted to underground film. (By the way: If you want to know what blogging platform a site is using and it’s not obvious, you can always right-click with your mouse on any page on that site, choose “View Source” and look around at the top somewhere. Most sites will tell you that way.)

Drupal: This seems like a great program and I know several professional sites that use it, but this is really for serious, hardcore website developers.

Movable Type: I believe this program is the most comparable to WordPress, although I don’t know any film sites that use it that I can point you towards. Animation and comic book writer Mark Evanier uses it for his popular News From Me website.

If any advocates for their own blogging platform want to chime in to say why it’s so great, please tell us why in the comments below. I’d really like to know what people think of what they use.


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