You’ve doubtless read the news by now that social publishing platform Medium has shed 50 of its 150 staff, closed its New York offices and canceled its native advertising program.
On the face of it, this is what’s known in business terms as a bad thing. When a company lays off a third of its workforce and starts closing national offices, it’s natural to jump to conclusions. And sure enough, many publications have been quick to assume its demise.
But the announcement (as a Medium post natch) by CEO Ev Williams reveals something deeper than an ailing business cutting costs. If we take his words a face value, this is a sensible, brave and intelligent move, which has as much to do with mission and brand as it does the bottom line.
Which is a big if.
But we’re not here to talk about business decisions, or brand positioning, we’re interested in Medium as a channel; as part of your marketing mix.
Simply, should Medium be a part of your content marketing strategy? What are pros and cons?
Whichever way you look at it, Medium is beautiful.
When it launched, it’s clean design and easy interface was a Godsend for bloggers and publishers alike. Nearly five years later, it’s still the litmus test for UX. For businesses whose website is clunky, slow or busy, Medium’s clarity and ease of use is still hugely tempting and the results effective – at least in terms of aesthetics.
Also, according to Williams’ blog announcement at least, the platform has been growing at a rate of 300% year-on-year in terms of readers and published posts. According to a CNN report in January 2016, it had around 30 million visitors every month. Even if you attracted 0.01% of that traffic, you’d be doing ok.
The point is, Medium can be a great way to promote and distribute your content because the community is already established. It’s a ready-made audience, and the opportunities for large-scale exposure are, for most, better than simply plugging away on your own site.
Among these 30 million users are some of the most influential tech writers, business leaders and thinkers around. Reputation-wise, it’s hard to match. Not many publications can count Barack Obama as a regular contributor.
And a final point on the number of users is the entertaining and engaged community. Comments sections are optimised for conversation, making readers more likely to engage with your thoughts.
As an SME, moving your blog entirely to a third party might be tempting, but it’s not without pitfalls. Firstly, you’ll lose the SEO value of blogging – specifically keyword rankings and the value from links.
Regular content creation isn’t an ego trip. Part of the point is to raise the domain authority of your site. By hosting all of it on Medium, you’re reducing the organic visibility and impact of your site.
There’s a bigger question here about just how important your website actually is these days, but Tom’s discussed that on our blog before so go and read that.
Secondly, you want leads. This might be a simplification, but it’s fundamentally true; a reduction in organic visibility means a slowing of site visits. Less people on the site means less opportunity to convert into contacts or leads. Sure, Medium offers spots for newsletter sign ups, but lead magnets go beyond just newsletters.
Converting visitors into leads is hard enough; hosting on a third party site is simply adding another hoop for potential customers to jump through before they engage with your brand.
SEO isn’t everything when it comes to blogging, but it’s a large factor for digital marketing, especially if your competitors are doing it right.
The final negative, of course, is whether Medium even has a future. One of the biggest supporters of Medium, having ported their Signal vs Noise blog over to the platform entirely, is Basecamp. Their CTO, David Heinemeier Hansson, wrote a piece in Business Insider entitled Venture capital is going to murder Medium suggesting, with some sadness, that it will all end quite tragically. His point? They’ve been going five years and still haven’t found a way to monetise based on their founding principles.
The bottom line
Should you publish on Medium? I would say yes. As business leaders, or as a business, the platform attracts engagement beyond, say, LinkedIn. It’s great for those all-important thought leadership articles – honest and personal insights from your business leaders or staff. Medium encourages transparency, and conversation, and raises your profile. Absolutely you should use it.
But should you port your entire blog over? I’m less sure. If you’re not blogging already, Medium presents an exciting opportunity to create something professional, beautiful and easy to use. BUT, the question of efficacy remains.
For publishers like Backchannel or The Nib, the sole goal is to generate subscribers. For B2B businesses in particular, the goals are much more nuanced, and the ownership of the content on site too important to effectively give away to a third party. Use Medium, but use it as a republishing platform – another avenue by which to distribute content rather than the sole host.
Before you start blogging in any capacity, make sure your website is optimised, easy to navigate, features clear, well-written messaging, has a clear customer journey mapped out and includes plenty of clear calls to action. Then think about regular content creation.
Anyone using Medium now? How have you found it? What’s worked, what hasn’t? Let us know.
And we’ll be in touch again next week.
Christopher Michel [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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