A few months ago, I started publishing on Medium.
Several of my former LinkedIn colleagues have asked me why I switched — and even encouraged me to write a public post about it. Given the nature of this post, I’m publishing it on both Medium and LinkedIn.
Why I Write
Where I write reflects why I write. I write in order to be read. That may seem like a truism, but many people write just to get the words out.
Not me. I write so that other people will hear what I have to say, and I have the hubris (or naivete) to hope I’ll cause them to think or act differently.
And, while I love the idea of having lots of readers (my ego burst a seam when I exceeded a million page views on Quora), I don’t write for a general audience. Instead, I focus on my few areas of expertise. Not everyone wants to know how to interview a data scientist or how to design faceted search systems. Those are the kinds of people I usually write for, so it’s important for me to target them effectively.
The Noisy Channel
Having my own blog was fun for a while. I enjoyed complete control over the experience, and I experimented with a variety of themes and plugins. I accumulated site credibility, which was great for search engine optimization (SEO) and was useful while I worked to build up my personal brand from scratch.
But hosting my own blog meant having to administer it. I lost countless hours to SQL injection attacks and other Wordpress bugs. That was not how I wanted to spend my time.
Publishing on LinkedIn: The Good
LinkedIn offered a simpler, albeit less flexible, platform for distributing my thoughts. No more being my own IT guy!
The biggest attraction was the reach. Several of my posts earned tens of thousands of views, something I’d never experienced with my own blog. It helped that, in the early days, LinkedIn’s editorial staff promoted my content. Still, there’s no question that LinkedIn provided me with an effective platform for broad distribution. And LinkedIn’s site credibility was great for SEO.
I also liked that many of my readers were logged-in users. In particular, people could only like, share, or comment on posts using their real names. I rarely had to worry about spam or vandalism.
Publishing on LinkedIn: The Bad
But, despite the benefits of publishing on LinkedIn, I had some pet peeves with the platform. I struggled with the commenting interface: it was clunky and often lost my readers’ comments or my replies to them. The editor lacked basic features like indentation. In general, I found the platform to be stodgy.
But there were two fundamental issues that soured me on LinkedIn as a publishing platform.
First, even though I appreciated the quantity of engagement with my posts, I wasn’t thrilled with the targeting. Most of the people who engaged with my posts were not in the audience I’d intended to target. Conversely, most people in my target audience didn’t see my posts, despite being active LinkedIn users and, in many cases, my personal connections.
Second, after I’d invested significantly in LinkedIn as a publishing platform, the company made significant product changes. LinkedIn filled the left rail with posts by so-called “influencers”, people curated for their celebrity but not necessarily their ability to write, let alone to write anything relevant to my target audience. Adding insult to injury, LinkedIn collapsed the comment section below posts to implement a continuous scroll into these “influencer” articles.
I provided open, honest, and constructive feedback to my colleagues who managed the publishing platform. But the changes stuck.
The Medium is the Message
A few months ago, I decided to explore other publishing platforms. Living in Silicon Valley, I was very aware of Medium’s popularity.
It was easy for me to see the reason for that popularity. The interface is modern, slick, and uncluttered. It places the author first and never makes me feel that the platform is trying to divert readers away from my content. The calls to action all serve me as an author: recommend the post, share it, comment on it, or see other posts of mine. Medium does curate content, but it doesn’t try to force its curated content down the reader’s throat.
My experience so far has been extremely positive. I may have lost some quantity of engagement, but I feel I’ve more than made up for it in quality.
Indeed, my recent post about the value of a professional network makes for an interesting case study. I received more page views and likes for it on LinkedIn than on Medium, but the Medium post inspired a much deeper conversation.
Interestingly, most of that conversation has been taking place on Facebook. I now share my posts via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but I’ve consistently find that the best discussions about my posts take place on Facebook. I suspect two reasons for this: Facebook does a great job of targeting my posts to users who find them relevant, and it has the best conversational interface of any social platform.
Of course, everyone’s experience is difference. I saw Guy Lebanon’s post on “Network Effects and Viral Loops in LinkedIn and Medium”, and clearly LinkedIn works better for him than Medium.
I have no loyalty to any particular publishing platform, and perhaps I’ll switch again in a few years. But for now I’m thrilled with Medium and intend to use it as my primary publishing platform.
Still, I hope LinkedIn will consider my feedback. I can’t imagine I’m alone in feeling alienated by some of their product decisions, and I believe that a few small product changes could make LinkedIn far more friendly to authors. And that would be great for everyone.