Medium Fares – Is the Medium Publishing Platform Dying?

Twitter was founded in 2006 and I’ve been using it since 2009. Not so much to promote my stuff but as an avenue to follow others on the internet and, sometimes, voice my own opinions and share some good stuff all-around. 

Suffice to say, it DID occur to me that Twitter, a micro-blogging social media platform, might overtake blogging and web development. 

I thought ‘What if everyone figured out they can say what they want, whenever they want, however they want without having to own, run, manage or promote their website(s)? What if everyone knows they can be lazy about online marketing and still make it?’

Because, essentially, that’s what Twitter it…back when it restricted its users to only 140 characters…a short form online megaphone. 

Twitter was founded by Jock Dorsey and three others, one of whom became Medium’s founder, Evan Wiliams. Williams’ idea aligns with mine. Twitter was putting out a shortcut for everyone and sidelining content creators who go out of their way to maintain quality content. 

As delirious as it made people feel about ‘having a voice’ on the internet via Twitter and Medium, I maintain that the role of editors and the need for the human touch will never go away. 

I got a backlash slightly less than a decade ago when I tried to tell a bunch of kids that Youtube was going to be monitored, edited, or in some way, sifted through (pst, I meant gently censored). There’s no way such a platform can go unedited and unreviewed. Someone big has to regulate and monitor the content…but the kids had a mental meltdown and told me I was wrong. 

Well, I am right.

Medium – What is Was and Is Now

I am a paying Medium user who reads on the platform more than I write. I wish I had more time to contribute but at this point, life has a toe stuck through my door. I believe in Medium because I understand the need for quality content, blogging, writing, and freedom of speech. 

I mean, how else are you going to find articles like this one which helps you beat face recognition in 2019? #lol

Have a look at how these people are trying to beat Facebook Recognition. Just for fun.

Medium vs. Websites and Twitter?

I started online publishing circa 2000 when I was thrust into the world of internet and search engine marketing. Hence, I believe that the need for the human touch with a tinge of professionalism is needed in cyberspace. Some form of policing is required because on the flipside is utter chaos. 

While Medium’s original intent was to create a ‘better version’ of Twitter, it is not exactly turning out the way it was supposed to. Is it a better version of Twitter today? No. BUT…it is, I contend, a more human version of journalism and a better version of blogs. 

It will probably never replace websites and eCommerce platforms and I don’t think that’s the direction their algorithmic GPS is set towards. There’s still value in producing and marketing your own quality content on your website

Even though Google keeps moving its goalposts, website owners will continue to puff up their strategies with the help of Google Analytics to bring in their own new customers, fans, and readers. If you’re new to website development, here’s a really simple (still relevant) how-to on working your GA (Neil Patel). 

Failing on Bounce Rate and User Retention

Image credit: Merakist on Unsplash

Unlike other social media platforms, Medium did not focus on user growth and instead zoomed in on quality, unique website visitors, time spent on site, bounce rate, topics, and the number of repeat visitors. 

Like Wikipedia, Medium’s moral compass is set with a higher bar. It expects people to be responsible for what they put out there. It expects people to share useful and helpful advice, thoughts, experiences, and tips. And if you’re really good at what you’re doing, it has teams of people going around like bloodhounds. You’ll be found. 

It is, therefore, not an advertising engine nor a magazine. It’s not CNN nor is it Twitter (both of which are polar opposites, IMHO). Medium is more focused on collecting data, metrics, and presenting its users with relevant information it thinks they’d like. 

It has user-published content and also paid ones done and prettied up by professional writers, columnists, and journalists. Avid readers pay a small fee to read and access exclusive content, especially the curated channels that they’ve gone through with an editorial loupe. That’s how they make their money, as far as I know. That’s why I think writers should focus more on authority instead pouring every single dollar into just SEO

In the meantime, Twitter remains, as it has always been, as unregulated and free-for-all as always. It’s just being Twitter. 

Industry experts have gone through analytics and combed through reports to see if Medium has reached its goal of being the ‘better version of Twitter’ and decided that on many fronts, Medium has failed to be better than Twitter

The above article outlined the truth about how Medium’s website engagement falls short when compared to the internet megaphone of Twitter when it comes to engagement, which the former said it would be better at. 

Because, well…bounce rates and average sessions happens.

When it comes to bounce rate and average sessions, we’re looking at the number of people who stay on the site and how much content they’re consuming per session. I think this is an unfair comparison because:

  1. People stay on Twitter longer because there’s a whole stream of different content to consume. Tweets are short and easy to scan. Medium shows you how long each article is, right off the bat, and tells you if you would be interested in reading the article. Although people tend to scroll through Twitter longer, Medium users actually learn, absorb and capture more. They might stay for one or two articles and be done, but what they’ve read on the website is of far more value.
  2. Average session: People on Twitter are not looking for anything heavy or useful. They’re looking bite-sized info, memes, pictures, 15-second news shorts, snapshots, and proofs of their own beliefs. It’s like a carousel of information that surges through your timeline without leaving a trace of value in your life, possibly. Medium, in the meantime, requires time to read. Sometimes we see things we want to read but because we’re stuck in traffic (phone and driving is a no-no-no), we might bookmark it or save it to Google Keep to read it a little later (which we might forget about as we frantically go about our daily lives).

I am, therefore, quite surprised by the fact that Medium’s bounce rate is almost 60% with an average session of fewer than 2 minutes. Many articles on Medium is about 4- to 7-minute reads. It SHOULD keep many people there for the said period of time (at least) since the length of the article is already displayed right there at the top of the page. 

