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“Just Writing” Isn’t Enough

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Just Writing isn't Enough

New blogging platforms and services are popping up all over the place to simplify the process of writing and publishing on the web, as if it wasn’t simple enough already.

One of these services is called Medium, self-described as “a better place to read and write things that matter.” The design is minimalistic, the typography is great, and most importantly, the content is high-quality.

It also encourages collaboration with a pretty unique commenting system, called “Notes” on Medium, that allow other users to laser-target a certain bit of content in an article and leave feedback on it.

But what is it actually like to write for Medium? An insightful article I read recently was Why I Left Medium by Kenneth Reitz.

The Draw

Reitz cited the following reasons for switching his blog over to Medium.

  • Great typography
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Forces photos for every post
  • Responsive design

Yep, it certainly does have great typography. Just look at a post on Medium. It’s so easy to read, on any device (this is where the responsive design part comes in).

I’m not sure why forcing photos on every post would be considered something positive. It sounds more like a burden to track down a relevant, copyright-friendly photo to attach to every single one of your posts.

I thought we were putting the focus on writing?

The Downsides

Reitz ultimately left Medium in favor of a self-hosted WordPress blog because of some of Medium’s limitations.

  • No content embedding
  • No analytics or referral data
  • No custom domains
  • No custom post URLs or “slugs”

All you can do is keep writing, and have your articles hosted on Medium.com. And repeat. And that’s it

You Do More Than Just Writing

The problem with Medium is, chances are, you do more than “just writing” on your blog.

  • You embed stuff. Tweets, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, SlideShare presentations. WordPress makes it really easy to do that.
  • You check your stats. You see what content is popular, what isn’t, and tailor your future content strategy using that data. Whether it be through Google Analytics, Woopra, Jetpack (if you use WordPress) or literally any other analytics service.
  • You have an identity. You have a domain name that represents your name, your business, and/or your organization. When your URLs are structured like https://medium.com/about/9e53ca408c48, it’s kind of hard to stand out.

Speaking of URLs, does “9e53ca408c48″ accurately reflect the content of that URL? Unlikely. WordPress makes it easy to design your URLs in a meaningful (and SEO-friendly) way.

My point is, when you self-host a WordPress site, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it.

Conclusion

The only really unique/innovative feature I see in Medium is its notes feature (as opposed to traditional blog commenting) which is supposed to encourage “collaboration” among other writers. Time will tell how well that actually works.

Everything else design-wise, all the way from the smooth responsive design and the super-clean typography, can be replicated with a solid, responsive WordPress blogging theme.

I like minimalism and simplicity just as much as the next person, but I think “restrictivism” would be a more appropriate word when it comes to Medium and all of its limitations.

I’m not trashing Medium. On the contrary, I think it’s a pretty cool service with cool people behind it. I’d personally never use it, but I’m pretty gung-ho on self-hosting your own websites for (what I hope are) obvious reasons.

Sure, if all you want to do is write, and not worry about absolutely anything else, Medium would be perfect for you. But chances are, “just writing” isn’t enough.

About

Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.