It’s a decision for all content marketers; do you leverage the reach and audience of an established platform and rent attention from them, or build your own digital property and community? Regular contributor Dennis Shiao runs a popular content marketing meet-up and newsletter and he shares how he uses rented platforms and attention to build on his own land.


Building your audience on rented land? Some pros and cons revolve around the ‘landlord’. Let’s take Facebook, landlord of the largest online property on the planet. For a business, Facebook gives you access to billions of users.

The concern? The land is not yours and neither is the audience. You pay rent for access to both. It’s dangerous for your business to rely on Facebook, because things can change:

  • Facebook can change the rules (Google “Facebook declining organic reach”)
  • Facebook can ban your account (they determine the rules)
  • Facebook can be subject to government regulation, which affects users and businesses on the platform
  • While unlikely, Facebook can go out of business, with the platform shutting down

If Facebook is rented land, what are examples of land that you own?

They’re fairly simple things, actually: a mailing list, a website, a podcast. In this post, I’ll detail two examples of rented vs. owned land and how I think about the pros and cons.

The birth of my newsletter

I run the Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup. Before the pandemic, we met once a month in person. These days, we meet once a week online. I use the Meetup.com platform and it’s been great. Not only does it help me publish details of each meetup, it also helps with audience development.

The millions of users of Meetup.com can find our group and become members. We’re now over 1,000 members and Meetup.com was responsible for a majority of them (the others joined our group from outreach efforts of existing members).

Meetup.com is rented land. In fact, the Meetup platform doesn’t give me access to members’ email addresses. The reason is simple: if I had the email address of each member, I could take them with me and leave the Meetup platform.

While I have the option of emailing my members through Meetup.com, I wanted something that gave me more control. A few years ago, I created a free Mailchimp account and launched the Content Corner newsletter

I added subscribers by reaching out to members directly. My goal was to have a means for emailing members – primarily about upcoming Meetups, but also to share related marketing content.

Today, the newsletter has grown in scope to be a key personal branding vehicle for me. As a freelance marketing consultant, I landed a few clients from it. I’ve also picked up email marketing projects from my experience publishing a newsletter. I acquired a small parcel of my own land and kept building on it.

Lessons on rented land:

Pros: Built a large and thriving community using Meetup.com (rented land).

Cons: Needed direct access to my audience, along with the certainty of holding on to them. The launch of the Content Corner newsletter turned the drawback into a big win.

Publishing on Medium

I’ve been a blogger for over 10 years. I’ve blogged about everything from the New York Yankees to virtual events. Some of those blogs I deleted, while one remains. In all cases, my publishing activity became dormant. A few years ago, I wanted to publish an occasional post, so I created a free account at Medium.com.

I established an LLC for my consulting business and purchased a domain. However, I haven’t built the website yet.  😳 As a result, my Medium account continues to be the place where I publish the occasional post today. 

Similar to Meetup.com, Medium provides me with a built-in audience who can discover me – in this case, my writing. In this screenshot, notice how Medium members are discovering and interacting with my posts:

I know, however, that Medium is rented land and that I don’t own my audience there. So one trick I use is to identify my most popular posts and insert a call-to-action (CTA) to sign up for my email newsletter. Here’s an example, which is placed at the bottom of the post:

Pros: Medium makes it super-easy to publish a post. They provide their publishing system and hosting for free. In addition, I get access to a built-in audience of Medium.com members.

Cons: Medium can change the terms for post authors (like me). Medium can go out of business. And these readers are not really ‘my’ audience. In response, I’m going to launch a website for my consulting business and publish blog posts there. Look for it in 2021. 🤓


You can find out more about the meet-up that Dennis runs, his background, and his experience with virtual events when Dennis chatted to our editor on episode 5 of the Rockstar CMO FM podcast.

You can subscribe on all good podcasting platforms (and some rubbish ones too), including  Apple Podcasts,  SpotifyStitcher, and many others.


Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

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