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How To Get Started With Medium (And Why You Need To)

Mike Essex

by Mike Essex on 11th October 2013

Medium PostThere are no shortage of places to create content. From different platforms for your own website like WordPress and Tumblr, to guest blogging and more. Whilst some may have assumed that Medium is just another imitator, in this post I’m going to explain what makes Medium different and how it represents a fantastic early opportunity to get your content seen.

Let’s explore why:

What Is Medium?

In the same way that Twitter stripped away a lot of the clutter of other Social Media sites and focused on following and message sharing, Medium attempts to do the same thing for writing. Created by the co-founders of Twitter and Blogger, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Medium removes most of the clutter of other content platforms with a beautifully simplistic content editor with easy to read articles on thousands of topics.

It’s a place for people to rediscover the joy of writing, in a world of shrinking attention spans from Buzzfeed style content. In the same way Pinterest tapped into our obsession with visuals, Medium does the same for words. In short it’s devoted to highlighting the best writing on the web.

How To Get A Medium Account

Before we delve into what makes Medium great, I’d recommend you register with your Twitter account. They regularly invite users to write on the platform, it took me a month to be approved, but you can also use that account to comment on other articles right now.

If you want to write something sooner, there is one clever loophole. If you know someone who already has access they can get you in by doing the following:

1)      Creating a new Medium post

2)      Before making it live, choosing “Share a Draft” and sending it you

3)      You can then suggest an edit on their post

4)      Once their post goes live you get the rights to make your own content on Medium

Now you’ve got your account let’s look at what you can do with it.

What Makes Medium Different?

The single biggest thing that makes Medium different is that your content looks exactly the same in their editor as it does when you hit publish. There are no adverts and even the navigation is hidden behind a single M icon. It’s just the cursor and white space, creating a blank canvas for your words. It’s the closest you’ll get to the simplicity of Word 97 without digging out a very old computer.

This simplicity means it feels easier to write for Medium than for other places such as your own blog. My first post for Medium was written in 30 minutes on the train to work, whilst a typical post that I’d write for Koozai would take 2-6 hours depending on the level of detail required. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to write exclusively for Medium, it’s important to consider that you should write the right type of content for each platform.

Medium post

Medium is more focused on shorter posts, they even (often optimistically) state how long a post will take to read in case something is longer. However you should still be using your own blog posts to create longer content or more business related articles. Medium is generally better for posts that wouldn’t fit on a corporate blog – such as opinion pieces – or for those who want an alternate place to market themselves.

Some great examples of content on Medium include:

I could go on. The one thing all of these posts have in common is that they are all personal views on problems along with solutions. The best Medium posts all work that way, they find an issue no one else is talking about and they explain what they think about it.

Commenting is also handled in a better way; people can comment on any paragraph and their notes appear right next to that part. This makes it easier to follow a discussion and analyse content in depth.

Comments on Medium

As an author you can choose to turn on comments or not, so it’s up to you if you want to allow a debate. You can also save a post as a draft and send people a link for them to make edits. In the spirit of community, if they help you, they automatically get credited on the post.

Why Would I Want To Create Content For Another Site?

By far the biggest criticism of Medium is that you can’t host their platform on your own domain. Everything you write sits at Medium.com and you can’t personalise it, for example with a logo. That’s not to say you can’t have a call to action, or mention and link to the company you work for in the article or your author bio, but naturally you won’t get the same value as you would if the content was on your own website.

However one key thing to consider is that Medium is a booming platform and that their most popular articles get seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors and are well shared online. If you plan it right and your content catches a wave it can have a far higher chance of success than it would on your own website. That won’t be true for very popular sites but if your blog posts fail to generate more than a hundred views or any comments then Medium is a good way to reach a new audience.

How Well Does Content On Medium Do?

I decided to test this by writing a post that I would normally have used on my personal site and instead adding it to Medium.

Within 6 hours my post on Medium had surpassed the average number of views a post on my site would get in its entire lifetime. Within 24 hours those numbers quadrupled.

