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Should You Be Using Medium To Blog?

By Julie Neidlinger on August 26, 2013 in News.


Screenshot from the homepage of Medium.com

Screenshot from the homepage of Medium.com

Medium looks beautiful. Clean design, great concept, full of potential treasures to be read.

The idea of Medium was to allow for “medium” length content. It wasn’t the short 140-character tweet, but it wasn’t a novel, either. Though once carefully curated, it has been opened up widely to writers around the world. Some bloggers swear by it, others swear at it.

Should you be blogging on Medium at all?

Medium says the following about itself:

A better place to read and write things that matter, Medium is a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends. It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world.

It’s a fun place to write, but there are things serious bloggers need to consider before jumping aboard. I’ve considered several factors that are important to bloggers, and how Medium compares.

The Quality Factor

In the past months, Medium began opening up to more and more users. The content has certainly changed from the quality it was when it was heavily screened and curated. I commented about it on Twitter, complete with ironic typo.

I’m bemused by my own knee-jerk reaction that I wished it were still heavily screened so the content was better, but that I was still given an account. I suppose we all think we are A-list writers.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed an uptick in people blogging about Medium on Medium. One author compared it to the infamous “slush pile.” Another countered that it was a fantastic experience as both a reader and writer. Which ever it is, there is a seriously wide range of quality, and your content will be lumped in with it all.

When a reader comes to visit where you write, are they guaranteed quality?

Your blog: Yes (I hope so!)
Medium: No

The Visual Assault Factor

The visual assault factor is tied closely to the quality, mentioned above.

The act of writing on Medium is a pleasure, and that is one of the most common selling points you’ll hear said about it. It is stripped down and bare, almost like writing in Draftin or Editorially. It makes writing pleasurable by reducing the decisions a writer has to make. The design is high quality. The unique way of commenting inline on a post, and having it show up quietly at the right-hand side on mouseover is nice, too. These are visually pleasing experiences.

The visual assault factor happens when you hop on Medium and start seeing that the topics are all over the board. The way headlines are created aren’t consistent (some are a sentence, some are title case, and so on), and in general, it’s like the Wild West.

These topics, despite being in a collection, are all over the board.

These topics, despite being in a collection, are all over the board.

Writing might be pleasurable, but reading — or trying to find something to read — is not (file that in the IMHO collection). Sad, considering that it really is a site that benefits the readers more than the authors.

Unless you stick with the Editor’s Picks as a reader, there’s no guarantee of what you’ll find. And, as a writer, you don’t want readers to stick with the Editor’s Picks, unless you are lucky enough to be one.

Are readers treated with the respect of categories and topics that they’ll know what to expect, or is it a free-for all?

Your blog: Yes.
Medium: They used to be, then it was opened up for the public to write and curation waned.

The Sharecropping SEO Factor

How do you feel about writing your content and leaving it off of your blog to be found? Would you build a house on your neighbor’s lot and expect that to work out well in the end?

The idea of sharecropping content, publishing some place you don’t control, has been a popular topic of discussion for a while. The company (in this case, Medium) gets the benefit that comes from massive amounts of content: traffic, acclaim, and attention. Plus, when you don’t control where you blog, you won’t be able to do much if the system you’ve chosen to blog on decides to close up shop (hello, Posterous) beyond downloading what was yours before the lights are turned off.

The blogging platform I use should be working for me, and not the other way around. I shouldn’t be helping build Medium’s brand instead of my own.

Many bloggers (myself included) see Medium as a place to re-work original content from their own blogs, unwilling to give Medium a one-of-a-kind original. Though I worry about duplicate content and the SEO issues that come from that, I haven’t been able to convince myself to stop because I hold on to the possibility of finding an audience there.

Do you completely own and control your content?

Your blog: Yes
Medium: Not exactly.

The Community Factor

There have been several posts on Medium that talk about the dark side of crowd-sourced blogs like Medium, positing that collaborative content and a great all-in-one place for so many view points isn’t actually doing the writer any favors. I can’t link to all of those posts that I’m referring to, however, because I didn’t save them to a reading list (didn’t know I could) and I can’t search Medium. I can follow a post, but I can’t follow an author.

Medium is almost transient in nature, which doesn’t do you, the author, any favors.

