Medium for Blog

For Medium users: I currently have a Squarespace website/blog but I only use it for blogging. I am considering switching to Medium but I have a question. I currently have close to 1,000 subscribers to the blog on Squarespace. If I switch, would my followers on Medium have to pay $50/year to read more than three articles? If so, that is a non-starter for me. It seems that this is the case after I tested this by quickly clicking on three articles. I just want to confirm that I’m understanding this correctly.

Honestly, I think you should keep your own site unless you have a really compelling reason to change. I think you should own your own material and not worry about any kind of paywall between you and your audience.

Are there specific features you are attempting to gain by switching over to Medium? Or is it mostly a cost thing?

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Thanks for the reply. I was hoping to simplify the publishing process. Putting content into Squarespace on a mobile device is not particularly elegant but the main issue is that I end up using Mailchimp to send an email to my subscribers alerting them to new articles. Mailchimp is a hassle. I was hoping to find a simpler and more popular platform and then have my readers “subscribe” to automatically receive updates. They can do this on Squarespace but most of my audience is not on the platform and/or are not familiar with it. Medium seems to have larger “mind space.” Thoughts on this?

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Your readers will only be limited to three articles if you choose to publish your pieces behind the paywall, which is entirely optional.

If you don’t, they’ll be able to read and access everything with no restrictions. It’s also worth noting that, if you want to start monetizing some of your pieces but want to make sure your newsletter subscribers (for instance) can always access it for free, you can share an “unlocked” link for pieces behind the paywall. Anyone following that link will be able to access your paywalled piece for free, regardless of their membership or free quota status.

In general, publishing on Medium can be excellent for reach and it’s certainly among the simplest and most beautiful ways to put writing on the internet. But you don’t get much agency as far as controlling the appearance, or emphasizing your personal brand (no custom domain support, for example). For some people those things are dealbreakers, for others less so—you’ll have to decide for yourself if the trade-offs make sense.

Personally, I love Medium as both a writer and a reader. I have my own site (powered by Blot.im) where I typically publish everything first, but I do often syndicate content to Medium and contribute pieces uniquely to Medium’s publications. If Medium’s publishing tools allowed me to have custom URL support and a few more design choices for publication layout, I’d happily just write there.

I’ve written this before, but I’ve become increasingly convinced that any “personal brand” I have must be durable enough to assert itself anywhere. It should live in the content, not the platform.

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I would be a little cautious about putting your content on Medium. They don’t allow you to keep your own domain name as which means if/when you want to move you’ll have to tell everyone your new domain name and hope they follow you. That applies both for setting it up and moving away.

I’d recommend looking at hosted WordPress instead (on WordPress.com if you want no hassle, but you’ll need to pay to remove ads and use your domain. You could also look at any number of shared hosts and WordPress specific hosting packages if you’re willing to do some admin work yourself). The advantage of WordPress is it has an iOS app, and lots of integrations - from Shortcuts to Drafts, Ulysses and Zapier. So getting your content in and out is easy.

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Medium has grabbed hundreds of millions of VC money and still isn’t profitable, they tried and abandoned a few different structures for the site (resulting in bringing in numerous publications who later fled the platform), and CEO/founder Ev Williams has largely stepped away from the site, having finally gotten a VC hit with a large minority stake in Beyond Meat.

I second the recommendation to use Wordpress.com, the Wordpress-hosted version of the blogging software, which starts at free (with limitations and ads), doesn’t offer the unlimited plugins for self-hosted Wordpress, but handles hosting and security (which can be a horrendous management issue when using said plugins). It’s fairly easy to use, you can pre-schedule posts, and it’s rock solid. I discussed using it here:

and here:

discussing how I’d created a Twitter-like microblog in one case using the free P2 theme

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FWIW, after several years of trying everything from Tumblr to Squarespace to micro.blog to self-hosting to Dropbox hosting, I finally just went with Wordpress.com for RhymesWithDiploma.com and my only regret is that I didn’t do it 10 years ago because then I’d actually have all of my articles online with the same URLs instead of a stream of broken URLs because each platform formats them differently.

I always thought WordPress.com would be expensive, but I signed up for 2 years for $180 which works out to $7.50/month, which is slightly more than micro.blog but less than just about everything else, and much less than Squarespare, plus WordPress has better apps and more integrations.

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Why’d you switch from micro.blog to WordPress? I recently did the opposite — from WordPress to micro.blog.

99% of what I do is microblogging. Short posts. Like this comment. So wordpresss.com seemed like overkill.

Because micro.blog is a half-baked passion project of basically one guy who doesn’t work on it full time.

Basic Markdown support is broken in places, and then some of my URLs changed after publication. It’s like trying to build on sand.

