Why You Need to Backup All of Your Publications — Today!
Sure, Medium will always exist, right? But what if it, and the other publications and sites you write for went away? Here’s why — and how — you need to create a digital archive of all of your articles for the future.
There was a popular public service announcement that would run right before the late local TV news when I was a “yute” in the 1970’s. It would ask parents a simple question: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”
That may seem like a quaint reminder of a far simpler time long, long ago. However, it was a part of my childhood, and today, as part of my adulthood, I thought of that question in a different light. Today, as one who writes for a wide variety of outlets, I’d like to rephrase that question for all of us who write for online publications today as an axiom that you need to be thinking about — and that is this:
“Do you know where your articles are?”
If you think that just because your articles have been published online that they will exist in cyberspace forever, well, you are in for a big surprise. You may write for publications that have been around for decades or ones that have been around for just a matter of weeks or months. You may write for publications that have great “brand name recognition” — publications that have — or at least they did have in the past — analog counterparts. You may write for platforms like Medium, Vocal, or others that have a large number of contributors, like yourself. However, wherever you write, there is a very real risk that your publications could literally disappear overnight, and all of the time, all of the effort, and all of the work you put into those articles could be lost — poof!
Lately, this has become an issue for me as I wanted to do a better “inventory” of my online presence, and to say the least, I was more than a bit surprised when in many instances, when I clicked on articles I had written just a handful of years ago I found something like this…
…or like this…
…or this, the dreaded “404” error!
I also found that even when a publication’s website was active, they may restrict the archived articles that are available on their website to the more recently published content, leading me to find that even with a “good” working link, I would get a message that my article(s) could not be found on their site.
And then of course, there’s the dreaded paywalls! I found in a number of instances that yes, my articles were there, but I would have to pay for access, even though I had authored the piece!
The issue then is really quite simple — you — and I — need to do a better job of archiving the content that our many hours, days, weeks, and in many cases, years of labor has produced. And it goes beyond archiving policies and paywalls, as in many cases, circumstances literally beyond our control will mean that our articles can disappear forever in an instant today. As we all know, companies and organizations — and their websites — aren’t guaranteed to exist forever. What happens if you don’t pay your web hosting provider or renew your domain name? Well, your website goes away. And the same thing goes for publications as well. If the organization or people behind it decide to not continue the publication for whatever the reason, then your contribution — perhaps many contributions to that publication — simply won’t be available on the web! A publication may go out of business. The organization sponsoring the publication may decide to discontinue publishing it. The publication may be acquired by another organization and either discontinued or be subsumed into another publication. Whatever the cause, your article — or your many articles — in that publication may be gone. And no, the Wayback Machine, Archive Today, and other alternative sites will not likely be able to produce a screenshot — let alone a complete version of your article — on demand once the original website for the publication is no longer working.
Now as a professor, I’m squarely in the “publish or perish” business. Thus, being able to have a record of everything I’ve ever written since kindergarten is important. Years ago, I adopted a “best practice” from a colleague of mine in that he maintained files of every article I’ve ever had published. I borrowed his way of doing things, and now I literally have a file cabinet filled with manilla folders, each of which with a paper copy of two of all of the 200-plus refereed journal articles that I have authored or coauthored and the 600-plus “other” articles that I have published in a wide variety of “popular press” publications, many — really most — of which are only online publications.
That latter part is key to me, as I now have paper copies of everything that I have ever had published, but with a number of publications that I worked with on these popular press now defunct, merged into another site, or just mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth — and the web, I now have a large number of publications that really only exist in my file cabinet! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a problem for me. And it is highly likely that if you have been writing for any length of time, this has either happened to you already or it almost certainly will in the future.
Are you at risk if all — or a substantial number — of your publications are on Medium? Well, the answer is that while Medium is seemingly doing fine today, we have seen other platforms go by the wayside. Personally, I wrote for several years on the Triond platform, which had a series of publications that were appealing to my areas of interest in business, technology, and society. It is now gone, and with it, all of the articles that I published with Triond are now inaccessible to a wider audience. And if you, are like me, and have been through several laptops/computers over the years, especially in the days before Google Docs and Microsoft Word enabled cloud based writing — and perpetual document storage, much of what you wrote years ago simply isn’t accessible, even to you, the author, if the published work isn’t available online.
