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Why Medium is Not the Home for Your Ideas

Building a blog for the long run? Avoid Medium. This is why.

Medium’s most significant selling points are how easy it is to publish your thoughts and the social aspect of the platform.

However, with ease, comes restrictions.

In this post, I’ll discuss how Medium has burned me in the past and why I don’t think it’s the right place for your stories on the web.

Let’s start with:

My experience with Medium

When Medium was new, I jumped into the bandwagon, and called it the home for my blog posts for quite some time.

I was happy with the experience. The editor was beautiful, and the presence of community made the platform a suitable place to publish my thoughts, and reach people quickly.

After writing solo for some time, I got accepted to write for a couple of Medium publications like The Startup, freeCodeCamp, Hacker Noon, and Be Yourself.

I thought my blog hosting days were behind me. Medium was going to be my one-stop blogging destination.

But then, came the hammer:

Medium’s content moderation algorithm blocked my profile by mistake without a notice.

I didn’t even realise that my Medium profile wasn’t visible to anyone but me. I assumed since I haven’t written for some time, my views started dropping naturally.

It was until I tried sharing my profile link with a friend did I notice that my profile page returned a 404 error like this:

Medium's 404 error page.
I was getting Medium’s 404 page while trying to open my profile page.

After contacting Medium Support on Twitter, they unblocked my profile with a reply that my account was flagged mistakenly.

Check this reply from Medium Support:

What’s crazy?

Neither you nor I can stop this from happening again because Medium is a rented land for us.

On the web:

It’s always better to own your platform

This advice is accurate for any form of content, be it blog posts or a video.

Until you host your content on your platform, they will always live at the mercy of the company hosting the platform.

I was not the only case where Medium’s algorithm went haywire; it happened with other people as well:

And this is true for other content platforms like YouTube. There had been cases where YouTube videos with tons of views disappeared overnight.

The web is meant for free speech. Your content shouldn’t be jailed for being controversial.

Even though Medium reinstated my profile, I stopped publishing on the platform and moved to my blog again.

You might be thinking:

What about the virality that comes from Medium’s community?

It’s true. Medium has a good community. And, if your content catches fire, it will be viral.

However, that’s not always the case. I have had very few organic traffic from Medium.

Most of my articles had traffic from external sources. Here are some stats for you:

Stats from one of my articles on Medium.

Even if you manage to score a good amount of traffic on your content on Medium, it’s wise to use this opportunity to build an initial traction for your blog.

A lot of companies like Basecamp and Spotify executed this idea with their company blogs.

They started with a Medium publication, and when they gained traction on their content, they moved to their own hosted blogs.

Coincidentally:

I was listening to a podcast episode a few days back where a YouTuber said that he is building his platform to prevent his content from being taken down by YouTube.

That said:

Medium is still suitable for some cases

There are situations when Medium is the best choice for writers. Some of them are:

  • Blogging casually. When you’re just jotting your thoughts down and don’t care about your brand, Medium can be a right fit for those occasional brain dumps.
  • Not being able to afford hosting fees. Hosting your blog costs money, whereas Medium is free.
  • Quick money. Earning money from your blog takes time. On Medium, however, you can put your story behind a paywall and make money from Medium’s Partner Program.

However, if you’re serious about blogging, you should always focus on your own blog.

Apart from the freedom to publish anything you want, you’ll also get unlimited branding and customisation options on your blog.

Medium allows only a handful of customisations for publications and little to nothing for the article content.

Even the everyday use cases like syntax highlighting requires jumping through multiple hoops to make it possible.

Also, Medium stopped allowing custom domains for publications starting November, 2017. That means, your publication will have an URL structure like this:

medium.com/yourpublication

There’s, however, one approach where you can make Medium work for you with acceptable side-effects.

How?

Mirror your blog on Medium

This technique isn’t something I invented. I have seen a lot of established authors like Darius Foroux do this regularly and I tried it on my own as well.

The concept is to publish first on your own blog and then later republish the same content on Medium.

You can either create a publication on Medium for reposting or publish under your profile.

And at the end of each article, add a byline which links to the original article on your site.

The benefit of this approach is that while your content is safely resting on your blog, you can leverage Medium and get more eyeballs for your writing.

However, there’s a catch, SEO-wise.

Since Medium has a high domain authority on Google Search, your articles on Medium might outrank the same articles published on your blog.

Also, Google might add negative signals for your website, thinking that you copy-pasted an article from Medium on your blog.

Tread carefully.

Update: As pointed out in the comments section, Medium has anΒ import toolΒ which allows you to add a canonical link from your Medium post to your original blog post.

This process ensures that Google does not think of your blog post as a duplicate. Thanks to Nicolas and Matthias for this correction.Β πŸ₯‚

Tell me about your strategy

Now that you know the disadvantages of blogging on Medium, what do you think?

Will you be moving your blog from Medium? Or vice-versa?

Have you already moved from Medium? Love to hear that story too.

Let me know by leaving a comment below.


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35 replies on “Why Medium is Not the Home for Your Ideas”

Interesting. I’ve only recently started publishing on medium, and it was after giving up on my own blog because I was never happy with my frontend implementation. I was not aware of this silent blocking and it’s incredibly unethical that they don’t alert you so that you can apply for a manual review. That said, as I only post there sparingly, and mainly to just get my thoughts out, I’ll probably continue unless/until I get some traction.

On the SEO front, another option would be to make sure the article is indexed by Google on your own blog first. Additionally, you could add a shorter version on medium and link to the full version on your own site. This should minimize the likelihood that medium outranks.

Yeah, if you’re just testing the waters, Medium is a nice starting point.

Regarding adding a shorter version of your post on Medium, I don’t think that’s good reading experience because I then have to read the article twice to get the full information.

