Medium Wants to be the World’s Op-Ed Page, But We’re Better Off On Our Own

Medium-logo-dark500The Washington Post today is talking about Medium and the disruptive role it’s trying to play in the media world, positioning the site as the go-to outlet for politicians, celebrities and others to post their op-eds.

There are an increasing number of media outlets who are using Medium as their primary long-form publishing outlet. Backchannel and others have gone totally native on social channels, including Medium, and skipped setting up their own sites, though recently Reported.ly saw the advantages of a stand-alone site and created one. So this felt like a good time to review some of the pros and cons of embracing Medium.

Advantages

  • The Network – Medium is, at its core, Twitter for long-form content. So while the publishing functionality may not be overtly different from anything else that you can connect with people and have them connect with you is a powerful incentive here. But this is the same advantage presented by something like LinkedIn.
  • Ease of Use – Even if you’re one of those people (like me) who doesn’t think there’s anything tricky or confusing about WordPress there’s no denying Medium is pretty easy to use. Create an account and start publishing. Again, this has more in common with a social network than what could be termed a traditional blog platform.
  • No Tech Needed – No need to install anything on your own server, no need to choose any sort of VIP package. It’s up and running from the moment you sign in.

Disadvantages

  • Off-Domain – This is still off-domain publishing, which comes with its own set of risks and trade-offs. There’s little branding flexibility, the design can’t be modified at all and it’s not monetizable. On top of all that it comes with all the usual set of content decay concerns, that this isn’t content that you own since you’ve published it on a managed, not an owned, channel.
  • Alerts Still Needs Work – Seeing updates from the people/profiles you’ve followed on Medium still isn’t super-intuitive. There’s no easy front page that’s customized for your own preferences, search and discovery still leave plenty to be desired.

wordpress-logo-notext-rgbSimilar thinking has been done by Alexandra Samuel at HBR here. She’s wondering if LinkedIn and Medium killed stand-alone blogs by making publishing on those channels so good that, combined with the draw of Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, people have simply stopped thinking about “blogs” in the way they did 10-15 years ago. That’s a legit point. But so is her point that stand-alone blogs allow a measure of flexibility that those other platforms don’t. You can go off-topic when you want to. You can collect more data. You’re not beholden to someone else’s terms of service.

Again, while I would strongly encourage independent blogging I understand why people are attracted to these other platforms. But when we completely abandon the owned-channel approach – as individuals much less as organizations – we’re effectively handing over control of our digital future to other parties that may not always be around and may not always have our best interests guiding their actions. As Samuel states, independent blogging allows a kind of messy freedom that not only supports the open web but also just lets people play around until they find their own groove, something the high-minded Medium and the professionally-important LinkedIn don’t allow for. Those two are important – and I use them regularly – but I also see the importance of having my own digital outlet.