A recent change broke my trust and made me act on my pre-existing skepticism. That change is not the membership plan.
Okay, I haven’t completely stopped publishing on Medium, but I have stopped making Medium the go-to destination for my audience. Instead, I’ve placed focus on my own WordPress-based site again, and cross-post articles here after some time, without sharing to socials.
This article will be my last exception to that rule: the Medium is the message, after all.
The reason for my recent switch has to do with the limited access Medium gives me to data, combined with the lack of meaningful organic traffic, and a breach of trust, but before I dig into that I want to emphasize the other side of the coin.
Why I love Medium ❤️
Medium’s editor is slick. Sometimes I use it to write pieces I have no intention of publishing to Medium. Sure, there are desktop editors that do it, but Medium is free and available in any browser, so I can use it anywhere.
I started a weekly newsletter about innovation in the music business over a year ago with the intention of writing a new thought piece every week. At some point, the pieces started getting longer and it didn’t make sense to post the entire texts in emails anymore. I also wanted to make the content more shareable. So I started publishing to Medium and started the MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE publication, which now sits at well over 5,000 subscribers.
Medium also has a great community, and its highlighting feature that works across all its publications and authors’ pieces really adds a lot of value. In the obvious way, that it points out friends’ highlights that let you quickly see important information, or give you a perspective on what people you follow find important. But also in a less obvious way: if I share a Medium article to my newsletter followers, many of whom follow me on Medium, they’ll automatically see passages I’ve highlighted.
But that’s about it. I’ve always assumed there were more reasons to love Medium, but as an author who is skilled at driving his own audience to destinations, I think that’s kind of it.
Medium’s organic traffic problem
About a year ago, I built a site for my newsletter which had quickly turned into a consultancy agency after I started getting requests to share my expertise. I wanted to publish my articles on my own WordPress, but it was just too cumbersome. I didn’t feel the motivation to publish on my own site, because my articles looked so much nicer on Medium.
I realized I needed to build a personal site that I could be proud of. So I redesigned musicxtechxfuture.com, put the agency to the background, and the content front and center. From that point onwards, I started posting new articles to both platforms simultaneously. Sometimes it would look nicer on Medium, and sometimes it would look nicer on my own WordPress. Depending on aesthetics, I’d make decisions about which links to prioritize when sharing to my newsletter and socials.
This taught me something about organic traffic on Medium. It turned out that that 5,000 publication followers number is a bullshit vanity metric.
The above data includes traffic from people who follow my personal account (not publication) on Medium, because they get push notifications from the app, or email updates from Medium.
Meanwhile, the limited data Medium gives you makes it very hard to understand from what context these people are finding my articles. Are they my personal audience, my publication audience, random people using the Medium app? I have no idea.
Which brings me to the next issue…
Medium does not give you enough data — and it controls your connection to your audience
The above is a typical issue when you publish on platforms, but I’d really love to know more about my audience. Instead, Medium basically doesn’t tell you where they come from, doesn’t tell you what links they’ve interacted with, it doesn’t tell you what keywords they used to find your content… It just gives you this:
Usually this is okay — that’s the sacrifice you make for publishing to a platform where your content is exposed to a greater community. But how is it that I get less than 50 views on 2 pieces after multiple years of posting, including a year of consistently posting every week and building up over 2k followers on my personal profile, 5k followers on my niche publication, having multiple articles featured by Medium staff, and being featured as a top writer in music?
My WordPress has more organic traffic than that!
So basically: Medium offers a nice editor & easy way to publish. In exchange, you hand over the audience you build up, your content, and your data. Yet I still was giving Medium the benefit of the doubt.
Then I wanted to connect a domain name to my publication
Previously, you had to submit an application and then they’d send you instructions for the process of pointing your domain name to your publication, so that your Medium publication lives on your own domain, but is still linked into the wider Medium ecosystem.
They still do that. Except since last month, they’ve started charging publication owners $75 for that (way above cost price, since you still have to pay for your own domain name). So in all the noise about introducing membership programs to support authors, they’re also monetizing their creators. It’s like Soundcloud for articles. And we all know how things have been going for Soundcloud.
That’s when I lost hope. And trust.
It just doesn’t make sense. It shows a confused strategy. I’m not sure how they justify the registration fee, because as I’ve explained above, there’s very little you’re getting in return.
You’re really better off sinking a few weekends into setting up a WordPress installation and learning to tweak a theme. You will have more control and ownership over your audience, can engage with them more directly by integrating tools, and you’ll end up learning a thing or two about web development: a valuable skill to have.
Until I start seeing Medium’s bogus follower counts translate into meaningful traffic, I’m done.
I’ll keep publishing to here. Perhaps sometimes a week later. Perhaps a month. Just whenever I get around to it. It’s just that Medium simply doesn’t generate traffic to make it worthwhile to give up so much data, insight, and direct relations to my audience. Why give ownership of that to a platform?
In the last months, I’ve gotten notifications that articles of mine were “featured by the Medium staff” — this had no meaningful impact on traffic. I’m also featured as a “Top writer in Music” — this had no meaningful impact on traffic, either.
So, my Medium’s not a priority anymore, until the company figures out a way to make it a priority.
I’ll still occasionally use it for articles that don’t fit the scope of my own page. Medium remains the best way to quickly share some thoughts, but as a publication I’m out.
I really love your product and its elegancy, Ev, but until you map out a clear strategy that’s focused on creating more value for creators, and find a way to articulate that strategy thoughtfully, I’m out.
I just don’t trust Medium anymore as the home for my creativity.