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Why I Write on Medium

John Doherty —  October 15, 2013
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Hi my name is John and I write on Medium, and I like it.

Before I start this post I feel the need to make that confession. Medium, if you don’t know, is the current darling of writing online. It’s the brain child of Evan Williams, the man behind Blogger and Twitter. Medium is currently invite-only, though it’s easy to get access to write if you edit someone else’s post (#protip).

I’ve been surprised by the number of professional marketers I know who have been asking “Why write on Medium? Aren’t you just building someone else’s platform?” I expected this from certain groups online, but not from the professional marketers that I know. Hence, I think it necessary to respond here, as I did over on Inbound.org about why I personally write on Medium, what I’ve seen from it, and how I plan to leverage it in the future.

Why Write?

I think of writing on Medium as thought leadership content. If you’re a company owner or an expert in a field, would you jump at the chance to write on Forbes (well, the Forbes of old maybe) or Time.com? Would you pose the same question of “but why write on there?” if you had those chances? What about the chance to write on Mashable (even if you don’t like it) or TechCrunch (once again, whether you like their content or not)? Of course you would jump at that chance and of course you wouldn’t ask me that question.

So why ask it about Medium?

I write on Medium for the following reasons:

  • To access a new (and tuned-in) audience
  • Try different types of writing that I don’t want to put here yet
  • Drive traffic to sites I care about (content strategy anyone)?

Access A New Audience

The Medium audience is an Internet savvy bunch. They’re writers, designers, marketers, brand people, product people, and even some quite influential characters like Gary V and Evan Williams (founder) hang out on there. In short, it’s the perfect target audience for startups and people involved in that industry, even tangentially.

Think back to marketing at its base. Marketing, especially in our day and age, involves meeting your target customers where they are. This is the ultimate goal because these are the people that are going to pay you, which then pays your rent and for your food. But to reach your customers by getting in front of them where they are, you have two choices (that are not mutually exclusive):

  • You write and get content placed that refers people back to your site/business
  • Others reference/recommend your business in content that they write.

Quick tangent: This is why I believe many companies are doing it wrong when they engage writers to create content to be placed on another website (like Medium). Often, the company will hire the writer to write the piece, then the company will do outreach to place it. Or, if they’re a little more savvy, they do outreach first in order to get the content idea secured and then they hire the content writer. But why stop there? If I was doing it (and I soon may), I’d hire a person who can do both the outreach and the writing. Of course, you need to qualify the places that the writers are putting content and make sure that they do it in a way that won’t get you into trouble (ie trying to “scale” the same content across many article directory websites), but I think the return would be there.

Different Types of Writing

I also write on Medium to try new content types. I have built a very marketing-focused site here. That makes sense – this is a marketing website. Building an audience focused around a topic lends itself to many challenges though, not the least being the fact that you can’t easily branch out into other types of writing. I’ve always been a writer and even still write fiction, but I don’t expose that here. I could do that on Medium, though.

If you look at the posts I’ve written on Medium, they’re about entrepreneurship, musings about life and fate, and lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years. Not all of them have worked. Check out the stats.

As you can see, some did well and others not so much. That’s kind of the point though – I can experiment with other types of writing in a low-risk environment where I can see what resonates and what doesn’t (and build some strong links while I’m at it :-)

I was intrigued by a recent post over on Buffer where Belle, their main writer now, talked about how she and Leo decided that they would experiment with different content types *on the Buffer blog*. She even points out that one of the content types they tried – personal stories – did not do very well. I think there are a few reasons for this, namely:

  • It’s not the type of content the Buffer audience is used to
  • The audience was not primed for a different type of content
  • Maybe not the kind of audience the Buffer crowd wants

Do I think people should experiment? Absolutely. The issue here isn’t Belle’s writing though. She is a phenomenal writer, one of my favorites to read these days, but they missed the target audience. If I were her, I would have put that content on a different site with an audience (like Medium) to see how it’s received. Then, if it’s received well, start putting together a strategy for how you are going to incorporate that into your own site if you decide your site is the right place for that kind of content. You should be willing to recognize that your site might not be the best place for it at the end of the day.