Medium Stats

All of this information was provided by Medium’s built in Analytics, which also rather handily tells you the percentage of people who read your entire post, a feature I’d love to see implemented by default in Google Analytics. Sadly you can’t plug in your own Google Analytics code or see how people found your content but I hope the latter will come in future versions.

In terms of promotion I did the same things as I would do for a normal post, with four tweets spaced through the day and a mention on my Google+ page. Given that a high portion of my followers don’t care about writing and Macguffins (the focus on the piece) I didn’t think it would resonate very well with them which made the experiment more interesting. Despite only a few shares from my circle of friends, the post somehow was seen by over 400 people in a matter of days.

All of that was thanks to Medium and its editors.

Medium Promotes Your Content For You

If you share something on Social Media, only your followers will see it unless they share it and then you’ll get a few more eyeballs. That means any content you create is limited to the size of your network and any additional outreach that you do. Thankfully Medium has built in discoverability features that give you far higher reach through no action of your own.

When you create a piece of content on Medium it’s essential you add it to a category that best describes it. I chose “Writers on Writing”. As soon as your post goes live it gets added to that category so anyone can see it. Your post also gets recommended as further reading when someone finishes another blog post in that category, such as the one below.

Read Next

This makes it easy for readers to stay on Medium, instead of reading one post and bouncing and also offers great discoverability for new authors. In addition, moderators can choose to add your content to additional categories, in my case someone added mine to “Pop of Culture” which was what led to the spike in viewers after the first 6 hours.

Alongside moderators liking your content anyone else with a Medium account can do the same. This adds your content to their page so their friends can see that they liked it. Unlike something like Twitter where articles people like get lost from your feed within minutes Medium doesn’t suffer the same issue as articles aren’t going to get pushed off by a status update on what someone had for Dinner.

I’ve tried a lot of content platforms and communities over the last few years – Squidoo, Hubpages, Goodreads and more – and never have I had the same community promotion that I saw with Medium. Ultimately it’s about whether or not you want to get your content seen and whether you are happy with the loss of branding that comes with it. Ultimately you lose nothing more than you would with a guest post but you gain a massive amount of potential exposure.

The Panda Problem

My single biggest concern with Medium is that it’ll be a very hard thing to scale. The model of “let’s let anyone write about anything” is not a new concept and bigger sites than Medium got completely annihilated by the Panda update when Google saw how much poor quality content was on them. I was a huge advocate of Squidoo, getting into the top 10% of users by rank, before the spammers ruined it and I do have fears the same could happen here.

Right now Medium is invitation only and well moderated too. Yet as more people join, the temptation for people to just stuff a few keywords here and there or to scrape an article for a link is going to grow. However as a website born after the Panda update, unlike other sites that were caught unaware, I’d be very surprised if they became a content dump and so far they have clamped down very well.

Squdioo has been able to clamp down on spammers in the time since Panda and I hope the team at Medium are taking note of spam fighting tactics now in order to save themselves trouble later. Perhaps they will always keep it an invite only community with people getting checked on each post. It would mean less content but also better content and that’s something I’d support if it came to it.

Ultimately if you do use Medium, so long as your content is of a high quality and isn’t simply for SEO or a quick anchor text link then you’ll be absolutely fine. In addition if you write a post for Medium do not replicate it on your own site or you may find the one place that gets a Panda penalty is your website.

It’s also because of the above and the fact that Medium can’t be hosted on your own domain that it isn’t a replacement for your own blog. Nor will it help your future Google authorship, as all rel=”author” tags currently point to your Medium name, not Google+ profiles, meaning you won’t get any value in that regards just yet. For these reasons it’s important you still write content for your domain and Medium should complement your content strategy not replace it.

Should You Use Medium?

Medium is a fantastic platform, it’s easy to use, has a great community and is well designed for debates. It can unlock extra visibility for your content and can be used as a driver to push new readers to your brand.

The best way to see if Medium is right for you is simply to write something for them. My first post took 30 minutes to write and was the perfect way for me to share ideas that wouldn’t have fitted in on our corporate blog. It’d be unlikely I could write about digital marketing on there – I still get more views on Koozai.com for that type of content – but for those times when I want to try to reach a different audience it makes more sense to use Medium.

