January 06, 2019
As you’ve probably heard, people aren’t too happy with Medium at the moment. What started as an awesome blogging platform seems to have quickly turned into something that is pushing people away in droves.
When I first came across Medium I didn’t think much of it, however it quickly became apparent that it was a brilliant new platform for people to share ideas.
I still believe the engineering team at Medium did an absolutely stellar job with the site - the editor is brilliant and the UI/UX team did a brilliant job of making a beautiful, easy to use blogging platform.
The way Medium publications allowed your average person like myself to get into blogging was great - I am certain I would never have begun writing technical blogs if it weren’t for Medium. After I took the plunge and wrote my first blog I went through the usual rigmarole of posting it on Twitter and Reddit hoping someone would see it, with only a little bit of success.
Not long after I received an invitation from a Medium publication to republish my blog through them and this is where things began to pick up for me. The publication feature allowed a mutually beneficial relationship between publications and writers - for me it led to continued readers and feedback, allowing me to improve my writing and my technical knowledge. Without this encouragement I doubt I would have written more than one blog.
I quickly became a frequent user of Medium. I would read it on the train to work everyday and it just became part of my routine.
One day, while on the way to work, I tried to read a blog and was met with the following message (paraphrasing):
You’ve used up your monthly allowance of articles, subscribe to Medium for only $5 per month to continue reading…
And just like that, I knew it was over. My initial gratefulness for a casual blogger like myself getting exposure via Medium vanished pretty much instantly.
This just seemed wrong. A blog, to me, was a place for someone to put their thoughts up onto the internet and have anyone who wanted to come and read - for free. Sure you can make a business out of blogging, but of all the people I follow who make a living out of blogging, not a single one of them charges for their blogs.
I don’t inherently have anything against subscription models, I read Bloomberg and they charge quite a lot for access. The key difference between Bloomberg and Medium though, is that Bloomberg employs professional writers who earn a living writing for them.
Unlike Bloomberg, Medium relies on user-submitted content and then charges those same users for access to their content.
Sure, you can join Medium’s partner program but, despite my articles garnering tens of thousands of views, I’d still only make pennies. Now I know in the grand scheme of things tens of thousands of views isn’t a whole lot, but it doesn’t change the fact that if I did not publish my blogs through Hacker Noon then Medium would be charging people to read content that I am putting out essentially for free.
Like many others, I’ll be moving my content over to an independent blog. This blog. I’ll still publish articles through Hacker Noon, as that’s free for all to read and they appear to have awesome plans for the future, but I won’t be putting anything directly onto Medium anymore.
For the foreseeable future, it looks like independent blogs are back. Still, there’s a good business opportunity waiting for someone, as Medium seem intent on squandering the potential they had.
On the plus side, learning to use Gatsby has been a blast.
Update: A few of you have mentioned that only partner program articles are paywalled, which is true and I could have been clearer about this. What feels rotten, to me at least, is for someone to create content for a website only to have access to other content limited. Imagine the outcry if YouTube content creators could only access a small subsection of the videos on YouTube, even after helping drive traffic to the site.
Now also imagine if YouTube made other free videos nearly impossible to discover without a direct link and you have the current situation with Medium. A situation where people will promote their own blogs, drive traffic to the site, act as a gateway for future Medium users, then be left out in the cold.
For me this drastically changed what Medium was, it was no longer a medium for communication between independents, as the name implies, but rather yet another large business willing to use a community when it suits them, then throw them to the wayside when it comes to making money and hoping enough stick around for them to turn a profit. This could have been handled so much better.
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