A lot of people won't like what I'm about to say. But I'm going to say it anyway. Because I don't really care...
Don't write on Medium.
Yes, I just said it. I'm giving you advice no one probably ever gave you before.
But don't get me wrong here. I really like Medium. I'm a big fan of it. But there are a few things you should know. A few things I figured out over the past year or so since I started publishing my posts on Medium, in parallel to my blog.
Everything I'm about to say is my own personal opinion. It's how I see things and experienced it. It might be different for you. There's no empirical evidence. So here's the thing about Medium.
To me it seems that Medium completely commoditized writing. I don't know how they did it. But they somehow pulled it off. Medium is only about content. And nothing else. Ev Williams, Founder & CEO of Medium even said it in his latest post Taking Medium to the next Level. He said that Medium is primarily about the content.
Sounds about alright, you'd say. Sure, content is always great. I love content. But what it does is that it completely kills the person behind the content. It kills the author. It turns the author into another useless side effect. A commodity. It turns the author into a machine. And no one really cares about the machine. Everybody cares about the product. About the output.
Think this is not bad? Well, what this means in the long run is that no one will be left writing. Because no one will be able to make a name for herself writing any longer. Because it's only about the content. And not about the author anymore.
Should we even care? I think we should. If no one will be able to make a name for herself writing, no one will make money writing any longer and then no one will be left writing.
Or we'll be stuck with a content mafia that gets 99% of the traffic. And 99% of the money. Should we care? I guess we should. Monopolies are never a good thing. Except for the people having a monopoly like status. Here are a few more things I realized..
# content consumption
Just think about how you consume content. And then think about how you consume content on Medium. Did you ever check out anyone's profile on Medium? I sure didn't. Sometimes I clicked on the profile. But I never clicked through to any other source that was listed there. Maybe once or twice.
Now think about how you consume content on a blog. The first thing I usually do is that I click on the about page. Then I read what the author does or did. And if she does something interesting I click through to other stuff she did. I'll maybe sign up to her newsletter. Maybe I'll even end up buying one of her books.
I NEVER did any of this on Medium. Why? I don't know. Maybe because they don't want you to check out who's the person behind the content. Maybe all they care about is the time you spend reading on THEIR platform.
And the moment someone leaves their platform is when they lose reading time on their platform. These are the metrics they care about. The metrics investors care about. They just raised a huge round. Something like $50mn. I forgot. So the metrics must be really, really good. And Medium has some of the best investors on board. And they do indeed care about these exact metrics.
Is this bad? No, not really. But it's nice to know and understand this. After all, Medium is a business. If it wasn't a business we would probably not be able to use their service..
# click throughs
Here's another thing I realized. People never click through to other blog posts I mention within my Medium posts. Or the ones I mention at the bottom of almost every post. No one ever signs up to my newsletter at the end of every article.
Why? I don't know. It seems to me that readers on Medium behave differently to people who read stuff on blogs. Maybe it's also because Medium is not about the writer (yet). It's all about the content.
And only the best content will survive. Only the best content will be pushed. And people somehow don't click on links inside a post. Maybe it's just me. Maybe my content just sucks. Maybe I suck. I really don't know..
So here's the thing about Medium. Medium is the platform with some of the best writers out there. Some of the best writers the world has ever seen.
Even presidents started using it. And all sorts of celebrities. I don't think those folks ever wrote blog posts anywhere else before. It's just crazy. It's the craziest competition you could possibly get yourself into.
And of course these folks get hundreds or thousands of recommendations. And it looks great. So we think that we could do the same. We, aspiring writers, amateur writers, people who are just starting off, think that we could use Medium as a traffic machine. But it doesn't work.
Remember, you're competing with presidents, celebrities and what not. And whose content will you most likely read? The president's newest comment on something that might change the world or the piece from someone you've never ever heard of before?
Now guess what. Everybody on Medium will give the exact same answer you just gave. Making a name for yourself on Medium seems to be impossible. At least to me.
Even in the very unlikely case that someone ends up reading your stuff, they will most likely not even check out who wrote that article. Because Medium already suggested them dozens of other super popular articles, while they were reading your stuff. Or browsing their platform. They can't browse to your about page. They'll end up browsing Medium's top posts.
Your content, your voice and your story will most likely end up nowhere. Here's the thing. To remember you and your name people have to read at least five posts to even realize that you exist.
Ok, I totally made that number up. But I think it needs a lot more than just one article. I usually take notice of someone after maybe four or five articles I read from them and see them popping up all over the place..
Everything you need to know about writing
I've put together my best stuff on writing in a book called 121 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer. You can get it for free below...
# suggested posts
Whenever I go on Medium I end up skimming the top posts. I completely forget what article even brought me there. And then there are dozens of other posts being recommended to me. And all of these posts are hundred times better than the original post that sent me there.
And that's not a coincidence. Medium wants you to stay on their platform for as long as possible. That's why they recommend you to the best stuff they have. The stuff you read and all of a sudden it's already 3am in the morning and you wonder, wtf just happened.
The more time you spend on their platform, the more money they make. Or the more appealing they become to an investor. Or the next round of financing. Or whatever.