Think of it as a third pillar for your content marketing. Your priority should always be your own website supported by Social Media and SEO (the 2nd pillar) and followed by guest content of which Medium slots in nicely. Yes it’s true there are more places to create content than ever but it also represents a fantastic opportunity to reach people outside of your current network. Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity.

Image Sources

All images taken from my Medium account or screenshots of Medium.com.

Mike Essex

Mike Essex

Mike Essex specialises in digital marketing and everything search. A recent project of Mike’s was featured on BBC News, Radio 5Live and the Times here in the UK, whilst also featuring on USA Today and ABC News in the US. He will be writing throughout the month about digital marketing and much more...

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6 Comments

  • James Perrin

    James Perrin 11th October 2013

    Good stuff Mike. Great insight into Medium. I had heard of a few people using it, but as you say I think it’s perfect for additional exposure, and as long as you have something worthy to add. With your post, the proof is in the pudding as it was so well received, but for anyone looking to use it as another way to promote thin content, then I hope Medium have their wits about them.

    Reply to this comment

  • Jim Seward 11th October 2013

    My issue with Medium is this in it’s T&C

    By furnishing your User Content to Medium, you give Medium a non-exclusive worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable license to utilize all copyright rights now in existence or that may arise in the future with respect to your User Content, in any medium that now exists or may arise in the future, as well as to do anything else that is reasonably appropriate to our Service and its use of your User Content (including, but not limited to, use of your name in association with your User Content to identify you as the contributor). The license has no restriction as to the medium, dissemination method, type of Service we may offer, or the type of systems or products that may be used in conjunction with your User Content.

    Reply to this comment

    • Mike Essex

      Mike Essex 11th October 2013

      Thanks Jim, as with any content for an external site you do have to forsake a degree of ownership.

      Personally I can’t see them ever selling people’s content without permission / commission. There are too many influential authors on there and when people hit back against Instagram’s T&C’s they had to back down (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20810344).

      Reply to this comment

      • Jim Seward 11th October 2013

        Where as I can see the parallels, I can also see differences.

        Firstly, with Instagram, the T&C were changed to allow them to do this when it was bought by Facebook, and it was that that change that caused the backlash. Afterall, they basically said…You know all that stuff you’ve posted postyd previously, well, we’ve now decided we can sell it, even though you posted it without that previously in our T&C.

        With Medium, this has been in there from the beginning….Any backlash could be argued with “Well, we’ve always said that, why are you upset when we actually do it”

        You mention the nice clean interface. I agree, it is clean…for now, if they’re not going to monetise by selling your content, they’re going to monetise through advertising, will Medium look so clean when it’ covered in adverts I wonder. You may even end up with your content sat next to advertising you fundamentally disagree with, and will so many articles be read when there’s loads of

        It’s one of those things though, we can wonder about just how it’s going to ruin itself in the future as a lot of the content publishing platforms have, whether that’s through SEOs breaking it, as we have a tendancy to do, or them plastering so many adverts around it, maybe even putting it behind a paywall, or having premium accounts.

        At the moment, we don’t know, so it’s just conjecture. Can you build an audience on Medium? In all honesty, I’m not sure. I often think that people read things on these platforms, but pay very little attention to the author, unless it’s a name they already recognise. At the moment, the personal branding just isn’t there to do it in my opinion. Doesn’t mean that that won’t change in the future

  • Chris Simmance 11th October 2013

    Nice post Mike, I’d not heard of this platform before but it looks really good.

    I’m going to take a proper look this weekend now! :-)

    Reply to this comment

  • Paul Gailey 11th October 2013

    Seeing I just cancelled my ADN paid subscription, I’ll reserve judgement till next year on Medium.

    there’s interesting stuff on Medium, yes, but there’s also a good degree of association of shiny new object euphoria and inevitable cognoscenti back slapping.

    I can’t help feeling like we’ve been here before with Quora. (though there are gems in there)

    If you lurve clean interfaces for expression there’s ghost.org

    Reply to this comment

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