2. Shared blogging platforms
Let's say you want to get your views out without setting up a blog. Perhaps you don't ever intend to run your own blog. Alternatively, you might consider starting a blog, but want to dip your toe in the water first, seeing how an audience reacts. There are various ways to get your essay to an existing audience.
Guest posts on an existing blog
When somebody has an established blog, they need a regular stream of new and interesting posts to maintain their audience. So it's an attractive option to host relevant one-off posts by guest authors. Some blogs welcome guest posts: others only publish the designated author or group of authors. It's entirely up to the blog owner.
So, you might be welcome as a guest author on someone's blog, but scattershot, unsolicited offers to write will get lost amongst the spam. Instead, follow your favourite blogs, offer constructive comments, and get to know what topics the blog owners are interested in and if they ever host guest posts. Get your name known to the owner(s) before contacting them to suggest the specific topic or perspective you could write about.
Be prepared for the response "I don't want to post that on my blog, but if you post it elsewhere, I'll link to it and discuss it." In this case, consider one of the publishing options below or in the next section.
The Conversation is run by a consortium of universities and its aim is captured in the slogan "Academic rigour, journalistic flair". It provides commentary on all sorts of topical issues, written by qualified academic experts but for a lay audience. Articles might be topical in the sense of reacting to news such as a Budget statement, or in the sense of giving an "explainer" in advance of the event to set out its context.
You can register as a contributor, declaring your academic post and qualifications, through a form on the site.
If your university is part of the consortium, your press office may already be in touch with The Conversation, promoting the expertise of the university's staff. It can be a good idea to make yourself known to the press office, telling them the issue you'd be interested in writing about if the opportunity arises. Bear in mind that the site's topical focus means you may have to write a piece at short notice.
The Conversation has a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives licence, so posts from the site can be reused, unaltered, elsewhere. For example, if newspapers want an opinion column on a topical issue, they can copy from The Conversation, but must attribute the author.
Some economics posts on The Conversation:
- "NHS outpaces the UK economy in productivity gains" by Andrew Street and Katja Grasic
- "Explainer: how does the weather affect the economy?" by Geraint Johnes
- "There hasn’t been any austerity in the UK – and that might explain the upturn" by W. David McCausland
Medium is a platform on which people can submit, share and comment on essays, and where readers can tailor the kind of essays that are visible to them. Think of it as like Twitter but with essay-length posts. In fact, if you have a Twitter account, you can use it to log in to Medium.
As well as a distinctive, readable, look, Medium has popularised some novel ways to interact. Readers can comment on specific places in the text, not just at the foot of the page. They can also bookmark and share highlighted quotes from the text. At the time of writing, the site is free and without adverts. It remains to be seen what will change as they come under pressure to monetise.
Authors have a variety of licensing options on Medium. The site does not claim any rights to users' posts, and it is possible to select a Creative Commons licence which allows reuse on other sites and publications.
Some economics posts on Medium:
- "Thoughts on 'Teaching Economics after the Crash'" by Karl Whelan
- "Why The 3 Men Who Violently Robbed Me Are Bad At Economics" by Ezra Winter
- "Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck" by Scott Santens
If that's not enough...
In this section, we've looked at existing platforms to get your ideas out to a wide audience. Perhaps you would prefer something more strongly connected to your own name (or your project's name); part of your official web presence rather than your text on someone else's site. Or perhaps you have a specific need such as a course blog that only your students can comment on. If so, read the next section about setting up your own blog.