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  • Writer's pictureHarshal

The 'Medium' Truth: Discovering The Limitations Of A Popular Content Platform

Exploring My Trials With Medium, Its Shortcomings, And A Data-Informed Decision To Leave It

Over the past few weeks, I had a dilemma. Should I continue posting my writing on Medium? It is a very popular content platform. But I didn’t get the traction I expected. What was missing?

Once I looked at the data and heard from peers, I decided to stop posting on Medium. Here, I share my reasoning and journey.

Breaking Medium’s Walled Garden and going beyond to post content.
Breaking Medium’s Walled Garden and going beyond to post content.

Why I Chose Medium To Post My Writings

My initial reason for publishing on Medium was to build my credibility. I aimed to reach a broader audience than my LinkedIn connections. Medium's reputation as a large platform of discovery appealed to me.

I was never interested in writing on Medium for monetary compensation. I didn't sign up to receive payments ever.

Disenchantment With Medium: The Turnaround

I opened my Medium profile and scanned through recent articles. I had close to zero claps, comments, or followers on Medium. After monitoring the engagement on my posts, I felt disappointed by the low traffic.

Analyzing Attributable Visits From Medium Vs. The Rest

I wanted to know where users discover my content from. I filtered all my data to look at attributable sources. I used Wix Analytics, Substack Stats, and Google Analytics to combine the viewership across Substack, Spark Creative Technologies' website, and my website. The majority of social media traffic came from LinkedIn. The least amount of traffic came from Medium.

Pie chart. The smallest sliver of my attributed traffic came from Medium.
Pie chart. The smallest sliver of my attributed traffic came from Medium.

My Challenges While Unraveling Medium’s Analytics

There could be 2 ways Medium benefits me.

1 - Medium’s high domain ranking means Google will parse my articles on Medium sooner and the articles will show up higher in search results due to Medium’s domain authority.

2 - My Medium articles attract more readers than I could reach otherwise, thanks to the platform's wide user base.

I measured each benefit. Or at least, tried to do so.

On 1 - My primary challenge with Medium was measuring my reach. Medium allowed me to create canonical tags, unlike Substack. I like canonical tags. I used the canonical tags to direct organic search away from Medium. This redirection meant I had no effective way of tracking who was reading my posts through organic search.

The canonical tags feature made it more likely I would post on Medium. It made it more likely that Medium readers could discover my content on Medium. But, it made it less likely for my content to get discovered from web searches.

On 2 - Thankfully, I could use Medium’s analytics to see my content's discoverability and engagement metrics on Medium. I saw I got a consistent number of reads every month. Close to 0 monthly reads. 0 claps. I had low double-digit subscribers. So, the metrics I could see were abysmal.

Other Writers Shared Frustrations With Medium

I initiated conversations on Slack communities with fellow writers. It became clear that I was not the only one with these issues. Many writers experienced a lack of traction on Medium. They did not find it beneficial to cross-post.

One writer revealed that he had cross-posted his blogs on Medium for several months but saw almost no views. His dislike of the Medium paywall as a reader also made him want to move away from Medium. Another writer compared his engagement on Substack vs Medium. He had more exposure on Medium, but the level of engagement was far higher on Substack.

I also discussed my concerns with another writer. This writer highlighted the potential benefits of sharing content through a Medium Publication. This option aligned with my goal to reach a broader audience. But, it incurred additional work to find publications and create new original content in alignment with the publication’s guidelines. I was not interested in that effort, because my main purpose was to be known well, not to be well-known. I wrote more about that goal in my yearly goals article here.

Another significant issue with Medium was its nature as a walled garden. “Medium tends to paywall its content unless the author makes a concerted effort to prevent this. While I understand that platforms need to generate revenue, Medium’s tactics are off-putting for me,” said one writer.

The community also introduced me to the POSSE (Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) model. POSSE recommendation resonated with my approach. Authors should make their website their primary platform and only syndicate their content to other platforms.

POSSE diagram from Indieweb. Hub and spoke model with your site in the middle.
POSSE diagram from Indieweb. Hub and spoke model with your site in the middle.

Reinforcing the Decision: Why Medium Isn’t Ideal for Many

I read Content Powered’s article on Why Medium Isn’t a Good Choice for Your Business Blog. I was convinced. I looked at workarounds to eliminate the time to post to Medium while still posting on Medium here. I resonated with these concerns.

1 - Excessive competition: The competition on Medium is high. Many writers vie for the attention of Medium users. At the same time, Google search will only show one or two results from a website domain for a search result. How likely is it that my article on "metrics and signals" is the best among all posts on Medium about "metrics and signals"? It is challenging for individual posts to stand out and receive high visibility in search engine results.

2 - Identity dilution: By writing for Medium's publications, a writer loses their identity or a brand's uniqueness. You get the Medium brand. The same applies to Substack, but I get readers on Substack, not Medium.

3 - Paywalled content: Medium uses paywalls for some of its content, limiting the accessibility for non-paying users. I used Medium to read many users, but a paywall works against that goal.

4 - Bias towards certain topics: Medium is more conducive for mass-market topics and less for niche topics like mine. Topics that entertain work better than topics that inform.

5 - Restricted branding: Medium offers minimal options for unique branding. I would like to publish articles on Medium in the same format as on my website. Similarly, Medium does not allow me to embed a newsletter sign-up HTML code. So, I cannot get substack subscribers by syndicating on Medium.

My Decision To Leave Medium

Despite Medium's popularity, its shortcomings made it less than ideal for my content. I faced low traffic and difficulty in measuring engagement. So, I've decided to cease my posts on Medium.

If Not Medium, Where Can You Read My Writings?

If you discovered this article on LinkedIn, you can continue there. LinkedIn draws the most number of new readers and subscribers for me. I collated some posts from my LinkedIn role models here.

If you are reading this on my personal or business websites, you can continue here. They will continue as my first place of posting, following the POSSE model.



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