By nature, Medium is communal. Some users say that is the reason they like Medium: it comes with a built-in audience. That is true, but they forget their audience has to fight to find them. I’m an independent blogger trying to build my own platform. I don’t want 10 or 40 or 5000 people up here with me, fighting for my audience.

Is the focus on your content, the audience all yours?

Your blog: Yes
Medium: No.

The Discovery Factor

How you are discovered is very much connected to the community factor. There is no search. Posts on the front page are either editor’s picks or popular with readers. According to an article by Alexis C. Madrigal, Medium mixes their paid authors with the free bloggers unevenly (which makes sense). Medium will “promote the people they’ve paid along with a very small subset of everyone else.”

Readers can also find content that isn’t yours whether you’d like to keep them on your profile or not. At the bottom of posts, recommendations of content by other authors are easy to click, and the collection you put your post in will lead your readers not to the other posts you’ve written for that collection, but the collection in general. Medium is a site made for the benefit of readers. It is built in a way that encourages readers to go down a rabbit hole and find all kinds of content, not just yours.

How do readers find you? You can be found via collections, and people can add you to collections on their own. You must actively tweet and promote your own Medium content on your current networks. In a way, Twitter is the real index for your Medium posts and you’ll want to regularly tweet your posts to get them found, read, and possibly voted on. (Being voted and recommended is your best hope for getting traction and Twitter followers through Medium.) Without regularly retweeting your Medium posts, they may sink to the bottom.

Is it easy for readers to discover your other work?

Your blog: Yes
Medium: No

The Spam Factor

Spam is surfacing on Medium. Sometimes it’s done when someone adds their post to 20 different collections, and sometimes it looks a bit more familiar.

We have the WordPress "Hello World" test post in a Medium content stream.

We have the classic WordPress “Hello World” test post in a Medium content stream.

With the recent option allowing authors to post related links to the bottom of published posts, I’m starting to see that section of posts packed with 10+ links that have questionable relevance to the post and are more likely an attempt for generating links on an outside site back to their own site. It reminds me of link spam.

Medium sometimes seems, if you dig into a collection, like a garbage truck backed up and left a pile or words. You may see great posts, and you may see some not-so-great posts. You may or may not be able to read the language a post is written in. You might see a post on startups, one on baking, one on feminism, one with rough and crude language, and one on politics, all mashed together.

It is a bit like a horribly organized feed reader. You can create a collection and keep it private to keep out spammers. You can moderate comments. But you can’t do anything to control where readers go from your post and if where they end up will have any bearing on how they view you.

Do you control the spam that might be associated with your content?

Your blog: Yes
Medium: Your content, yes. Surrounding and discovered content, no.

The Analytics Factor

Medium provides you with some easy-access analytics that are like the rest of the site: beautiful in their simplicity and clarity. They tell you how many have read your post, how much of the post readers tended to read, and how many recommendations your post has received. In other words, it’s the exact statistics you’d need in-house. You understand how your post is doing within the Medium.com sphere.

But that’s it, really.

If you’re an analytics junkie and are trying to drive traffic to or from your Medium posts, you aren’t going to know where people came from, and how they arrived at your post. You won’t know where they are leaving your post, beyond the percentage guess.

Do you get detailed stats that help you in creating content that grows your blog?

Your blog: Yes (if you have it set up)
Medium: Kind of.

It’s Up To You

[Quote ".@Medium really is a great platform if you just want to write. Unfortunately, for me, that wasn’t my problem.-Ken Reitz"]

At the end, it’s your decision. You have to decide what you want to accomplish from your writing. You have to decide how you’d use Medium and if you’d keep your regular blog. It’s a great place to write for the sake of writing. It’s a great place to read and find a few new Twitter users to follow. But if you are trying to build your own platform and an audience around your writing, you should not replace your own blog with Medium completely.

Despite what seems like a very negative list, I still have an account on Medium. Garrett does, too.

As a blogger, I can’t break free from the idea that I want my writing to be read, and I’ll do just about anything to find an audience, even blogging on Medium, hoping I might get a few who will follow me to Twitter and ultimately, back to my own blog. I tend to think of it as “guest blogging” completely under my control, as if Medium allows me to guest blog at will on their system.

At the very least, I can say I have mixed feelings about it, but continue to use the system.

[Question "Do you write at Medium? Do you plan to continue? Why or why not?"]