March 8, 2018

Why Publishing on Websites Other Than Your Own Is a Waste

I’ve been keenly aware of the diminishing role of The New York Times and other media outlets in disseminating important information, but this is an exceptionally clear demonstration of it. Nassim Nicholas Taleb just published a new book, and without getting any media outlets to review it, he made the New York Times Bestseller’s list.

I was never attracted to the idea of publishing my writing on any other sites but my own, because every time I tried it, the result was worse than, or the same as, if I had published it on my own site. The search engines and the social media are now so efficient and accurate that if something is worth spreading, it would spread no matter where it is published. So, if it doesn’t spread from your own website, it won’t spread, period, regardless of where it’s published.

If published my article, it would certainly get a lot more people to view the article but if they don’t like it, they would quickly leave without finishing it. Nothing more would happen. So, the number of views is meaningless.

The irony is that the NYT can no longer offer anything of value to the well-known authors (because they can reach their own audience directly), but the NYT would not publish unknown writers, so who are they valuable for?

  1. For writers who do not know how to directly connect with their audience online. In this case, the NYT is simply functioning as a social media marketer for these writers.
  2. For writers who need full-time jobs. These positions are disappearing but it’s great for those who have them.
  3. For writers who want to associate themselves with the prestige of the Times. This is still nothing to scoff at.

But if none of the above is true, it’s a waste of time trying to get your articles published on the NYT or on any other publications. In fact, it’s not just a waste of time; it’s a waste of opportunities to establish direct relationships with your audience.

Let’s say you published an article on some online magazine and it went viral. Some percentage of the readers are going to subscribe to the email list of this online magazine, or follow it on Twitter or Facebook, so that they could get notified when a new article is posted. They subscribed/followed because they liked your article. If you had published it on your own website, they would have subscribed to your email list instead. You just wasted your viral article on helping this publication grow its audience.

Taleb can mobilize his audience to buy his books because he is directly connected to them. He doesn’t need the NYT or any other media. I think, in the long run, this is the only viable model for writers.