As I noted in a recent story, on March 1, I decided to venture over to Medium. I already had an account there but never used it. For those who may not know, Medium is another blogging community. I need to state for the record that I will continue to blog on both sites and possibly reuse stories from one on the other, but for the most part, I don’t see that happening too often. I also need to stress that this post is only my opinion and does not reflect any individual in particular. Okay, with the niceties out of the way…on to the show.
WordPress versus Medium – The Editor
Both platforms use the block style editor (since Medium used it first, I can only assume that WP switched to remain competitive). So, from a writer’s standpoint, there are few differences between the two – HOWEVER (yes, it’s that big of a however), there is limited customization opportunities in Medium’s editor. If you can believe it, there is no option to center text. There is also no way to resize images on Medium. There are no text color or background color options.
Both platforms are generally easy to use, although there are stark differences in posting options. Medium does not offer scheduling. Seriously? If they do, I have not found that option yet. You may save posts as drafts, but not schedule them to be live at a later date. This is a major downside to Medium, in my opinion.
So, in terms of the editor, WordPress wins by a landslide because of the customization it offers.
WordPress versus Medium – Post Reach
When I say, “post reach,” I am talking about how readers can find your post after you hit publish.
WordPress (to be clear, wordpress.com) offers the reader where people can search for posts based on tags, categories, and other search terms. This makes it easier for readers and bloggers to be discovered by each other.
Medium has a landing page where featured posts based on reader’s preferred categories or past reading history are displayed. There are also topics that readers can click on and find curated posts. Curated posts are selected for inclusion into a topic by Medium employees. Not all posts are selected. Of the nine stories I have written one has been placed in topic.
So what does this mean for the reader? It means the stories they view have been vetted by some unknown individual and have been deemed worthy.
What does this mean for the writer? It means that for the most part, only your followers will see your posts.
The winner of post reach (strictly as a post) has to be WordPress hands down. However, the next section discusses one area of post reach where Medium has a slight lead over WordPress.
WordPress versus Medium – Publications
Unlike WordPress, Medium allows for the creation of a publication where subscribers receive “letters” in their inbox. There are news outlets (such as The Economist) all the way down to individuals who wanted to try their hand at newsletter publication. Writers can “apply” to be a writer for a publication. I am a “writer” for two publications. One has accepted a story and I am waiting back to hear from the other.
We have similar entities on WordPress but they are simply another blog. WordPress itself does not promote or prefer these sites like Medium does. There are currently 8,792 publications on Medium. Having a story appear in a publication could potentially mean that your post is seen by hundreds of thousands of people (the most subscribed publication on Medium is freeCodeCamp.org with 556,768 subscribers). Because of Medium’s paywall, that could net the writer hundreds of dollars from one post.
From an exposure standpoint, Medium wins with its publications and centralized landing page.
WordPress versus Medium – Earnings Potential
Let’s face it, we all wish we could make some money from our blogs. Even if it was enough to buy a cup of coffee every week. That is why I opted to try Medium this month. I make nothing off my books or blog. I need something coming in.
WordPress does not offer a direct way to earn money from your blog. You need a business account (non-free blog) to have permission to place ads on your site that do not generate revenue for WordPress. Sure, a lot of bloggers, myself included, have turned to Kofi, PayPal, or Patreon hoping that by offering the chance to leave a tip, readers would, but the reality is most people never see a dime. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if just 10% of my monthly readers left a $1 tip, I could survive for the month.
Medium offers a paywall where writers can opt to put their stories behind. This is not required, but nearly 80% of Medium posts are behind the paywall. Bloggers get paid by the number of claps (likes) by members. Membership costs $5 a month, which is not a great amount, but as I have not earned $5 yet, I would be paying so that readers can not find my stories any less than they are already.
How much each clap is worth varies. Readers can leave up to 50 claps on a post (how’s that for like spamming lol) and that tells the author how much the reader liked the story (boy do I feel bad about leaving a single clap). A portion of the $5 membership fee goes to the authors who received claps by that member. The more authors they clap, the less their claps are worth to the author. This is one area where less is more.
For the simple reason that Medium offers a direct opportunity to earn money, I have to say that Medium wins on this one.
WordPress versus Medium – The Community and Interaction
This next part will, hopefully, not come across as bashing one community or the other because they are, as a whole, two very different experiences all together.
On Medium, each blogger has a username and generic landing page that lists their profile, posts, claps, and responses. That’s it. It is nothing that I would consider to be a “blog.” It is nothing more than a bland landing page. For some this means it promotes their posts more than their personalities, which is fine for them. I really like WordPress’s combination of individualization and content. But to each their own (WordPress wins in my book).
I have already written briefly about Medium’s landing page and its highlighting a variety of posts. To expand on that point and how it affects the community is to identify the differences in reader between WordPress and Medium. WordPress, because of its search options and no paywall, creates a level playing field for all its users.
