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Why do people use Medium (the online content publisher)?

I’ve tweeted my thoughts on Medium before: I’m not a fan! I work with WordPress but I like competition, and try to be objective, but Medium is not a good solution.

Not a day goes by without someone tweeting a screenshot of the Medium website on a phone, showing that you can’t see the article; just a huge amount of banners and things to dismiss.

That alone is frustrating, but as a content creator, I just don’t understand why anyone would intentionally put their content somewhere that is restricting people from viewing the site. You have to pay to read more than 5 articles a month.

Owning, or controlling, your content is so important. Medium clearly don’t have a sustainable business model, which is why they keep changing it. And it could change again at any time!

One obvious solution would be to use WordPress. But hosted WordPress isn’t that straightforward to use. Sure, there’s web hosts that install it for you; but you will have to pay for that, and select a domain, then wait for everything to start working (DNS ftw!). But you have to pay for the domain, and find a design you like (I’d recommend looking at one of my themes). And there’s still a lot of stuff to learn besides. It’s a lot to take on. Definitely not as easy as Medium.

You could move to, which is free and much more immediate. But to use it properly still costs money, and the interface is complex. They have their standard interface that everyone uses by default (and which isn’t the standard wp-admin), but they also have the wp-admin since not everything from the original Admin is copied over to the new interface. Plus users need to learn the difference between posts and pages, and manage the site structure, and chose a theme. The cognitive load is huge.

It’s a lot of things to take in; and if all you want to do is write then there isn’t a good alternative. At least none I am aware of – let me know in the comments if you know otherwise.

Whilst I don’t like the way Medium is setup, I do think they do a lot right: the writing interface is very clean and simple, the design choices are minimal, and settings are too. There’s built in promotion through cross promotion and aggregation. The ability to easily highlight and share content is great. The gamification, stats, hand claps; there’s a lot of small touches that make it a compelling experience.

I’d quite like to design a Medium competitor: one that has a business model baked in, and makes the experience great for everyone. I’m sure it must be possible. But I wouldn’t know how to begin building it. It would be a fun challenge though!

This story first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.

Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

4 thoughts on “Why do people use Medium (the online content publisher)? Leave a comment

  1. The reason some people continue to use Medium is the very reasons you “complained” about WordPress (self-hosted or not). It supports only one form of the post via a simple interface.

    The minute the customer decides they want to have a menu of pages + post and a choice of layouts, etc., that customer has agreed to use more mental energy. They have to decide on a theme, a design, organisation of content, etc. There is no way around that.

    It’s like photography. It pushed a button on your smartphone is too limiting, and you decide to buy an interchangeable lens camera, then you have also agreed that you are embracing the cognitive load of ISO, aperture, lens choice, shutter speed, etc.

    I found your comparison bewildering.

    I prefer having control over publishing. I have used self-hosted WordPress as a platform since 2005. Yes, there is a lot to learn. But I understand that as the price for having 100% control.

    I am not a fan of Medium. It’s a leased service; a rental as opposed to owning. You never have control when you rent.

    • Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough – but you seem to have missed the point of my post.

      Your comment confirms what I was saying.

      Medium is not good, you have no control over what they do with your content/ site. For those who like Medium, WordPress is not a suitable replacement.

      Nowhere did I say WordPress was unsuitable for everyone.

    • Thanks for the comment – I’d forgotten all about Svbtle. That is a nice alternative. And they have a business model baked in. Presumably the required payments are the reason it’s not as big as Medium, but it’s also the reason it’s still going and is a nice user experience.

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