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The End of Custom Domains on Medium

Is there a fence?

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UPDATE March, 15th 2021: This article is outdated, since custom domains are back on Medium. However, I still consider my opinions here true for what was before Medium change of course in the last months (and some of them still true nowadays).

Once upon a time, Medium let you have a custom domain. That feature is no more available, and it may have reasons that have nothing to do with tech.

Custom domains are available on most blogging platforms. They help the author or publication identity, SEO, and independence.

What is true for authors, is even more true for publications, which usually gather more authors around their brand, and have to deal with more traffic.

Letting users have a custom domain is not a tech problem, especially for a company like Medium. It could be just an extra fee for extra work.

But the reason why custom domains are no more available on Medium is especially clear seen changes over the years.

The Google juice

Without a custom domain, the Google juice stay in the Medium domain, growing its authority.

They sell you that this is good for you. The truth is that Medium grows, also fed by your stories, and your profile sinks even deeper. The Google juice is redistributed on what Medium pushes.

But this is only part of the equation.

The fence

Once your stories are on Medium, moving them has drawbacks.

Suppose you have a successful story on Medium, with several referrals. Export it to another platform and you’ll break the url (the web address). The moment you move the story, you break all the links. The moment you republish your story, Google decides what’s the original version — independently of the canonical url — and chances are that Medium has a golden pass for that.

Your good story is locked in. Maybe successful on Medium because of Medium. But while Medium can forget you, you can’t forget them.

Having your custom domain could just mask the switch of the platform behind.

And Medium obviously doesn’t like it.

Identities. Or lack of them.

It’s hard to have an identity on Medium.

You don’t have a customizable profile. On the contrary, you have a useless list of latest.

Your reputation counts nothing for their algorithms. You may have dozens of successful and appreciated stories on your back, and your next one gets ten views.

Publications have very limited tools and layout options. They cannot even decently newsletter you, on the contrary of what Medium likes to do on an hourly basis.

The lack of custom domains just fits in the strategy. Getting stories from you, and growing Medium. Stories, not authors.

Reasonable. Medium is a company. Not a non-profit.

They’re interested in the Medium identity, which is already quite clear and strong. They’re interested in some of your stories, not your identity. They don’t prevent your growth. They’re just not interested in it. They’ll polish the font of Medium collections ten times, but will never let you have a custom profile nor will spend a second on it.

Medium growth and strong identity may seem good for publications and authors too but this is just the case of popular names. For the others it’s just the contrary; there’re crushed by a strong Medium identity and everything that Medium pushes.

What’s this “Medium” thing?

Badri Sunderarajan expressed it so well that I’ll leave his words intact:

“One can’t really say “Here, look at my website” if it’s medium.com/something; the perception will be more like “Here, look at this publication that I have on Medium”. And people end up asking “What’s this Medium? How does it work?” rather than asking about your publication itself.”

Also,

“nowadays, when I tell people about my Medium publication, their reaction is “oh — but don’t they ask you to pay?””

Medium identity is transferred to your identity.

You’re not an author.com and your publication is not a publication.com. Just medium.com/something.

So?

Medium is still the best “platform” (I’d say community) around. No doubts about that.

Just don’t be fooled. They’re minding their business. Only their business and their editorial ambitions, despite any other word you may hear from them.

Your identity as a writer or publication won’t be supported by Medium.

They give you a community and maybe a little audience, and that’s a big deal. But they ask you a toll beyond the subscription fee. Sooner or later, you’ll need to take care of your writing outside Medium.

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Unofficial insights on blogging.

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Vico Biscotti

Vico Biscotti

Engineer, rebooting from crash. Jack of all mistakes. viconotes.com vicoxl.com

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