Everybody wants to be a thought leader these days—and with the rise of self-publishing platforms (formerly known as blogs), that dream is just a copy, paste and click-to-publish away. All the cool kids in digital are doing it and LinkedIn and Medium are rising to the surface in my feeds as the place to be. They’ve got celebrity writers, they’ve got social connectivity and best of all, they’ve got you.
But there can only be one king.
I decided to undertake an experiment to find out who the true champion of self-publishing truly is. I dug up a blog post I wrote on my own blog a couple of years ago called “Mobile App or Mobile Web?,” posted it to both LinkedIn and Medium and did a side-by-side comparison on a bunch of different criteria to see who the titleholder would be. Here’s what I learned:
There’s nothing that says, “I’m special,” like being able to email my mom a link to me publishing on the same platform as some one famous. And both of these platforms understand that and use it to psychologically woo me into believing I’m playing on the same playing field as famous people. It’s like being Almost Famous.
Medium: When I show up on Medium’s home page, there’s usually one post by Ev Williams or Biz Stone, one by Gary Vaynerchuk, and a bunch by people I never heard of.
LinkedIn: These guys kill it when it comes to famous “influencers” writing on their platform. They’ve got Richard Brandson, Pete Cashmore, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Arianna Huffington, Tony Robbins and yes, Gary Vaynerchuk. And many more. Oh, and did I mention Barack Obama?
The Winner: My mom has no idea who Ev Williams or Biz Stone is (and Vaynerchuk has overexposed himself into irrelevance). LinkedIn wins on Celebrity Affiliations.
Ease of Use.
Publishing was easy on both platforms—I could copy, paste and publish in less than 5 minutes. But there were some notable differences…
Medium: Medium exists for one reason only—as a self-publishing platform. It is completely intuitive and there’s a big “New Story” button in the corner that encourages me to post. The only drawback was that I couldn’t figure out how to embed pictures in the body of my post, which I ultimately realized was impossible. (UPDATE: This statement is incorrect. I just couldn’t find the insert image button my first go around. Thanks to Tchael Clark for setting me straight in comments.) I was, however, able to super-easily add a giant header image simply by drag-and-dropping it from iPhoto right into my browser. They also have this nifty little HTML5 text editor that pops up when you highlight a word. Very nice.
LinkedIn: It’s less intuitive how to make a post here. Where Medium is completely focused on one thing, LinkedIn is anything but focused on anything. I ultimately figured out I had to click a little pencil icon in my status update bar. Once I did that, I was given a form that was simple and easy to use and mark-up (similar to what you’d see in Wordpress). I could also add images to the body of my post easily.
The Winner: I’ve got to give the edge to Medium because of the discoverability issue. I was really frustrated the first time I did this on LinkedIn, hunting and pecking all over the site to figure out how to create a post. Lack of focus hurts.
So, how did the post actually look? Was it something I was proud to put my name on?
Medium: This post was beautiful. The giant header image, the clean page design, the large, easy-to-read, serif font and bold-faces sans-serif headers… makes me want to call this my home.
(If you’re reading this on LinkedIn right now, you’re missing my beautiful header image of Andre the Giant feeding his boot to King Kong Bundy—boo hoo on you.)
LinkedIn: A cluttered, ugly mess.
The Winner: Medium, Medium, Medium. Hands down the winner here.
Since this was a science experiment, I didn’t promote my posts at all on Twitter or Facebook like I usually do. I expected LinkedIn to be a runaway winner here, but the results were surprisingly balanced.
Medium: First, I have 854 followers on Medium (it connects to Facebook and Twitter and I believe makes your connections on those platforms who are Medium members into followers on this one seamlessly). At the time of this writing, about 24 hours after publishing, I have 170 views and 10 recommends. I also have 4 little faces with hearts on them in the corner (which I think are the equivalent of likes). Medium also has a nice little stat called the “Read Ratio” which tells me how many visitors are actually reading the post—this is hovering at about 50%.
LinkedIn: I have 3,462 followers on LinkedIn, which I’ve accumulated over time. That may not be fair to Medium, but life’s not fair and neither is science. The reach of this post is surprisingly similar. I had 179 views and 7 likes. The one area that was significantly different was shares, where I had a whopping 58 (that’s 1 out of every 3 views). It’s unclear if those shares are meaningful, however, given that I have the same number of views on Medium (the implication being that people are sharing it, but nobody is actually seeing what is being shared.)
The Winner: LinkedIn wins by a close margin because of the shares. It’ll be interesting to see if that changes over the next few days. I’ll update this with an addendum if there are substantial changes!
The Winner Is…
This is a very tough call, but I’m going to have to go with Medium. While LinkedIn has big names and nearly everyone in the business world is on the platform, that’s not really buying much when it comes to the number of people seeing my posts. Even the “shares” are really more like “likes” if no one is seeing what people are sharing.
At the end of the day, I believe it’s the experience that matters and Medium wins that battle in spades. And Medium is just starting to gain Traction. They are sure to pick up steam and if they are already delivering reach similar to LinkedIn, I can only assume that will grow in the future.
Of course, we’ll have to see how this post performs on both channels as well. Come back later and I’ll update with a synopsis!
5 days after writing this post, I’m checking back in. Interestingly, the reach has changed and LinkedIn has come out way ahead. The number of views and shares on LinkedIn is now 1,343 and 242, while view on Medium it’s still around 363 and 16. Clearly, that changes things. I still love the experience on Medium, but the reach on LinkedIn is pretty compelling. I’ll probably just cross-post from now on.
FYI, this post (which I thought would be total link bait) has just 351 views on LinkedIn and 60 views on Medium.