I reported the Markdown issue in May 2019, and the reply was “Yeah, this is a known issue that should be fixed soon.”

Guess what? It’s still not fixed.

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If you’re doing longer blog posts, a few paragraphs or more, one post daily or fewer, I echo the recommendations for WordPress.com. Subscribers can get notifications in email for free.

I’m guessing that’s your situation.

If you’re doing a lot of twitter-like posts, even WordPress.com, simple as it is, can be too complex. I went to micro.blog for that reason and have been happy. Though it has only been a few weeks that ife been on micro.blog full time. I may feel down on it in a few months.

As for MailChimp: I have it set to compile a daily digest of my RSS feed. It’s automatic — set and forget.

Interesting. I haven’t found problems that are dealbreakers for me.

The “passion project of one guy” is a concern for me but I basically just decided to take a leap of faith.

On Squarespace you own your content, on Medium you don’t.

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Technically, on both platforms, you do own your content and are granting a license to the platform to display it. In fact, Squarespace’s Terms of Service claim a broader scope of rights than Medium’s do. This is also true of WordPress.com, as that is also a managed platform.

I know that it’s uncool to like Medium, so I won’t bother defending it further (I’ve been a vocal and long-term critic of theirs), but given that part of OP’s motivation is to simplify the publishing process, I think Medium is a perfectly valid option to consider here, especially since it also happens to have a built-in subscribe/email system and very easy import/export of posts. WordPress can, of course, be configured almost infinitely to do anything you want, but it’s more setup time and management hassle even if you go with their managed service.

I would also recommend a close look at Ghost since it’s a much more focused product than WordPress. Their managed service is extremely expensive though, so it probably only makes sense for those making money (or aiming to) off their publications. Unless you’re okay with setting it up on your own (the way you would with a WordPress.org install), in which case it costs whatever your appropriate hosting would cost.

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As I’ve proselytized it elsewhere, I’ll do it here, too.

Blot is the simplest blogging experience I’ve ever had. Write a file in Markdown, drop it into the designated Dropbox folder, and you’re done.

It’s far cheaper than the other options discussed here—$3 USD/month.

Caveats:

  • There’s a big gap between out-of-the-box customization and fine-tuning. There’s a few themes to choose from and you can select some basic parameters for the features of those themes, but beyond that you’ll have to dive into HTML/CSS and Javascript yourself. I loved this as I found it far easier to work with than programming Wordpress, let alone Squarespace, but it is probably not a good thing for many people.
  • It is also a one-person-passion-project. David’s focused on this full-time, though, and is very transparent about the things he’s working on.
  • It has had a bit of downtime recently—like 2-3 instances in the last four months. Resolved in minutes to hours, but I wouldn’t depend on it for an extremely high traffic site or an online store until David ticks off the “Resolve intermittent downtime” to-do at the top of his list.

My site runs on Blot.

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Sorry for the double-post, but this is a separate sub-topic… does anyone ever cross-post to Medium? That, to me, seems to be the best of both worlds—get access to Medium’s readership while maintaining your ownership and control. Is that frowned upon?

When you say people are subscribing to the blog on Squarespace, what do you mean? RSS? Email? Can those subscribers automatically move to the new blog – wherever you go – or do you have to ask people to manually resubscribe?

If the latter – if you have to ask people to manually resubscribe – you’re going to inevitably lose a lot of subscribers. Even people who want to keep receiving your updates will forget to change their subscription, or miss the notices entirely.

Switching blog platforms is going to be a big cost in hassle and possibly money too, so it makes sense to think it through before jumping.

As for Medium, I am just plain not a fan. Founded as a platfform for readers and writers, it now does not support custom domains – which means it’s hard to maintain a relationship with readers – and it’s one of the noisier and more annoying platforms for pop-up nag screens.

You could also keep your own blog and cross post to Medium and use a canonical link so that SEO finds your original blog post. This is what I do, so that I still have my content somewhere no the web, but I get to utilize Medium’s SEO.

As to answer your question, Medium users only pay $50/year if your articles are behind their paywall.

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I use blot also and really like it. Wordpress was too much for me, an occasional blogger who doesn’t care if anyone is reading. It’s clean, easy to post (text file saved to Dropbox) and low maintenance. Customization is somewhat limited but I can change background color, etc. pretty easily and I’m not a coder. $20/year. I’ve actually increased my blogging in the year I’ve been using it b/c it’s very easy to write/post.

I can’t see how Medium will survive. They are how many years into existence with no discernible business model?

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Thanks everyone for the fantastic responses. Your wisdom and helpfulness is appreciated! After reading your responses, I have decided to move to Wordpress. It will take a bit to make the transition but I will save $100/year and have a perfectly serviceable blog. Thanks again for the advice.

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They don’t make it particularly convenient, but it’s possible and allowed.

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