Analysts, however, contend that it is doing well for a website of its nature. I wonder what ‘kind of websites’ the report compared the site to. 

Medium’s Focus on Quality Content

Image credit: Mitchell Schwartz on Unsplash

When we measure websites with Google Analytics, we look for stuff like the number of users (new vs return), average session, and bounce rate. I don’t think Medium is working on advertising and keyword stuffing (which most websites are), so, what are we actually comparing Medium to?

I think having an average session of 2 to 3 minutes is already pretty neat! If a website can hold the attention of an average reader for more than 4 or 5 minutes, they’re on the Awesome List. You could be well be on your way to becoming a brand

And maybe that’s because they’re producing and publishing interesting, top-quality, valuable content. At the end of the day, this might translate into more returning visitors, which might magically transform into customers and then become loyal brand followers!

People stay on Twitter to scroll through a mindless loop of opinions. It made sense that Medium scored a pretty high percentage of returning visitors. Returning visitors, as I’ve hinted above, is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we internet marketers are always in search of. 

If you have a high rate of returning visitors, it simply means people like your content and they don’t mind coming back for more. You’re on your way to building yourself a fan base.

If there’s one thing I agree with in the report, it’s this – while the Twitter feed is pretty much endless, depending on the number of accounts you’re following on the platform, when you’re done reading a Medium article, you’re done. There’s not much follow up, no ad, no follow-through action to choose from. You clap for the article if you think it’s awesome, check out the author and follow him/her if you wish to, or you head back to the homepage of Medium to find more articles to read. In this fast-paced world, the latter is quite unlikely. 

There’s no incentive to continue reading another article. But reviews and kudos given for each high-performing article receives its reward via ‘claps’. They should think of a way to keep readers of their top-performing articles by engaging them, have more external links to help them stay on, include more useful links in and at the end of the article to keep readers from setting off for another destination. 

Unfair Comparison

Medium should take a page out of WordPress in this respect – create a community of readers and writers. This will make it totally different from Twitter (which is not in the direction they initially set off for, anyway) but if you looked at it, Medium has become a cross between Blogger/Wordpress and Twitter. 

Using metrics and analytics to compare the two just isn’t fair. With Twitter, you can spend the entire day scrolling through and have nothing to affect you. But with Medium, if you click onto something on the website, there’s a half-chance it will leave an impression on you or prompt you into action (which is doesn’t really have at this point). 

If Medium ever runs out of cash to keep the engine chugging, it would really sadden me because as a person who has been publishing on the internet since 2000, it was the possible light at the end of the tunnel. Blogger was being abandoned by Google, WordPress was doing great but I have a little beef with it (although funnily enough, I am using WordPress for this blog. Go figure – lol), and Twitter just isn’t the kind of publishing platform writers and internet marketers like me are really keen on. 

Maybe that’s why I am one of the few paying Medium users who read and write on it. 

And while we’re on the topic of money, Medium also promised to pay for quality content but it is so restricted and non-transparent that I’ve given up on trying to find out how it works. It’s also available for U.S. writers and authors only.

The People on Medium

I want to see it rise into the pulsing publishing network that it aims to be, something I hope to see emerge in its full glory one day. The fact that many celebrities, public figures, and renowned journalists are using Medium to publish their thoughts was encouraging, of course. These people, of course, had their own websites (as with me) but we continue to publish on Medium because of its network viability. 

Image credit: Austin Distel on Unsplash

I wish Medium would invest some money into creating an internet community and support system growth. People from Harper’s Magazine, Tim O’Reilly, and its sterling army of columnists on OneZero, Human Parts, Tech, Sarawak Report, Gen, and Modus should be enough to tell you that people see value in publishing their thoughts on the platform and connect with others who are interested. 

One good example would be James Bridle’s ‘Something is Wrong with the Internet’ (Warning: Graphic, disturbing but realistic content) which is a 21-minute read akin to something that would have appeared on Washington Post or National Geographic. 

In the meantime, Google Pixel’s rolling out its live captioning feature. How good it will do, only God knows. Or the developers. What I see is a lot more focus on videos and audios. I am not too happy with my own audio endeavors but whenever I searched up my name, there’s a whole bunch of ‘podcast trials’ I did in the past that keeps popping up in the SERP. 

It makes me want to dig a hole in the ground and bury my head in it forever. 

However, I continue to work on my own blog and website (OK, maybe even audio, I don’t know just yet), I have yet to give up hope that Medium will work on its community value. The diversity and quality of its content continue to keep me there. For how long, I don’t really know, but as of now, I’m still on this bandwagon as long as it continues to not punish me for using it to publish my innermost thoughts or leading readers to my own blog and website (the social media part of Medium). 

As long as it continues to focus on quality content against the head-busting flurry of stuff on the internet, I think Medium should focus on creating communities of like-minded people. It can’t go head-to-head with Twitter simply because it doesn’t make sense. 

And no, please don’t be another Facebook. Ever.

Credit: Featured image by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash

Agree or disagree? It’s perfectly fine. We live in a world of so many opinions that I am practically bullet-proof to insults. But I hope you throw me a big fat high five instead. Let me know here. Oh, and if you see a grammatical mistake, factual error, or think that I’ve stepped on someone’s toes, let me know to.

Happy publishing and marketing,
Marsha