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On Moving a Blog to Medium

Last week’s scare over a corrupted backup is making me reevaluate my plans for this blog, its infrastructure, and its future.

I am for example considering an offer of corporate sponsorship (from a company I obviously should not name). And of course several people have urged me to start a Patreon account to compliment my Paypal donation button.

6736161971_4500eed1c3_oMy plans are still up in the air, but I can tell you one move I won’t be taking.

I won’t be moving this blog to Medium.

On Thursday I received a pitch email from a company working with Medium. The company was recruiting web publishers to move their operation from where ever they are hosted now to Medium, and making bold promises.

I won’t be taking Medium up on their offer, both because I don’t trust the platform’s longevity but also because I am convinced their ad system is fundamentally flawed.

I can’t quote the entire email here, but I will tell you that they promised the "migration from WordPress or whatever CMS you use is completely free and there’s a guaranteed RPM".

They didn’t come out and say how revenue would be generated, so I followed up and was told that " has native ads that are purchased by advertisers on a time basis vs. a cpm basis in their platform and are not ad served nor are standard IAB".

As Medium’s help pages make clear, they’re talking about native advertising on my site, not elsewhere on Medium. And that, along with memberships/subscriptions, are the only revenues streams from Medium. (I might also collect affiliate fees or sell stuff, but that would be between me and some third party.)

Basically Medium wants me to publish my content on their platform for free. They’re not going to pay me anything for my work, but will instead pay me based on my ability to con my readers into opening an ad.

There’s a fundamental flaw in that model; it offers no incentive to create better content but instead encourages publishers to trick you into viewing an advert. (Yes, the membership/subscription encourages publishers to build a loyal audience but I don’t need Medium to run memberships for me; I am doing it on my own.)

And to make matters worse, publishers on Medium are all competing to drive you to the same native advertising. That is a finite resource which is limited by the number of copywriters working for ad agencies.

In comparison, if I write a post on this blog, for example a how-to post or a smart editorial, the ads I have next to that article can generate income for years to come so long as the content remains relevant and can be found by readers.

And Medium wants me to give that up and switch to their platform?

Frankly, I don’t see why I would.

I don’t see how this model is going to work in the long run, and in fact Medium has never put forward a revenue plan which I thought was sustainable.

To be fair, Medium has signed a number of web publishers, including ThinkProgress.orgTheAwl.comFilmSchoolRejects.comPacific Standard, and So there’s a good chance that they see something I don’t.

But what I see is a company which has pivoted at least twice in the four years since it launched and has yet to demonstrate that it is self-supporting or that it has staying power.

Honest to goodness, I do not expect Medium to be around two years from now. But if they are, it will be because they accepted an acquisition offer which saved the company from bankruptcy (my leading candidates are Verizon, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon – in that order).

And even if they don’t go out of business or change ownership, I still expect they will have changed their business model at least once in the next couple years.

And Medium wants me to tie my blog to a site with an uncertain future?

In a word, no.

image by 401(K) 2013

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Anthony September 26, 2016 um 1:51 am

You think Google would buy Medium? They already own Blogspot, which they don’t seem to have paid as much attention to lately…

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2016 um 7:14 am

They would see it as helping them vis a vis Facebook.

Bill Rosenblatt September 26, 2016 um 10:18 am

I also looked at Medium and decided against it (though I do use it occasionally for writings that are off topic to my blog). What Medium wants you to do is throw your content into its great maw for advertising purposes, just like Facebook and all the others. What Medium doesn’t really want you to do is to build and nurture a community with your readership. In the end, they want to monetize the relationship with your readers. I’m happy to pay WordPress the ~$100/year I do so that they aren’t tempted otherwise.

There’s some great writing and great writers on Medium, for sure. But in my view Medium would not exist if it hadn’t been started by an ex Twitter co-founder. The emperor thinks he could get others to contribute new clothes. Eventually those others will move on and take the clothes with them.

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2016 um 12:00 pm

"throw your content into its great maw for advertising purposes"

That is exactly what they are asking.

And yes, the lack of a creator-reader connection on Medium is a problem, IMO. There’s no real community on Medium so much as there is an audience mass; it’s a place where readers are encouraged to share a post rather than interact with creators.

I could write a whole other post on that point alone.

Robert Nagle September 26, 2016 um 10:59 am

Nate, I definitely hear what you’re saying, but the Medium app is one of the slickest I’ve seen. Call me lazy, but I’ve essentially abandoned my RSS reader in favor of reading Medium every day for my daily fix. (In fact, I think I have read one or two Digital Reader pieces on Medium).

Medium is a mechanism for republishing things, and if I were to bet on what is the next big thing in publishing, Medium would be it. That does not change whether I’d rely on it as a publishing platform, but it has introduced a lot of new features and solved a lot of "findability" problems.

Actually though flipboard and has done a decent job in building a community and supporting user-generated content, so I guess medium isn’t offering a particularly unique service. They’re just executing a lot better.

Nate Hoffelder January 5, 2017 um 9:40 am

See, that is another problem with Medium. As someone pointed out in a more recent post on this blog, Medium is trying to solve the same problem which is already being solved by other tools, apps, and websites.

Why switch to Medium when existing feed readers work great?

Medium Lays Off A Third of Its Staff, Realizes Stealing Underpants is Not a Viable Business Model | The Digital Reader January 4, 2017 um 11:49 pm

[…] three months back I predicted that Medium would pivot for the fourth time and/or take a buyout offer within a couple years (if it […]

Andrew January 5, 2017 um 9:28 am

Robert, if you have read Nate’s articles on Medium, and Nate hasn’t posted them there … any idea how they got there? Are they linking to this blog, or is someone copying and pasting?

Nate Hoffelder January 5, 2017 um 9:34 am

I used to repost my articles on Medium. I stopped because the auto-post system didn’t look good, and making the posts look nice was just too much of a bother.

What It Takes: Common Sense January 6, 2017 um 7:20 am

[…] Stealing Underpants is Not a Viable Business Model” and then reread his column from last year, “On Moving a Blog to Medium” I thought about Paine and how the more things change the more things stay the […]

Common Sense January 6, 2017 um 10:04 am

[…] Stealing Underpants is Not a Viable Business Model” and then reread his column from last year, “On Moving a Blog to Medium” I thought about Paine and how the more things change the more things stay the […]

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