The news that Automattic has finally rolled out email subscriptions on WordPress.com goes to prove the point that, no matter how good a free blogging platform is, you’re always at its mercy when it comes to features.
That might sound obvious, but it’s something that’s easy for new bloggers to overlook.
While it’s wise to keep a blog simple, features such as allowing your readers to subscribe via email are near essential when it comes to marketing, because many visitors don’t know what RSS or care to learn how to use it.
If you host your own blog, it’s not a problem because you can either find a plugin to handle email subscriptions, or get Feedburner, Aweber or some other third-party service on board, because you have the ability to add custom code.
You might think I’m about to negate the arguments I raised in my “Who is Posterous good for?” post. In fact, Posterous — though socially well-connected — currently offers even less features than WordPress.com, though it’s arguably a lot easier to publish multimedia rich content to.
I think the free blogging platforms are very good for allowing new bloggers to cut their teeth, despite the issues surrounding starting a blog without a custom domain name and then having to migrate later if the blog becomes popular (all major free blogging platforms allow you to use your own domain name, but I doubt many newbies take advantage of that).
Seeing what I consider basic functionality only just added to WordPress.com proves that, if you want total control over your blog, you do need to self-host.
And, if you’re serious about building a business from blogging, but don’t have all the technical know-how just yet, it’s still worth getting help to host your own blog, because it will be infinitely more customisable further down the line when you decide to tailor it to exactly your own needs.
Hats off to Automattic for adding this feature to WordPress.com. Just remember that you can do so much more with your own version of WordPress.