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This article was published on July 11, 2010

Digital Publishing 101: Getting Started

Digital Publishing 101: Getting Started
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James Hicks is a California-based technology blogger and entrepreneur. Prior to forming the IT Consulting firm HicksNewMedia, he worked for James Hicks is a California-based technology blogger and entrepreneur. Prior to forming the IT Consulting firm HicksNewMedia, he worked for both HP and Apple. James is extremely knowledgeable in cloud computing and the ever-evolving social web. Follow James on Twitter and Facebook .You can reach email James at [email protected]

Having a platform where you can spread your ideals, passions, and thoughts to a wide audience is extremely powerful. The good news is that the tools that you need to execute that platform are cheap, and easy to use. Put the simple tools and the big impact together and you have the power of digital publishing online.

Do note that I’m using the phrase ‘digital publishing’ instead of the word ‘blogging.’ I feel that ‘blogging’ is too limiting a descriptor, and can thus inadvertently bring negative perception to a positive concept. I blame that on the low moral rumor and gossip sites out there which unfortunately give us real Citizen Journalists a bad name. We are not all Perez, after all. Plus, the term digital publishing encompasses the full spectrum of what we’re aiming to do: provide readily accessible and relevant content for an audience.

The First Step: Hardware And Software

So to start, how do you comb the vast landscape of web hosts and platform providers when all you really want to do is write? If you are new, this is where you have to begin.I’m not going to suggest any particular web host, instead I’ll empower you to do the homework of searching for reputable providers.

In your favorite web search engine look for “web hosting” and you’ll certainly get a number of great options. You’ll want to review product and service offerings to make sure they meet your overall objectives. Near the very top of your requirements list should be:

  • Environment accessibility – What is the uptime service level agreement (SLA) that the hoster is publishing? Be wary of anyone saying they’re up 100% of the time – that’s just an outright lie; all computing environments require maintenance and suffer through periodic planned and unplanned downtime. It is extremely difficult and expensive to build-in redundancies to address all possible situations.
  • Selection of installable products – More than likely this is going to be in the form of a cPanel. You’re looking for a listing of applications, utilities, and services that you can install and integrate into your environment with only a few clicks of your mouse. Not only should a cPanel environment be made available, but the vast majority of these installable tools should not cost you anything to deploy. You want simple power, nothing else.
  • Access to support – If you don’t get 24x7x365 agreement built into the deal, you should look elsewhere. You are going to need help. Regardless of if you’re having issues with your environment, you want to purchase a new service, or you just want to talk about your billing, someone needs to be available on your time at any time.

Notice I did not mention price. Web hosting today is such a commodity that all the “big guys” are priced relatively similar with great promo deals all the time. You do tend to get what you pay for, so don’t shy away from spending a few dollars.

After you decide on your host, your next question is what platform you want to use. Will you use WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Squarespace, or Blogger? I’m going to voice some bias here and say WordPress is the way to go for just about anyone. I’ll go into greater detail in a future post (I can’t give away all the secrets at one time). Take it from someone who’s used all of those platforms, plus many others (yes, even the old school straight HTML coding). Plain and simple, if you want a content management system (CMS) that is flexible, actively contributed to by a development community, and has a huge trajectory of longevity ahead of it, you just have to go with WordPress.

At this point you’ve got your host and you’ve got a platform, so now what? Start writing! The hard part is getting all this administrative stuff taken care of. If you have a niche you’re focused on and have some information to share – start pushing it out. Trial and error is part of life and part of establishing a business. True, there are right and wrong ways to do everything, but you’ll never succeed until you try. Fail first, and then fix, but don’t let a technical error kill you.

I’ll continue to dig deeper into this top of digital publishing in a continuing series with more tips and analysis as the weeks go on. I’ll focus on the various tools available to help with search engine optimization (SEO) and effective content linking in the next segment. In the meantime I sincerely look forward to reading your comments, suggestions, and experiences. Get writing!