In the short time I have been writing on Medium, I have encountered a division within their community that is created and enforced by the paywall. The idea that “if I pay for something it is inherently better than something that is free” oozes everywhere on Medium. Yes $5 is nothing to some, but it is a lot to others. On one hand, non-members have limited access to post, do not earn the writer revenue, and have limited functionality on the site (as a reader, non-member writers have equal access).
Finding a following and finding people to follow is akin to the needle in the haystack. Some people on WordPress, like myself, follow back everyone who follows me (with a few exceptions). It’s a personal choice and I don’t begrudge those who don’t. Some prefer to go to that person’s blog and check out their posts first. Imagine being a free member on Medium and trying to build your reading list and following by trying to interact with others only to find out that you can’t because of the paywall.
Yep, Medium has created a haves and have nots division in blogging. Non-members cannot interact with members because they can’t read their paywalled posts. Most writers on Medium do not follow back those who follow them – they want interaction first. Sure, that’s the best way to develop a following, but here’s how one of the leading earners on Medium advises newcomers to build a following (from his webinar): “Follow up to Medium’s daily limit (150) every day for a month. Of the 150 a day, 10-12 should follow you back. That means in 30 days, you’ll have more than 3000 followers.”
Oh, well, um, yeah, I guess. There’s a slight problem with his mass follow approach – its marketing 101 and doesn’t promote interaction. Not to mention it doesn’t take into account the paywall or the lack of ease in finding posts who want to read about. Since Medium favors older, already seasoned posts, you don’t know if they are even active anymore.
One funny thing I have noticed on Medium is the number of people complaining about how difficult it is to develop a following on WordPress. The problem, in my opinion, is not because of the platform, but because there is a clear and distinct difference in user.
Medium and WordPress attract a different clientele. They service two different markets. WordPress favors the individual who wants to write about books, family, friends, etc. Medium favors articles, ideas, and facts. This is evident in their most popular sites/publications.
There is no directory or centralized stats for WordPress, but let us remember The Daily Post (may it rest in peace) — it was a site where bloggers and readers could interact, find ideas, and share. Now, Medium does keep stats on their publications. Here is a screenshot of the top few publications by subscriber count:
All of these publications are non-fiction article based publications. The Economist (yes, the magazine has a Medium publication) is ranked 6th. The first “writing” publication appears at number 22 with 150,000 subscribers.
The push for earning money with a post is to write well enough to be accepted by a publication, to be curated (very low rates of curation), and as one popular blogger suggested, “post more than three times a day for a month and see what sticks.”
So, on one hand, readers expect higher quality articles than the “mommy blogs” (as one person called WordPress), but it is suggested that writers treat it like a crap shoot and hope something gets published in a publication or curated. Sure, writing three hundred words on politics, news, technology, etc. is easy enough to do, but what about the creative writer bloggers?
Medium announces proudly that a staff of 25 (yes, 25) “highly trained” curators read every post written to determine if it should be curated (added) to a topic. Really? Damn, and I thought I was a fast reader. I call BS on this one – at least to a certain degree. Yes, I see that my post says, “pending curator review” after hitting publish, but then it usually only takes a few hours to see that it has not been placed in a topic and will only be shown to my followers. Gee, thanks… and some Medium users laugh at WordPress users for only writing for themselves.
What is the difference between being in a topic and not? While my stats are not a great example, since I have less than 15 followers, it does make a difference. Here’s my stats for March so far:
And my post stats:
As you can see, there are a few differences between WordPress and Medium’s stats. One of the most glaring and odd differences is that views include my comments as well as my posts. In other words, 101 people viewed something I wrote – somewhere. Oh, well, I guess that’s good to know, but not really.
The second screenshot is what I care about as a writer. Great stats aren’t they. Good thing I started on WordPress… otherwise I would have quit already. Urban Legend was curated in a topic (probably because it was my first post) and so I had 5 views, 5 reads (they determine this number by how long someone stays on your post), and 2 fans (people who liked the post). THANKS ELLIE AND CHRIS!
As you can see, though most of my posts do not get any views or interaction. Why? Because no one can find them! Unlike WordPress, there is no reason for a reader to search for posts when there are topics. Why should they? Surely curated posts are better right?
If you have followed me long enough to have read some of my rants, you will know that I am a firm believer in practice makes perfect. The more someone writes, the better they will become. Medium is a good site if you want to specialize in articles designed to be picked up by a publication or, fingers crossed, curated. It is not a good site if you are looking for interaction, finding the diamond in the rough, or diversified writers. I am not implying that you don’t find all those on both sites – you do – one’s just makes them easier to find than the other.
The main takeaway point is that Medium and WordPress serve two completely different communities with different goals.