What do you think, Ryan? πŸ€”

This is a very good point. However, that makes the assumption that users who would read the article on Medium would actually click through to your blog (which I don’t believe most would). I would say that the shorter article would allow you to put it in front of more readers, readers you wouldn’t capture otherwise. By doing this, you capture the medium readers and also retain the SEO value. This also gives additional value to your blog on it’s own for readers as it provides more value. If it’s the same article, then those readers have no real incentive to ever visit your blog. Additionally, you will have a higher risk of being outranked as you mentioned.

Yes, an excellent point here. Also, I think a lot of readers, at least me, prefer a more unique UI per blog than the standard Medium UI.

I do this for most reposts on Medium. If I know the author has a beautiful site, I skip the Medium article and go straight to his/her personal blog to read the article.

Been doing this every time for Darius Foroux’s articles on Medium. 😁

Whoops, that’s really bad.

Read your blog post, nicely written. Agree that managing your own WordPress installation is tedious. Static-site generators like Gatsby helps, but then again, from what I’ve noticed, managing content gets out of hand as you put in more and more posts on the site.

Have you tried any hosted CMSes like WordPress.com or Ghost.org?

What is fundamentally better about a hosted CMS compared to Medium? Based on your post, it seems that if you want the freedom to post any content without accepting someone else’s terms, you need to host it yourself.

A managed service like WordPress.com or Ghost.org will host and manage the technical aspects of your blog. And also provide assistance on tweaking your blog, etc.

Whatever you write on your blog is none of their concern. It’s yours and will stay online as long as you are paying for the hosting costs. 😁

Thanks for the feedback about my blog!

I chose Hugo (or any other static website generator) because I’m literally addicted to achieve the minor time possible to get my website loaded! WordPress.org could be a great CMS but I have some technical reasons that keep me aside from it.

The most drawback of static website generator is that you spend a lot of time on coding, instead of writing.

Agree. Static sites are fast.

And the drawback you mentioned, that is exactly what happened to me. I wanted my blog to be just for writing, and someplace away from the coding work I do all day. 😁 No more frontmatter editing for me. 🀣

> Not being able to afford hosting fees. Hosting your blog costs money, whereas Medium is free.

GitHub pages is also free, provides HTTPS, and allows using a custom domain. The only downside is that you won’t have any server-side rendering, but I think most blogs could probably live without that. There are many projects to make static websites out of WordPress, Ghost, etc. if Jekyll isn’t your thing.

yup. i wrote this a few years ago: https://john.do/abandon-medium/

my opinion still hasn’t changed. i wouldn’t even use it “casually”… because what happens when someone who starts that way wants to go… pro? now, they have to do the migration and all that jazz.

a better foundation would be to start on places that don’t start with M and end with M.

You wrote 3000+ posts on Medium? Dayum! πŸ™ŒπŸ»

I suppose, even for casual posts, mirroring seems to be a good option then if you want to get some juice out of Medium.

What do you think, John?

Rahul, loved your post. Not just because it was confirmation bias based on what I have decided to do myself recently but also because your thought process was insightful.

I wrote a similar piece a few days ago and landed on very similar conclusions, https://louiebacaj.com/where-to-blog-medium-substack-wordpress-ghost-or-roll-your-own/ .. I update my post to add a link to yours because I think readers will get further reinforcement as to why it is a good idea to own your own written content.

Thanks a lot for the appreciation, Louie. πŸ™ŒπŸ»

Your blog looks super-clean, and the post is on point. ❀️ I saw that you went with Ghost as your blogging software, great choice. 😁 Where are you hosting your Ghost instance?

Also, thanks a lot for linking to my post. The more we can enforce this idea, the better. πŸ₯‚

Absolutely Rahul, as I mentioned in the other comment your post makes a lot of sense.

In terms of hosting Ghost, I decided to do it on Azure using a Bitnami image which takes care a lot of the best practices, https://bitnami.com/stack/ghost. Of course there are so many other options for self hosting, e.g. could do the same on AWS, among other ways.

For non technical folks the fully hosted, fully managed by Ghost https://ghost.org/pricing/, option is excellent and in my view incredibly cheap for the value you are getting compared to the free options.

I strongly agree to all the good points you made. I left Medium just as when they created their paywall. If you are someone that creates good content, that you should own it as well, no questions asked. Either create your own blog from scratch or use the thousands of other alternatives that do way better than Medium. I myself is thinking to move my blog, Mixster (http://mixstersite.wordpress.com/) to a paid wordpress.com
I value ease of mind more that comes with hosted WordPress. It’s a corner of the internet, I can just write my thoughts when I want without worry about the technicality of it. I write enough code to worry about that already. Much more that, at least it’s a corner that I own not one that is leased by a moody corporation that doesn’t care about its users.

I totally agree. That’s the beauty of WordPress and other CMSs – they allow you to truly own your content and not be at the mercy of third-parties.

For those who want to use WordPress for easy content creation and also enjoy a static output without all the ongoing coding etc., you can try Strattic (I’m the CEO). Strattic converts WP sites to static and headless in one click. https://www.strattic.com

Liked the concept, Miriam. However, not a big fan of X pageviews/month pricing. This is one of the things I love about wordpress.com. They don’t set pageview limits on their plans.

I would have preferred if your service was a one-time payment. You do the setup, and I can host my blog on Netlify, Vercel, etc.

A paywall is kind of the future of publishing as it seems right now. Most notable publications like NYTimes, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Stratecherry, etc. have already moved to this concept.

Even blogging software like WordPress and Ghost already support putting up a paywall out of the box.

I don’t think Google is going to punish sites for charging for their content.

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