In the past week, there’s been a big discussion about blogging in the Happy Startup Community, specifically why Medium is great, why you should make your blog on it (your only blog for your new business). I don’t agree. This post will go into some deep detail on why.
For complete transparency. This post you are reading now (wherever you read it from – and I’ll come to that) is written on my laptop, copied to my own installation of WordPress (CMS irrelevant) on a server which I rent (not ideal) made up undoubtedly by a virtual machine meaning “server” does not = “hardware” but ultimately I have complete ownership of the data which I submit to said server. Simply put – I own these words.
A lot of people are encouraged to setup their blogs on Medium, reasons for this vary but the main one that is banded around is a great writing experience, with publishers in mind and it does! But that fantastic writing experience does come at a price.
It’s important to understand that this discussion is going on in a community which has been founded to support startups, small business, just getting off the ground, who may have already made a website and are now writing about their journey, their services, ultimately, to generate traffic and awareness of their new business in order to find customers. This alone for me indicates to me that this is a poor strategy because Medium, is not your website, it doesn’t directly link to it, and even if you use the domain service now available to Medium, there’s no other linking to your product, service or contact pages meaning everything you put into Medium benefits Medium, and Medium alone. Unless I write We Are AFK, and turn it into a link, you won’t know I run that business. If I don’t write that I have a personal site called By Andy Parker and make it a link, you won’t know about it. But, my posts will be discoverable through other peoples, vaguely related content and visa versa. Does this help my business succeed?
Who Controls Who?
The Terms of Service today states.
You own the rights to the content you create and post on Medium.
However, it is directly followed up with.
By posting content to Medium, you give us a nonexclusive license to publish it on Medium Services, including anything reasonably related to publishing it (like storing, displaying, reformatting, and distributing it). In consideration for Medium granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Medium may enable advertising on the Services, including in connection with the display of your content or other information. We may also use your content to promote Medium, including its products and content. We will never sell your content to third parties without your explicit permission.
This means that although you own the content, you are in-fact licensing it to Medium Services (the owning organisation). This does not mean it needs to be the original, or master copy, or what we call the canonical URL of the article. Medium; because Lawyers are smart, have worded this to ensure that you can’t complain later when they sell – it is a nonexclusive licence. That means – you can put this anywhere – and you should.
The final point to make on that quote is that it clearly explains to you that everything you write on Medium is essentially free advertising and marketing for them, it is boosting their brand, their product, their service and you’re advocating it for free.
Medium is VC Funded to the tune of $82million. The aforementioned merge is inevitable, how do you think those people are going to get those millions back? At that point, anything goes. Advertising, data sales, you name it, the new owners can do it and all your precious content, is subject to deletion, manipulation and profiteering – you will get nothing.
All of this has happened before and will happen again
I was part of the early Flickr community. I moderated groups, I checked message boards daily, and used it as did many amateur and professional photographers alike, like my personal portfolio. Only there was a problem – I didn’t own any of it. Not my images, comments, threads, groups, or anything that I chose to publish to Flickr. This wasn’t a problem until Yahoo became sole owner. Yahoo, paid a lot of money and needed to recoup it. Suddenly things started changing before an overnight announcement that deal had been struck with the World’s largest photo agency Getty. The deal gave Getty instant rights to use – for profit – the content on Flickr – your content, my content, and they didn’t have to pay you a cent. Flickr has been a smouldering tyre fire ever since. Millions of users left, deleting their content with them in order to save it from Getty, and I too jumped ship, but at what cost to me? Years of investment into the community, ratings and views of my photos, search rankings, APIs to run my own blog, my own portfolio page, embeds to other blogs, and even major publications – gone in a instant. If you search today for Avangelist Photography; my photo business which I ran for 6 years. You’ll be hard to find anything.
Investing in a platform that I didn’t own, cost me my potential career as a professional photographer. Do you really want to take that risk with your business?
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
All I ask is that you write your content somewhere that you own and then share it with the network Medium, because as Lawrence McCahill rightly noted, Medium is a network, just like Myspace, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and anywhere else you may publish content to today.
Medium, wasn’t founded that long ago. It’s business model I am sure is sound, it’s investors are happy waiting for it to reach a suitable market value and feel their investment is safe – your data is not. If you write on Medium you do not own that data. Everything you write directly to Medium and only Medium is effectively owned by Medium, it’s their copy you gave the a licence to use. This means Medium can use your content to make money – they already do. But one day, Medium will sell, and then whoever owns it, also owns your content.
Social media marketing strategy has never changed – go to where your audience is – don’t make them come to you. That’s why in a recent post from Signal Vs Noise; a blog by the owners of Basecamp, a popular project management tool, announced they will be using Medium for their blog because they’re not getting traffic to their own site and in turn blog post views. That’s a massive mistake and frankly, a company like that should know better. They allude to it being down to not getting good enough traffic to their site, perhaps; and I’m just speculating here, it’s because their content just isn’t interesting, or useful to enough people? They also talk about wanting to have a wider reaching audience, but why? What value to them are people reading somebodies take on Batman Vs Superman, or holidays in Thailand? Just one thing – brand awareness, in the thin hope that one of those readers is also, a project manager that wants to use Basecamp.
Understand what your motivations are and don’t be so naive to think others are the same
I’m not saying don’t use Medium; there’s a small chance you’re reading this on Medium right now, or somewhere else I have licensed this content to. I can’t say don’t use Medium, in the same way as I cannot endorse, or tell you not to use any other of the many publishing platforms. What I do encourage is think hard about why you’re doing it and don’t only have it there – own your data, own your content and think about why you’re writing it in the first place.
What is your blog for?
Why are you writing this content?
Create brand awareness?
Drive traffic by having new indexed content?
Promote, or advertise your business?
Why would you want to put the money you spend (because your time is money) into another platform that doesn’t provide you any of the conversion?
Also published on Medium.