“The best time to start was yesterday, the next best time is now”
Repeat after me, “It is not too late to start blogging…it is not too late to start blogging”.
Ok I get it — blogging is sexy and it’s an awesome side hustle. The idea of having people read the (amazing) content you write with the hope that you’ll find a path to monetization is clutch, but blogging in 2020 isn’t the same as blogging in 2009. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier. In 2009 I launched a technology blogged which, at its peak, had around 25,000 unique visitors a month. It was a pain in the butt to maintain because, in addition to writing, there was a ton of ‘technical debt’ and administrative activities that you have to deal with as well. Stuff like setting up a WordPress, getting a host, buying a domain, configuring a template, among others. Yes, these activities still exist today and at some point, you will have to address these technical challenges but these administrative activities are not things you should have to worry about when first starting your blog.
There is only 1 activity an aspiring blogger should focus on when starting a blog, and that is to write amazing content to people who care about your topic. This is why I love medium.com. I’ll try to hold back my medium-fan-boyisms but it is the #1 platform to start your blogging career. We’ll use my medium publication Educated & Broke as a case study.
Medium has a massive number of readers who care about the stuff you write about
Medium has at least 60,000,000 monthly readers who spend around 4.5 million hours per month reading content. This is important because when you start blogging the idea of ‘if you post it they will come’ does not work in the content creation community. You need to post content to a captive audience who shares the same interest as your blog. With Educated & Broke, my target continues to be personal finance readers. Medium’s personal finance section is the epicenter for my content. Within 30 days of launching Educated but Broke, the content I published had over 3,600 views.
Let me repeat that, I launched a blog and in 30 days it had over 3,000 views. There is 0 chance of this happening on an independently hosted blogging platform (WordPress). I’m not saying never migrate to an independent platform, but the intent is that when starting a blog, the 1st thing you need to validate is that people actually “give a sh*t” about your content. Having access to a platform of 60,000,000 active readers is the leanest approach to validating your blogging content. Consider the alternative, you decide to launch your blog on an independent platform, so what do you?
1. Find a host
2. Buy a domain
3. Deploy wordpress
4. Configure the wordpress site
5. Select a design template
6. Configure the design template
7. Write content
That is literally 6 steps you need to take before you initiate the only step which really matters, writing content! Steps 1 through 6 are all administrative activities which need to be avoided when starting a blog, because your first goal when blogging is always to see if anyone actually cares about your content. All of these activities can wait once you’ve proven your concept.
Getting featured on the front page is actually possible
As a content creator, getting to the front page of a platform is the holy grail. This accomplishment helps crush your impression count and validates that the content you write matters (to someone). I won’t get into the nuances of getting to #1 on google, but getting to the front page on Medium is totally in the realm of possible, and it’s happened multiple times with Educated but Broke. Here’s a front-page example with an older article:
Pay off student loans before you contribute to your 401k
Why it’s a good idea to stop contributing to your 401k when you’re in debt.
This isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, I have around a 25% hit rate on front page coverage. What’s interesting about front page coverage on Medium is that it’s not an artificial intelligence terminator style robomachine selecting articles based on keywords. It’s a highly humanistic approach…involving real people. Medium has a group of employees called ‘curators’ who have the responsibility of selecting articles and pushing it to the feature page of its topic sections. When your article is featured on a feature page, it’s denoted by the indicator “Distributed by curators in ______” . This accomplishment crushes the eyes-on-screen metrics bloggers care about. There’s a specific set of criteria needed to have content selected by a curator, so read it here.
Not having to deal with the hassle of setting up and configuring a good WordPress platform when you first start blogging is crucial. Guys, I have an undergrad in computer science, and I’m telling you from experience, setting up a WordPress site is not a quick activity. To make a great independent blogging platform requires a mix of configuration, graphic design, and a little coding. Medium hides the technical overhead and provides you the opportunity to write amazing content without worrying about ‘how’ it’s done. I wouldn’t even think about starting an independent blogging platform until you have at least 5,000 visitors a month. The goal when starting your first blogging platform is not to monetize, is not to slam readers with ads and it’s definitely not to learn how to code. The first goal when starting your blog is to determine if anyone actually gives a sh*t about the content you write. Come to this conclusion as quickly, and painlessly as possible.
What about the money?
Notice there was no disclosure regarding income potential because that is not the focus when starting a blog. I happen to use Medium’s partner publication program which has afforded me a couple dollars a month of residual income, but it’s not enough to quit your day job. Within the 1st 30 days of writing on medium, the 3,000 views I received produced around $50 of income. Below is my stripe payout history for Medium. There is a clear relationship between my frequency of writing and the amount of the payout. Maybe 25% of my articles get ‘featured’ which will produce ~1,000 unique viewers. I think if an individual were to create 2 high quality articles per week, they could easily clear $100/month.
I really don’t think that an individual should even consider moving to an independent blogging platform (e.g. wordpress) until they consistently hit > 20,000 unique visitors per month. There was a brief period of time where I had a domain with a wordpress platform and cross published articles from medium into that domain. It was an absolute nightmare. There is so much technical debt involved with managing a medium and wordpress site concurrently. Add on additional layers of social media integration, it became a complete headache. I ditched the wordpress hosted site and just redirected educatedbutbroke.com to this medium publication. Free at last. If you’re curious, details are outlined in this article
Sustainable side hustles and avoiding burnout
The path to success is way simpler than we think
Medium without a doubt is the quickest and easiest way to launch a blog in 2020.