Why We Moved Our Blog To Medium

We published our first blog article a little more than a year ago, going on to publish more than 20 articles since then. Unlike most business blogs, we never used a content-management system (CMS). Instead, our blog articles were published using the same static site generator — HarpJS — that powers the Handsontable website. One of the reasons for not using a CMS is that we are a relatively small team. And our intention has always been to focus on our customers and our product.

Although most content-management systems are quite uncomplicated to set up, they do still need to be modified to match the design of the rest of the website. And in the hands of a good web developer, this too would be an undemanding task. But HarpJS also has basic blogging capabilities, so our reasoning was: why add another tool when the one we are already using can just as easily get the job done?

In hindsight, our reasoning is still sound, but it did not take into account the challenges that using a static site generator present. Especially when adding new content to a website on a regular basis.

The challenges of our current system

HarpJS is a great tool, but it is definitely not suited to blogs with a regular publishing schedule. There is no visual editor, so all posts have to be written using raw HTML and CSS. And you have to get the post right the first time, since making changes is anything but painless. Fixing an error in a post means making changes in the file, which then needs to be committed, pushed to the develop branch, merged to the master branch, and only then published.

While almost anyone can publish a blog post using a CMS, our blog posts required the involvement of a professional developer.

Other limitations include the fact that managing different authors is difficult, while it is impossible for them to contribute directly to the blog. Not forgetting that all the extra images and static files required for blog posts are making our repository unwieldy.

Finding a solution

Finding problems is easy. Critics — both professional and the armchair variety — do it all the time, without much encouragement. Finding solutions often requires more effort. Fortunately for us, Medium presented an ideal solution: a ready-made publishing platform that is also a network. As described by Medium founder, Ev Williams, it is:

More than a network of thinkers, though, Medium is a network of thought. Connecting people together increases their knowledge and capabilities. Connecting ideas together increases their value, as well.

The challenge for any business blog is reaching the right audience, and being discoverable. And our audience shouldn’t only be our customers, but people who share the same vision, aspirations, and interests that we do. We believe that Medium will give us easier access to our ideal audience, while also making it easier for them to engage with us. Because business blogging again isn’t only about sharing your ideas, but about engaging with those that it resonates with.

Not all of our blog content will be moving to Medium, and our customers can still expect to find technical articles, product updates, and other business announcements at handsontable.com. But our ideas relating to business and startups will be shared on Medium.

What we hope to achieve through Medium

We know that Medium has a large audience, and we know that they are always looking for new content. By sharing valuable content, we hope to not only reach them, but to actually build a community with them. And with this community we hope to not only exchange ideas and opinions, but also to receive constructive inputs that challenge our own thoughts.

We believe being a market leader isn’t only about being good at what you do, but also about being willing to share your experiences and knowledge with others. And about getting other thought leaders to share their own experiences and knowledge with your audience. Our current system is not suited to accommodating guest authors, but Medium is, and we intend to invite guest authors to contribute to our network.

With Medium we also look forward to being able to react quickly in our posts, and to being able to change any content easily if necessary. Again, something that isn’t possible with our current system.

The disadvantages of Medium

We stated earlier that Medium was the ideal solution. And it is. What it isn’t, though, is the perfect solution. Some of these disadvantages include:

  • Not being able to subscribe readers to our newsletter.
  • Having limited control over layout and structure. Medium does afford us some formatting controls, but the underlying structure is controlled by Medium, and can change with little notice.
  • We end up promoting the Medium brand and domain over our own.
  • Their business-model is still evolving. Medium recently switched from being ad-driven, to now offering some member-only content. This means they (Medium) can make money off of our content, but also presents the risk of them eventually becoming a member-only site.

What’s next?

In some ways our move to Medium is experimental. Over the next six months we plan on being very active, publishing new content to Medium, and fully engaging with our audience. At the end of this period we will then analyse our performance, and access how it relates to our goals. And we look forward to sharing our observations and conclusions with you.

Stay tuned!