Resistance Isn’t Just Futile, it’s Counter-Productive
I’ve made a habit of switching blogging platforms about once a year since 2012. From WordPress, I moved to Svbtle. Then I ditched Svbtle for the exciting newcomer, Ghost. Eventually I found myself drawn back to the familiarity of WordPress.
Yet even as I explored every other avenue, one thing stayed constant: my presence on Medium. I’ve been here since day one (literally), and watched the place grow, stumble, and bloom in exciting ways.
This year, in light of the recent updates to the publishing system, I decided it was finally time to go all-in on the only platform that’s kept me reading, writing, and discovering the work of other talented writers where all others have failed.
It’s a move I’ve been seriously contemplating for a while now, at least since last year when I wrote about The Future of Medium. As I was researching for that article, I was grappling with some serious questions about why I blog.
Is my goal to make money from it? No, but writing is a big part of what I do for a living, and I’d like to keep it that way. Does Medium’s audience and platform raise my chances of having that happen? After all, it isn’t as if publishing your writing independently makes people start throwing money at you. It has to be earned either way.
Asking these questions helped me solidify an understanding of why I’m compelled to write in the first place. For a while I struggled with monetization in the hopes of recouping the costs of researching and writing the articles, but this isn’t a business for me. Not directly.
It’s a labour of love, and while it does bring new clients and paid writing opportunities, that’s not the fundamental reason I write.
I write to provide a resource for curious, like-minded people. Sharing my perspective, helping them make decisions, and engaging them in discussion about things we love.
Medium has always felt like the quickest path to achieving that goal, but I held off, plagued by doubt and hesitation. I worried about my content, about the prospect of relying so heavily on a platform I don’t control, and about whether or not it would actually help me reach people more effectively.
In last year’s article I wrote:
As a writer with an established audience on my own blog, I could compare traffic directly, but a more pertinent question I have to ask myself is whether both audiences are equally engaged, and whether Medium provides the opportunity to grow that audience faster than what I could accomplish independently—that alone would be a significant value, but it’s one that’s impossible to judge without actually adopting the platform entirely.
At the time, I wasn’t ready to make that leap. Now I’m here, and I look forward to scrutinizing the results.
Ownership & Control
As I plotted my migration, I asked some of my most trusted and respected blogging colleagues about their opinions. They have all nurtured their own audience independently, like I have, and most were wary of my idea.
Their concern was largely centred around the notion of owning your audience, your content, and your platform. I understand these concerns and I share them…at least to an extent.
Some aspects are philosophical—the notion of being independent is desirable, noble. How else can we establish our identity as writers? Protect our interests? I used to think this way, but I’ve become increasingly convinced that any “personal brand” I have must be durable enough to assert itself anywhere. It should live in the content, not the platform.
Other aspects are a little more petty, like the obsessive need to be in control of where my writing lives.
For me, this manifests as a constant desire to fiddle with my blog’s stylesheets. Optimizing typography, tweaking server settings for maximum loading performance, fine-tuning plugins for healthy SEO performance. These are normal tasks that any self-respecting blogger with a CMS to wrangle will be familiar with.
I can’t count the number of hours I spent on this stuff over the past year, especially as my blog’s traffic started to balloon. Hours I could have spent writing.
Here on Medium, I relinquish control over those details.In exchange, I gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing that instead of me there’s now an entire staff of people whose only job it is to keep everything looking and functioning perfectly, on any platform, under any circumstance.
They’re experts. It’s liberating.
Having done so many blog migrations, I’ve become acutely aware of the malleability of web content. Migrating into Medium was easier than moving from Ghost to WordPress, or Svbtle to Ghost.
Then again, migrating in is never the concern. Getting your content back out again is always the worry.
I’ve read a lot of cautionary posts about Medium that seem to imply your content is somehow locked in, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The export tool works very well, and the simple fact that there is one makes it easier to work with than, say, Svbtle.
This also answers the question of what happens if Medium one day shuts down, or changes in a way I don’t like. As DHH pointed out when explaining Basecamp’s choice to move their Signal vs. Noise blog to Medium last year: there’s very little risk involved.
In other words, if anything weird happens, I can just leave.
Medium has been quite good about implementing changes to its platform, so I want to wrap up by offering a few suggestions for how it can continue to refine the product.
Here are a few things that stand out to me, in no particular order:
- I miss having access to H3 and centred titles in the editor (not all headings, just the title)
- I wish the RSS feeds were full-text, not truncated
- I wish publication editors could point menu links to specific posts, not just tags, to allow for a more robust “About” page for example.
- Alternatively, I’d be okay with the actual publication info page having the same editor tools as a normal post, and having a link in the publication header beside the social links. It used to be there but recently disappeared, which is peculiar and makes it especially hard to find on mobile.
- It would be nice from a branding perspective if the private sharing links for editing publication submissions also used the custom domain rather than Medium’s.
- I wish Letters had access to the link previews of a normal post. This and other quirks of the system have kept me using a third-party newsletter service for the time being.
- Safari performance is wonky, especially in the new “Purple Safari” (aka the Tech Preview). Writing and editing is consistently solid, but reading articles occasionally crashes the tab and the image zoom issue has yet to be fixed.
For many bloggers, especially those who need their blog to be a true business, moving to Medium may not yet be a good idea. At least until the revenue tools roll out more widely.
For me, the tipping point was not being able to answer a simple question: why not? I love it here, always have, and it seems only fair to give it an honest try as my main publishing platform.
I’m willing to give up the ability to customize every aspect of my site’s design and functionality. I’m willing to give up the detailed, real-time analytics (I agree with Ben: they’re overrated). I like both those things, but what I like more is writing. Focusing on making good content.
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