So, what should you do — today — about this very real risk to protect your writing and to make it accessible not just to you, but to a wider audience (which is the point of your writing in the first place, right)? Well, the first line of defense is something you can do quite easily — something that I started doing about 5 years ago. My institution uses a knowledge management system marketed as SedonaWeb for us to “report” all of our professorial activities, including our publications. Using Sedona’s features, I began uploading a PDF file of every article that I published to Sedona, and now, I can download that electronic version of the article on demand. The only problem is that Sedona is not a publicly available site, so the only people who can download and view and/or print one of my articles would be, well, myself or my bosses at the university. So, while having a PDF of your publication is good for your personal records, it really is of little more use than the paper versions of the articles I maintain in that file cabinet!!
Likewise, like many of you, I do have a personal site, hosted on Blogger (shows my age, I know), where I work to maintain an up-to-date Vita, our fancy academic term for a resume. If you go to https://davidcwyld.blogspot.com, you will be able to see the “bibliographic” information for every academic journal article, every white paper, and every trade or popular press article that I have ever written. The weak point however in this effort is that while the links are there to what is available online, they are just links — and the ability of anyone to actually “see” a publication of mine that they wish to view and/or read is dependent on that particular site being up and operating.
Now certainly, all of us believe Medium will be around forever. But yet, Medium does have a “backup plan” that you should definitely take advantage of before you do anything outside of Medium. This is because Medium does enable you to download an archive of all of your published works on the platform. If you click on your picture in the upper right corner of Medium and go to your Settings, and scroll down — way down on your Profile — you will see an option under your Account to “Download your information.”
If you click on “download zip,” then the following instructions come up to allow you to export your articles:
And yes, you will receive an email with a link that you can click on to download your articles, all of which are in HTML format, which makes them difficult to work with in Microsoft Word or Google Documents, but allows you to make use of the HTML formatted article — perhaps for your own personal website. You can then create a website for your publications, but to create such a website with all of your articles will take a great deal of time and effort, even with the HTML formatting in the exported files from Medium. And remember, “Mr. Google” likely won’t like the duplicate content between your site and that on Medium, so beware what this could mean to your view and read counts on Medium. Still, backing up all of your articles on Medium — and backing those files up on a permanent cloud storage site, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, for you to be able to access at some point in the future is a good idea, even if you have no current personal website or plans to do so — just in case.
The long and short of it is this: You need to be backing up your publications online right now! And yes, speaking from experience, I now have dozens and dozens of my published articles that are no longer accessible online — period. I profoundly wish that I had begun doing so way, way before the last 5 years that I have been doing so with .PDF files and such. Still, even having the PDF files or even having the Medium HTML backup files, you still are at risk — really a great risk — of having your online articles being made inaccessible overnight if the companies/sites you publish with go bankrupt, discontinue publishing, or yes, simply forget or decide to no longer pay for their websites. Thus, much of your work is at risk of vanishing, and you need to do something to start protecting your work — right now!
So, what is the best alternative to archive your publications electronically? The best way that I’ve recently discovered is a site called Authory. What Authory offers is a service that automatically creates a backup of everything you have published online…
Source: Authory (Used with permission)
…and that adds to that backup each and every time you publish a new piece online.
Source: Authory (Used with permission)
Additionally, on your Authory site, you can create curated groups of your articles, say by topic area or by article type (i.e. interviews, fiction, news, etc.). Authory also offers what is, in essence, a free newsletter service for you to provide to notify those who subscribe to you to be updated whenever you publish a new article. And with their service, your subscriber list is yours, rather than the property of the publication, making it much more valuable to you for your future pursuits.
Source: Authory (Used with permission)
And finally, Authory offers you a way to track the social media impact of your articles across Facebook, Twitter, and more.
Source: Authory (Used with permission)
And additionally, one thing that might be of interest to those of you, like myself, who might have paper and/or PDF copies of your published works that no longer appear online, Authory does enable you to upload those to their site so as to enable you, the author, as well as others to access those works.
So, I cannot recommend highly enough that whether you are a newbie writer or one who has written for years, whether you write exclusively for Medium or write for a wide variety of sites and publications, and whether you write for web publications exclusively or also for academic journals, you need to sign up for and see how Authorly can work for you. And you can do so by clicking on this link:
Had such a service been available just a few years ago, I would not be looking at many hours of work ahead to try and recreate the content that I have lost to the “dustbin of virtual history” as dozens and dozens of my articles have literally disappeared from view — even from academic journal sites! Looking forward however, I see Authory as a way of better taking charge of and growing my personal brand, both on social media and through creating a subscriber base that is my own. As such, I see it as a very worthwhile investment in my writing career, which is fundamental to my success both as a professor and a management consultant. I hope that you will join me on Authory!
About David Wyld
David Wyld (email@example.com) is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld.
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