Personal blogging, corporate walls

From time to time I come across an article that I’d really like to read but the platform it was posted on simply raises some red flags. For instance, I don’t read articles on pages that want me to subscribe to some newsletter or paid plan (unless it’s a publication that pays the authors like a newspaper et al.) before I’ve even had time to look at the article.

As a reader, who just found a link on some RSS feed/Reddit/Mastodon, I do not want to sign up to get the latest and greatest curated articles before I even had the chance to look at that one article that brought me here. For the longest time, Medium was one of the most prominent offenders here.

Medium initially launched in 2012 with the idea of offering a platform for everyone who wanted to write more than the old 140-character limit on Twitter:

Medium is a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends. It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world. It’s used by everyone from professional journalists to amateur cooks. It’s simple, beautiful, collaborative, and it helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say. — Ev Williams

Platform lock-in

Their editor is simple yet powerful and it’s really easy to publish your first posts. There’s also a bit of customisation available but one thing that you cannot customise all that much, though, is the way the content gets presented to normal readers. And that’s a real problem if you want to build your own place on the web. You cannot even use your own domain name anymore. Since 2017 you can no longer use your own domain name but have to publish your content via medium.com/{your-publication-name}. This means that if you decide to move off the platform for whatever reason in the future, links to your posts will break. And there seems to be no way to just pay for that feature (unlike on WordPress.com, Write.as et al.).

Monetisation

In the same year that they removed the custom-domain feature, Medium also introduced a membership which costs $5/month and that offers readers access to “subscriber-only” content, some additional curation, and an otherwise ad-free experience. This money is then (probably after taking a bit of a cut) to authors participating in the “Partner program”. There’s a catch:

Posts on Medium that are not put behind the paywall are not earning revenue through the Medium Partner Program. — Medium HELP

So, basically, as an author you have to put the content you will get money for behind a paywall yet you have to also write some content for which you won’t get any money in order to have something to attract new readers. That being said, this is probably just an issue for authors that explicitly want to make money from their content.

In my experience that’s usually not the case for a personal blog. For this use-case the partner program doesn’t sound suitable. Here some donation system like LiberaPay, Ko-fi, or Patreon are probably better fits. With the payment integration out of the picture, IMO Medium doesn’t really offer that much for the restrictions it has regarding personal branding especially if you want to also address people that do not have a Medium account themselves and pay for it.

I totally understand that maintaining your own blog is not easy and might end up being quite a lot of work. But if you don’t want to get into the details, there are still many hosted solutions out there that explicitly let you customise your presence (usually for $5 per month) and don’t lock you in and don’t push some kind of subscription service down your readers’ throat.

As for curation: That should happen on the reader’s side not on the writer’s. Reader will curate content for their friends anyway and wherever they want to, not where you want to. And it’s good this way!

Do you want to give me feedback about this article? Please send it to comments@zerokspot.com.

Alternatively, I'm also experimenting with Webmentions. If you write a post on a blog that supports this technique, I should get notified about your link 🙂