Tim Cigelske at Mediashift has an interesting post up that details the results of an experiment he ran by publishing an identical post on both the regular, on-domain WordPress site as well as on MediaShift’s Medium-based blog.
Putting aside his comments about which user interface he finds more engaging and informative, the main point is that he saw much greater engagement and readership on the Medium post than he did the on-site story. He clarifies that nothing out of the ordinary was done to promote either, so this is as close to a clean test as possible.
It’s not that surprising that ultimately the Medium post wound up being more widely read, even with the usual social promotion given to the WordPress-hosted story. As Cigelske notes, much of this came from the network effect that’s built in to Medium, meaning they were able to tag other people and get their attention.
At the end of the story he points out some of the downsides of a Medium-first publishing strategy. MediaShift made $0 in advertising revenue from that Medium story, so all those additional readers weren’t monetized at all, nor will anyone who follows the Medium blog going forward.
But what he fails to mention is the one big issue that makes this entire experiment an apples to screwdrivers comparison.
WordPress is dumb software. That’s not to say it’s not intelligently designed, it’s that it doesn’t do anything for you. It’s just there, flexible and bending to your will when you want it to. There’s no built in levers to pull to help your post or site perform, it’s up to you. Medium’s value proposition is the exact opposite, selling users on the idea that it *will* help to surface your content to others through one of the tools it has as its disposal.
But, those levers don’t get pulled for everyone, nor are they pulled all the time for those select few. A post can land with a thud on Medium just as surely as it can on WordPress or any other platform. Medium may offer more upside, but there are no guarantees that it will keep its thumb on the scale in your favor. Or that those perks will even exist in six months as Medium’s own corporate priorities shift.
This gets to the core of why I and people like me continue to preach the gospel of owning your content on your own website. Doing otherwise means you’re giving up the benefits that do come from having an owned site, including ad revenue, conversion links and more.
Comparing WordPress to Medium isn’t exactly accurate. I know what Cigelske was aiming for, but it’s not an accurate measure. This isn’t just about ben an avowed fan of WP, it’s about long-term brand building and other considerations. While Medium might bring you a brief blip, long-term value is what you get when you focus on managing your own future.