So in the end, Medium will always push the best content they have. They have to. They are a business. And not a charity. That's at least what they're doing now. Until they introduce promoted content, paid posts and so on. And this will in the mid to long term lead to a 80/20 distribution of traffic within Medium.
No, I actually believe that it will lead to a 99/1 distribution. 99% percent of the traffic within Medium will be generated by 1% of the top writers. Sure, that's survival of the fittest. That's the basic rule of the Internet. Nothing wrong about that. But most people just haven't realized this, yet.
# brand dilution
Whenever you send someone from one of your social media accounts, mailing lists or whatever to Medium you'll dilute your brand as a writer. In case you're thinking about becoming a writer. Or whatever your agenda is. And no one writes on Medium just for the fun of it. We all have an agenda. Whatever that might be in your case.
Maybe you want to send traffic to your company's blog or your private homepage. Maybe you want to establish yourself as an expert. Land consulting gigs. Or speaker engagements. Or whatever. It doesn't matter.
What matters is to start realizing that sending people who already follow you onto a platform you don't control is like sending your customers right to your competition. Medium will end up recommending them the best content out there. The top posts. Or the top recommended posts. Over and over again. And it'll most likely not be yours. So in the end you'll be forgotten. If you were ever really known..
The most important thing when you publish content is to build your brand. To build your credibility. And to own the customer relationship. And you don't own the customer relationship on Medium. Medium does. And they leverage it.
So be more like Medium. Own the customer relationship. And then recommend your users YOUR best stuff. And not someone else's best stuff. Get them to read your about page. Get them to sign up to your mailing list. Tell them your story. Seduce them into our world. Just like Medium does it..
# google traffic
I know traffic from Google is not really relevant when you're just starting off writing or blogging. Google won't be sending you any traffic to your blog for the first two years. Or three years. Or fours years. Maybe they'll never send you any traffic.
Google didn't send me any traffic for the first two years. Maybe I just suck at SEO. Maybe my content sucks. I don't know. I don't believe in this SEO BS anyway. It changes all the time. I hate it. So I stopped paying attention to it. I actually never really paid attention to it. But at least I found a good excuse to stop caring..
What I do know though is that after writing for more than two years, Google started sending me some decent traffic to my blog. Right now Google sends me 3k+ visitors to my blog each month. Which is not that much, but quite ok considering the fact that I write about all sorts of different things.
The traffic is mostly long tail traffic. Which means that people end up on my blog using all sorts of different search phrases. No specific keywords or anything. I don't even know how that works or how to do it.
So here's the thing when you only publish your stuff on Medium. Google will send all the traffic to Medium. And then you'll end up in the same loop I just described above. Competition, brand dilution, no click throughs, suggested posts and so on..
Again, I'm not saying any of this to bash Medium. I think it's a great platform. Maybe they're already working on solving these issues. Or maybe they don't care about it at all. I don't know. But what I care about is that people start to understand what Medium is really all about. To make people understand what they're really getting themselves into.
And a lot of people have wrong expectations about it. They think Medium will bring them millions of new readers. It won't. It will bring millions of new readers to people who already have millions of readers. Because only the strongest survive. And there is a reason why these people already have a million followers. And why you don't. And Medium won't change any of this.
And what's going to happen in the mid to long run is that the only people benefiting from Medium is the so called content mafia. The people who already have millions of followers. And Medium itself, of course. And its investors.
And we might lose some great writers. Some great artists. Some great stories. Some great stories that won't be told any longer because people had wrong expectations. Expectations that will frustrate them. Expectations that will make them leave the platform. And give up their writing entirely.
Because for many aspiring writers Medium has become the number one platform. And starting on the most competitive platform out there will kill every beginner. If I only published my stuff on Medium, I would have stopped a long time ago. I don't get any email sign ups. No book sales. No new followers. Very few recommendations. No nothing. But my own blog gets tons of traffic and shares.
And I don't want to see this happen. I don't want to see many people leave just because they started with the wrong platform. Because every story counts. And Medium is just not (yet) the platform to start your writing career. Or your blog. It's not a platform to experiment. It's not a platform to build an audience from scratch.
Sure, there might be one or two success stories where it worked out. Where people were able to build an audience from scratch. Just like there was one Facebook and one Twitter for millions of other Facebooks or Twitters that did not work out.
Right now, Medium is for the best of the best to grow their influence. So what do I suggest?
What I'd suggest doing instead is to start your own blog. A platform you own. And are able to control what' going to happen. Invest the time and money to understand how to do it. Start a Wordpress blog. Or a Typepad blog. It doesn't matter.
What matters is that you send people to a platform you own. A platform you can control. A platform where people might take their time to check out your about page. To find out more about you. A platform where you're not right from the very start competing with the very best out there.
Because that's a battle you can only lose. Don't get in the ring with the best in the world out there right from the very start.
Start with small steps instead. And then get better every single day. Until you're one of them. Until you're among the 1%. Until you're a part of the content mafia. And in the mean time you can simply copy & paste your blog posts into Medium. That's what I do.
As a matter of fact I post all of my blog updates on Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook and Quora.
To increase my reach. But not to build my audience there. I build my audience on my blog. I send everyone to my blog. I don't send anyone to any of the other platforms I don't own..