Ready to become your own publisher? These blogging sites can help you make your mark on the Web.
AOL Journals: You don’t have to be an AOL subscriber to use AOL’s blogging service, AOL Journals. You only need to register and walk through a quick creation process for a basic blog. AOL Journals may suit AOL instant messaging users especially well, since you can post blog entries via AIM. On the downside, AOL runs banner ads along the top of your blog, and the look of the blog isn’t highly customizable. So while it’s acceptable for, say, family blogs, AOL Journals is not a smart choice for a small business owner.
AskJeeves Bloglines: If you can’t get enough of reading other people’s blogs, check out Bloglines. This free news aggregator service delivers a customized news page that you design. You choose a group of blogs to which you’ll subscribe, then Bloglines grabs content from them when it’s updated. You can use Bloglines for any news offered via RSS (Really Simple Syndication), an option you’ll see at most major news sites and many blogs. You’ll also find a blog-creation tool here, for sharing blog clips with friends, but it isn’t very intuitive.
Blogger.com: Run by search-engine king Google, Blogger.com helps you step through creating and publishing a blog in just a few minutes. You can’t beat the price: It’s free. And you’ll find good-looking design options and cool features like AudioBlogger, which lets you call in by phone to leave a message that’s posted on your blog in MP3 format.
On the downside, posting photos could be simpler. Also, you can’t password-protect your blog using this service. Nor can you post video or create fancy online photo albums the way you can with rival service such as TypePad.com. Still, Blogger.com is a good way to try on blogging for size.
LiveJournal: LiveJournal is an open-source blogging service that’s free to join but costs $25 a year to enjoy some of the most high-end features, such as embedded polls and surveys, custom themes, online photo storage, and phone posting. When you pay, you can also receive new posts via e-mail or text message. The service–which was recently acquired by Six Apart, the company that brings you TypePad (see below)–is very community-oriented. You can aggregate your friends’ most recent blog posts in one place or create a community blog where several people with shared interests can post on a certain topic.
MSN Spaces: MSN’s free blogging service offers a bit more flexibility than Blogger.com. MSN Spaces boasts a quick setup process, good templates, and easy-to-use editing tools, plus the ability to post entries via cell phone. You can also share music playlists with friends, a feature you won’t find at Blogger.com. And you can make an MSN Space blog publicly available to everyone, to a small group of people, or to no one. Blogger.com doesn’t let you control your audience.
TypePad.com: The TypePad service isn’t free, but it’s a good value, starting at $4.95 per month for a personal weblog with one author. (PC World named it Best Blogging Tool in the magazine’s 2005 World Class Awards.) TypePad offers a really understandable interface, classy templates, and a text editor that makes it simple to jazz up the look of your blog. TypePad also expertly guides you through tasks such as password protecting blogs, sharing online photo albums, and setting up pages that blend text, photos, video and audio using the company’s unique Mixed Media templates. All in all, TypePad will make your blog more sophisticated, for a reasonable price.
Yahoo 360: Yahoo’s free service, still in beta testing, shows users how to write and publish blogs, as well as share content like music, post pictures, all while keeping control over who can visit the site.