Biz Tips: The Slow Death Of Medium: Will It Degrade Into A Syndication Tool?

Biz Tips: The Slow Death Of Medium: Will It Degrade Into A Syndication Tool?

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The Slow Death Of Medium: Will It Degrade Into A Syndication Tool?

Photo by Chris B on Unsplash

I started writing on Medium 8 months ago.

Prior to that, I had been (unsuccessfully) running my own blog for about 4 years. Getting hardly any readers over there, I decided that it was time to start trying something else.

I was blown away the moment I started writing here.

Not only was the whole writing process so much easier and the posts looked so much better, but I also got quickly got more views here on Medium than my blog ever did.

So yeah, I got excited.

I thought that I had finally found ‘the way’. I thought that I had found the marketing channel through which all of my problems to reach an audience would be gone forever.

I thought that I could just focus on creating great content and BOOM I would be able to build an audience.

The first four months on the platform proved me right. Here are my stats from the first four months I’ve spent here:

Month 1:

Month 2:

Month 3:

Month 4:

At this point, I started dreaming.

I was already imagining myself having like 50,000 readers a month. And just think about it — that’s a crazy number. That’s about as many people as there are fitting into a soccer stadium!

Stagnation ever since.

But that was it. Ever since then, I have been achieving around the same numbers of monthly views every single month. Okay, to be fair they are now somewhere between 15,000–17,000 thousand.

You also have to keep in mind that my old stories keep generating traffic every single day. And that’s a library of now more than 330 articles, all of which still receive traffic (albeit little) every single day.

On individual stories, my views are way down.

Whereas an average story in February got about 500–1000 views, an average story now receives somewhere between 100–300 views. And that is pretty much regardless of where they are published.

Today, it makes hardly any difference whether I am publishing in one of Medium’s publications with the most followers or whether I am publishing a story on my own.

Vico Biscotti has written a great story about this.

By analyzing the statistics of large publications and comparing them with some small one’s, he found out that it makes hardly any difference for viewer/reader/clap statistics compared to publishing in small one’s.

He found that, in fact, smaller publications often work better for small writers than larger one’s.

But I can guarantee you that it hasn’t always been like this.

I remember the first time I published an article in a large publication (The Startup). Where a good article previously might’ve gotten 100 or 200 views, that article got over a thousand.

And the same happened for the majority of the articles I published in larger publications that month.

Publications were where the power of Medium used to come from.

Today I am not so sure about that.

Is it just me?

Obviously, at first I thought it was just me. In fact, for a long time I thought that I was stuck in a deep creative low point. I thought that it was me who was failing to provide value for readers.

It doesn’t seem so.

The discussion is starting slowly.

Now even Tom Kuegler, one of Medium’s most popular writers, says that his views have been going down recently. He attributes this primarily to the shift towards the changes of the Medium Partnership Program.

I am not so sure about that, though. From what I’ve seen on my own blog and through discussions with other writers, views have been in decline since long before that.

Medium is clearly readjusting its focus.

It is trying to redistribute the traffic flows on Medium. And, most probably, it is trying to do so in a way that is most profitable from a financial perspective for the company.

The problem is:

All of this is unpredictable. As a writer, you don’t know where this is heading. You can never know what changes Medium is going to make and how they are going to affect you and your business.

As a result, you can’t rely on this side.

You can’t possibly justify investing a huge amount of your time trying to build something that doesn’t lead to reliable outcomes.

Medium: a syndication tool?

Many people are primarily importing stories they have published elsewhere and syndicate them here on Medium. To them, Medium is nothing but one additional marketing channel with which they can reach a different audience.

I more and more come to believe that this is the only feasible way of using Medium.

As a content creator, you simply can’t rely on a third-party provider.

You can’t be dependent on traffic that you have absolutely no control over and for which you have absolutely no way of predicting how it is going to develop.

Obviously, I won’t blame Medium for this.

Medium is simply trying to make necessary improvements that are going to make the site more profitable. If that temporarily has negative consequences for writers, then so be it.

The problem is just that some people’s livelihood may depend on it. After all, the less views you get, the less useful Medium is as a lead generation tool. And the less potential leads you get, the less sales you will get.

Eventually, you can’t justify the effort you put into the platform.

Nobody can justify spending a few hours every single day writing on Medium, if that doesn’t lead to any financial outcomes.

Is the Medium Partner Program the answer to that?

Hell no.

Maybe a handful of people will be able to make a livelihood from the money they earn through the Partnership program. But that’s about it. All the rest will keep earning their money by selling their own products/services.

At least, Medium used to be a great lead generation tool.

A great way of getting e-mail subscribers so that you can offer them your products/services once they’ve subscribed.

Obviously, I get that this is not what the Medium team wants. They want to make Medium a completely ‘ad-free zone’ to create the best reader experience possible.

That’s what all this shift towards driving more traffic to membership posts is all about in the first place. Medium doesn’t allow links to subscription forms etc. in paid stories.

Here is what happens:

  • Membership stories get more traffic because they are prioritized by the Medium team
  • Writers who want to keep getting decent levels of traffic are forced to shift towards paid articles
  • In paid articles, writers are not allowed to ask people to subscribe to their e-mail lists or use any other form of call to action
  • Writers will lose their only logical way of monetizing their work on Medium (unless you count the peanuts that people might earn through the membership program)

Conclusion:

If the development of Medium keeps going like this, then I will eventually make the shift towards using Medium as a syndication tool alone. All I will do is to simply import stories to Medium while otherwise not engaging.

And I am sure that I wouldn’t be the only one.

Many of us have made the shift towards Medium because the numbers simply seemed so much better than on our own blogs. We thought that this was a great opportunity for us to build an audience and attract people to our e-mail lists.

Perhaps the Medium team thinks that it is doing a favour to content creators by expanding their Membership Program.

I personally don’t believe that this is true.

After all, content creators rarely earn the majority of their income through writing. For most of us, our articles are a lead generation tool that we use to sell our own products/services.

Why do we do that?

Because hardly anybody can make a living from just writing articles. And the Medium Membership Program won’t change that.

The way I see it, Medium is going to become attractive exclusively for people who write as a hobby and want to earn a little bit of extra cash here and there. But I don’t believe that the whole site can be built around such people.

If it wants to have enough high-quality content, Medium needs to keep its heavy users happy (people who spend hours per day producing content on Medium).

But at least when it comes to that, I believe that they are going in the wrong direction as things are going right now.

Here’s what I think is important:

  • keep ensuring that publishing in large publications remains worthwhile (why should a publication spend years accumulating subscribers if that doesn’t have any effects on views? And, if that’s the case, then why should there be publications at all?)
  • keep ensuring that having followers is worthwhile (right now I feel like gaining more followers has less and less impact on the amount of views that your stories get)
  • keep ensuring that content producers can profit from writing here on Medium (and for the most part that means making it easy for them to gain subscribers to their own e-mail lists)

I like the idea of keeping Medium free from outright advertising.

But should the goal be to make it increasingly difficult for the writers themselves to convert their Medium readers into subscribers?

Should Medium forbid content producers to at least do that and therefore make it financially viable for them to keep publishing on this platform? I really don’t think so.

Because if that happens, then nobody is going to stay.

No $500 per month in payments through the membership program can possibly ever change that.

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The Slow Death Of Medium: Will It Degrade Into A Syndication Tool? was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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