I get asked from time to time, either by friends, colleagues or readers, why I don't publish any of my articles to Medium.
I do have an account on Medium — @florimondmanca — but I only use it for reading, reacting to and commenting on other people's content. I don't use it to publish articles. So, why is that?
The short answer is: I want to own my content from end to end, and Medium just doesn't allow that.
I hope this won't be yet another rant on "why I hate Medium" or "Medium is bad for you". Well, maybe it will be. We'll see. I wrote this article at 8am, with just an hour and a half of time before I moved to my new flat in Paris. This is going to be a quick write up. Happy to discuss these ideas further with you!
Note: this post is targeted at developers. If you're a non-technical person, writing on Medium is (most likely) just fine.
# Why I read on Medium
I discovered Medium in April 2017 — about a year ago. On my morning bus ride, I would open up a browser and start wandering through the platform, looking for articles about programming, software development, open source, etc.
I love to learn new stuff, so you can only imagine how quickly I got addicted to all the awesome content that gets published daily to this platform.
Here are a few examples of stories that stood out:
- I first understood what Redux was all about thanks to a Medium blog post.
- I learnt about an open source Heroku-like PaaS thanks to another Medium blog post.
- Many other blog posts on Medium helped me when I was getting started with Apache Kafka — I linked to a few of them at the end of this article.
I can't even count the number of Medium articles that I encounter while googling for traceback errors or looking up a new technology.
For this reason and many more, I do like to read on Medium.
But there are also reasons why I don't publish my own articles there.
First off, I don't have anything against cross-posting — I do it on DEV and my articles have been very well received there so far.
I recently read an article by Yann Girard entitled Why you shouldn't blog to Medium. It's a more incisive piece than I aspire to write here, but I 100% agree with a lot of it. I may repeat some of this points here, but I'll try to relate them to my own experience.
# Medium doesn't care about you, the author
Girard's article interrogates how we readers consume content on Medium vs how we do so on other platforms such as personal blogs, social media, etc.
To put it concisely, it seems Medium as a platform was engineered to revolve around the content, not the authors and writers.
After all, Medium is just another company. They only exist to make money, and they earn that money by capturing people's attention — i.e. you and me sticking around and reading content on Medium.
(This is very similar to how YouTube and other free content publishing platforms work — except Medium generates profit from subscriptions while YouTube mainly runs on ads.)
The point is — Medium doesn't care about you as an author. What they care about is your content. The content is why people stay on Medium, not the authors who wrote it.
As an aside, this means that if you expect to grow a reputation on Medium, chances are: you won't.
Maybe some of your articles will become popular, but you'll have to promote them to get them known anyway.
# The paywall puts me off
Now, I don't know about you, but most of the content Medium displays in my feed is premium content.
Premium (or paid) content refers to articles decorated with a tiny black star that basically says "Hey, you can read a few of these per month, but if you want to see more, subscribe!". I very often open an article just to arrive at a dead end and have the subscription form pop up at my face.
Medium makes it so annoying to be a free user, because this increases the chances you'll go premium. It's a very common technique — Spotify works like that too. But it's been particularly exhausting to me (and others) lately.
To be clear, I don't have anything against Medium wanting to make money out of their platform. Again, that's why they exist as a company.
Of course, you can opt in to put your content behind the paywall, and Medium will pay you back for that because you contribute to buying them new subscriptions. They also pay you back when paid users applaud your content. So at least you can get your part of the cake. Sounds fair, right?
But here's the thing — I don't want to make my content paid, let alone have Medium make money from the content I wrote.
Also, some have reported ethical issues associated to this system, which is all the more worrying.
But, okay, fine, if I don't opt in then Medium won't put my content behind the paywall (or will it?). Still, there would be another issue.
# Medium owns the content
I have the terrible feeling that content published to Medium belongs to them, not the author who wrote it. (Again, they care about the content, not authors.)
I mean, sure, writing is creative work, so at least you get protection from international copyright laws, etc. But what else do you get?
Once your content is on Medium, the platform can do anything they want with it, and you don't have a word to say.
Besides, what happens if Medium goes bankrupt? You lose all your content. Oops.
You see, when I started blogging, one thing I wanted was to own my content in every sense of the word. This includes hosting my blog on a server I own, using a database I have access to, on a platform whose looks, aesthetics, and user experience I wholly have the power to change and evolve.
# One size does not fit all
Here's another thing — you don't get to change how Medium works, or how it looks.
I mean, I definitely agree that articles on Medium look quite pretty. (Though it's probably because they want to make your content as pretty as it can — they care about the content, remember?) Besides, there seems to be a way to create customised Medium sites — see FreeCodeCamp or HackerNoon.
But at the end of the day, all of it is still branded as Medium, and it still works the way Medium engineered it to work.
On the other hand, if you own the content and the infrastructure, you're 100% free to do whatever you want with it, and to adopt the workflow and tools you want as a writer.
For example, one thing I hate on Medium is the WYSIWYG editor. I guess it's great for non-technical writers, but to me it looks terrible for writing about software and working with code.
People have been publicly begging (and proposing workarounds) for syntax highlighting in code snippets for ages, but it still didn't make it out Medium's product backlog.
So, yep, sorry, Medium, I just love Markdown too much, so I'll use my own stack instead.
# But Medium gets us tons of views!
Yeah, sure — or does it?
It seems the vast majority of content on Medium just has a few claps or comments, and that's it. This is a very well known effect — most articles are part of the long trail.
I know — it's up to the author to get out there and promote their content, be it on social media, forums, or anywhere else their readers might be.
But think of it this way — how important is it, then, that your content is published on Medium or on your personal blog? What difference does it make?
If you invest some time and effort in SEO, you can do as good as Medium in terms of ranking on search engines or having people cross-link your content.
I have a couple of articles that regularly rank very high on Google and have been getting a ton of traffic recently. And they're published to my blog, not Medium.
# Write on your own platform
So, here's why I don't write on Medium: Medium doesn't get me views, traffic, or recognition. Quality content does — regardless of the platform it is published to. So I'd better use my own, and grow my skills along the way.
I may consider cross-posting to Medium in the future — it is very likely to bring a lot of extra traffic from people who would never have found my blog otherwise. That's also true for content about my open source projects, including Bocadillo.
But in any case, I will keep my blog as a primary means for publishing content.
As a final call to action, if you're a developer yourself and want to start blogging, you should definitely consider to write on your own platform.