It All Goes Back To Your Marketing Funnel

Remember your marketing funnel? In regards to content people talk about top, middle, and bottom of funnel (T/M/BOFU), but this doesn’t just apply to content. When we take a step back and look at it from a more meta level, these sections (and let’s not forget about the post-conversion funnel too) are:

  • Top of funnel – first few touches on the site with the goal of a micro-conversion such as an email list subscribe or social media following
  • Middle of funnel – the next touches where you increasingly take them from outside interest to becoming an advocate and getting closer to buying
  • Bottom of funnel – where the conversion happens.

Medium sits at the top of the funnel for me. I don’t cross-promote (often) my Medium content on my other sites. I’ll promote them via social media, for sure, and I always want the existing audience to be interested in what has been written. That doesn’t happen, though, which is fine. You learn and you change for the next time.

A Few Medium Strategies

Medium is an interesting platform in that it has two dynamics:

  • Logged-out users see the most popular content on the homepage
  • Logged-in users see content curated by them based on categories they follow

You see, Medium is organized into categories. Some of my favorites are Architecting A Life, What I Learned Building, and Today I Learned. I’ve followed these signed in, so when I go to Medium I see this:

personalized-medium-homepage

But when I’m signed out (or incognito), this is what I would see:

logged-out-medium-homepage

There are two main strategies to get your content found directly on Medium (meaning, outside of social media and external promotion):

  • Get enough people to recommend it that it hits the homepage for logged out visitors (honestly, it only takes 4-5 to make this happen right now)
  • Put it in the most relevant popular categories (I believe you can do 3 yourself) and get others to include it in other categories as well

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you how to find the most popular categories, though. Here is a living chart of the most popular categories on Medium as of time of publishing. If someone wants to help me write a script that updates daily, I’d love your help and will gladly link to you!

Why I Write On Medium

I write on Medium because I get to experiment with new content, build links back to my sites, drive targeted traffic to side projects like HireGun, and increase my portfolio of writing. I’m widening the top of the HireGun, and this site’s, conversion funnel and playing the long game.

Medium is a platform. Others have talked about why you shouldn’t put all of your content onto someone else’s platform, which I agree with. Don’t do it with Google+, don’t do it with Myspace or Facebook, and don’t do it with Medium. We can, however, learn how to use these platforms to connect with our potential audience and build our businesses that way.

I’d love your thoughts. Or if you want to start the conversation on Twitter, tweet me at @dohertyjf.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

4 responses to Why I Write on Medium

  1. Right on man! I agree fully. That’s exactly the reason I write on Medium as well (also it’s just beautiful to write on, their editor is like a good dream)

    It’s interesting to see what takes off, what gets read the most, what gets the most recommendations etc. on a completely unbiased platform where the people have no prior knowledge of my work etc. It seems far more organic than writing topics on my blog and seeing how they are carried out. I typically write rants and general musings there.. I tried to start writing those on my personal blog but honestly they failed to get much traction at all. I feel Medium is a better ground for those sorts of posts, as it is targeted at story-driven articles.

    Fun fact on the lines of seeing how your audience interacts on Medium without any prior knowledge of you, I wrote this rant and it has a 95% read through rate, 200 reads in the past 30 days and 5 recommendations, though I wrote this post about how to learn by writing and it has had 600 reads in the past 30 days, 35 recommendations but only a 75% read through rate. It’s obviously because my first one was shorter and more story-driven but the longer one was more elaborate and valuable so it got shared more often.. just pretty interesting to see how those factors correlate.

    Good stuff man, I dig it.

  2. Fantastic!!!

    I’d never heard of Medium before today. Thanks for posting about it. I’ve now signed up and hope I get an invite soon.

    Cheers
    Morgan

  3. Hey John I appreciate the heads up on Medium. Before your post, I had not heard about the site. I’ve since checked it out and like the look and feel of the site as well as some of the content.

    In your post you state one of the reasons for writing is building links. I noticed the links in medium posts are no follow (along with no follow links in the author ‘about me’). How do you feel it helps with your SEO?

    Thanks for all the great information.