The Era of Centralized Platforms Is Over

This Week In Writing, we discuss whether you should still own a website if you publish on Medium or Substack.

The Era of Centralized Platforms Is Over
"Facebook covered in dust and cobwebs" by Justin Cox and Midjourney

Last week, Shannon posted a question in My Writing Community. She asked, “If you write on Medium, do you also need a WordPress blog?” Over the last few months, my answer to this question has changed. But before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at what platforms are up to.

Twitter wants you to pay to play; now, Meta is following suit. Want a secure experience? Your posts to appear in people’s feeds? The platforms want you to pony up. These features used to be free. Now, they’re an upgrade. Why?

Ad revenue is done. User engagement is down. The platforms are trying to hold onto profits without providing additional features. You ask me, it seems like a losing game.

However, there are people who will pay. After all, Twitter and Facebook have been around for nearly two decades. I joined Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2008. That’s a lot of ingrained history, and these companies are literally banking on the fact that we all find it too difficult to leave.

Mastodon proves leaving is not only possible but much more fun.

Over the last month, I’ve set up my own Mastodon instance. Today, my account is @[email protected] because I’m a 90s kid and, well, I rock.

During the setup process, I learned that (while technologically different), running a Mastodon instance is similar to running a WordPress blog. Both require a server, both give you total control over your content, and both can be moved to a different server at will. It’s a simplified analogy, but it works.

While looking at how to integrate my WordPress site with Mastodon, I learned about the IndieWeb concept of POSSE (Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere). Controlling your writing is essential.

You give up that control when you publish on a platform of any kind (Medium, Substack, LinkedIn, Twitter, wherever). You put the distribution into the hands of a company without your interest in mind. Instead, by following POSSE, if you publish on your site, then you control the distribution. You can choose to syndicate that writing on a platform if you want and benefit from their distribution whilemaintaining full control of your work. The key is it’s your choice.

By syndicating from your site, you also provide a place where everything points. Your website, under your control, remains a constant. As platforms come and go, your website remains. Frankly, I should have realized this years ago, but I’m glad I’m coming around to it now.

So, to answer Shannon’s question, yes, you should still have a website if you write on a platform like Medium or Substack. While I use and recommend WordPress, there are plenty of ways to build and maintain a personal site. Find the one that works for you.

I recently added the IndieWeb Syndication Links plugin to my WordPress site. It displays the places I’ve syndicated to on each post.

Yes, this strategy is more work than publishing in a single location and relying on their distribution strategy. However, this method also protects you from platforms closing or deciding that charging for basic features is now a good idea.

Do you run your own website in addition to publishing on platforms? Share the link in the comments, and let’s create an old-fashioned webring!

Speaking Of Mastodon…

For those interested, here is a quick technical explanation of how I set up my Mastodon server.

I began by transferring my web hosting from Dreamhost to Opalstack. The pricing is better, and the support and features are fantastic. Opalstack also has a one-click installation of Mastodon, which is amazing.

What I learned over the course of a month is that managing a Mastodon server requires a lot of system administration. Logging in via SSH to adjust settings, reduce resource usage, and more. I became obsessed with my server’s RAM usage. It was not the social media experience I was hoping for.

So, I moved my server instance from Opalstack to Hugo, who runs, provided incredible support and personally did the system transfer. Now, I can run the server as I want without the pesky system administration side. manages the server resources, and I just have fun. Opalstack continues to host my website.

Are you on Mastodon and looking to connect? Find me at

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!