My Failed Month on Medium

Failure Inc

Funny story: not long ago our CFO at Copyblogger went rogue on us. He published a post on our private company Google+ community telling us how much he loved Medium.

Within minutes we were roasting him.

His crime? Digital sharecropping. Sean is an oddball among oddballs, but this was out of character. Did he get a hold of some bath salts? Why in the world would he suggest that we create content on rented land?

Sean, true to nature, held his ground, and even published a post on Medium. Then his love for the platform quieted down.

Close the book, move on. Not so fast.

The half-baked plan

Somewhere Gary Vaynerchuck (perhaps not in this book but in this interview) said Medium was a social platform to pay attention to. He’s giving it his best college try by publishing content on it.

You’ll probably even see one of his posts in the top 100.

As part sociologist, part cultural anthropologist, part sucker for a challenge I wanted to test the waters. See if there is anything to this Medium.

I planned to spend a month there. Publish some posts. But one ground rule:

  1. Do not share what I’m publishing on Medium on any of my other social sites. Any traction I get should come from inside Medium.

I hardly got off the ground before I called it quits.

The Good

True, writing on Medium is a sublime experience. The page you edit is the same page you see.

And the image capabilities are sublime, too.

However, formatting is limited. The bullet points are ugly. The bullet points were ugly until Marcin Wichary fixed them. After that, I think it goes down hill.

The Bad

You can’t follow anyone. You just follow Collections, which are a list of Medium posts curated by an editor.

Once you publish a post you can submit it to a Collection. The larger the collection, the better.

More than likely you’ll get accepted by the smaller collections. The large ones, not so much.

Yet, try to find Collections to follow or submit to. That’s not easy. Neither is search (because it doesn’t exist).

It took me a few minutes to find this page:


Those are the collections I follow.

Common content on Medium

There is a large community of writers, and one of the larger collections is for writers, but after that, it favors science, technology, business, design, and code.

You’ve got your anomalies like “Don’t date a girl who travels” or “When your mother says she’s fat.”

Both are in the top 100.

And unfortunately the same posts that were on the Top 100 list two months ago are still on it today. Just in a different order.

This is from the Top 100 on January, 22, 2014.

Home Page Top 100



What I published on Medium

Granted, the four posts I published were not original to Medium. I lifted them from my blog. This is not an uncommon practice. Many posts you see on Medium provide links back to the original blog post.

Medium the company is happy to do this. They don’t care so much about original content. The community, however, might have a different idea.

As you can see, my Read ratio is pretty high.

Medium Stats


But my Views are low. Which is important.

Those posts with high views also resulted in Recommendations. But not very many. Maybe I’m not as great a writer as I thought. Maybe the readers want original.

Poor social proof signals

Look at the actual post and you have no clue how many recommendations a post has.

Medium Recommended



That Further Reading feature at the top indicates related articles other people recommend. The more of those, the better.

But how many people recommended this post? Don’t know.

Don’t get me started on the comments feature

This method is supposed to be superior to traditional blog comments (which is not hard to do), but, alas, fails.

An innovation, where you can comment on a specific paragraph in the post via Twitter, is a pain for anyone who wants to read the comments.

This from the current number one Top 100 post “Don’t date a girl who travels“:

Medium Comments


Aren’t you curious what people wrote?

Keep in mind, anything over four comments is a lot of comments. And this is a short post. But you’ll need to open each comment to read them.


Why I quit after four posts

None of my posts made it into a large collection. That might have changed my destiny, and my view on Medium. Perhaps I’d been willing to deal with the shortcomings then.

We’ll never know.

My hope is the editors were so busy and deluged by posts that they never saw mine. More than likely they simply didn’t like what they read.

Fair enough.

Even though we live in a world where the gates have been stormed, you still need to write to your audience. Rejection is still real.

The future of Medium

Medium is just another social platform. The content being published there (outside of what Matter — who Medium bought — is doing) is unoriginal and uninspiring, complete with a vibrant echo chamber. (Posts about Medium do really well on Medium.)

About the only encouraging thing I can say about Medium is that when it comes to editing, Medium is an improvement over Tumblr (Ghost even missed this). After that, it’s simply in its shadow.

Share your thoughts. I’d love someone to skewer my half-baked experiment.

Image source: Failure, Inc.


  1. says

    Never tried to publish on Medium but trying to find new posts to read felt impossible. Completely agree on that point. I really wanted to love it – I just didn’t know what to search for. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of really good stuff buried in there. So beautiful, so readable, so… lonely. I do wish they would emphasize content discovery.

  2. says

    Yeah, I’ve published a few posts on Medium. I like the experience of writing there. The font is pretty. The photo thingy is pretty. But I found it really hard to find collections I wanted to post to. Didn’t feel much of a sense of community. Definitely got the echo chamber feel. Good observation, as half-baked as it may be:)

  3. says

    I’ve been curious about Medium (mostly because of Gary V’s recommendation – I did enjoy his posts there btw). Thanks for doing the grunt work to check it out! Even though it is pretty I’ll probably pass on it, too.

  4. says

    Loooove it.

    I did some similar research when I wrote that ^ post and always got a kick out of the mission statements. All these platforms trying to be different and original and it’s such crap, haha.

    We use WordPress because it’s unifying!

  5. says

    Somehow I had not heard of this new shiny object, Chief.

    I may do my own experiment on Medium with my byob blog just to see how it works.

    If this meat turns out to be “medium rare”, I’ll spit it out, as I like mine “medium well.” 😉

    This will be on the grill no longer than four weeks.

  6. says

    I’ve got multiple blogs, but I’m a sucker for great typography. So much like you, I kept eyeing Medium, and wondering about it. Should I post there? WHY? Why not on Google+? Why not a guest post on another blog? I could never answer the “why?” question satisfactorily.

    After reading your post, I can happily forget Medium, without wondering whether I’m missing out. Thank you. :-)

  7. says

    I use Medium. For the posts I don’t necessarily want my clients to see about what it’s like to be a freelancer.

    Think you can get the double meaning there in that it’s the place I go when I don’t want anyone I actually know to read what I read.

    But maybe that’s the allure? Finally, there’s a place like the old school where you can go and wrote your crazy opinions and not have to worry about it being neat, tidy and commercial.

  8. says

    While I agree that Medium could use some improving and lacks a lot when it comes to usability, I did notice a flaw in your experiment. You are assuming too much of Medium and expecting it to be somehow greater than other systems that already exist. If you were to try this same experiment on a WordPress blog – even one that you host and own – you would have similar results. Go ahead and try writing 4 blog posts without any outside promotion. Even on, you will be lucky to get 5 hits. You can hardly expect Medium to be any better, especially as a new site.

    • says

      That’s true, and I’m aware of that. But inside Medium it’s an ecosystem already alive. WP is not a social site.

      I confess I didn’t give my profile or content enough time to gain traction, but that wasn’t the main beef with the site. It was the functions as a user — reader or publisher. But mostly the user. That I bailed early.

      It takes time to build a community inside a social site, as it did on Twitter, as it did on Google+. Medium is not a ghost town, and it has advantages going for it. Improve the things I talked about and you’re building a better product.

      At this point I should probably point out that Medium acknowledge my complaints on Twitter. Happy to see they are listening.

  9. says

    I’m tempted to syndicate posts from my self-hosted blog to Medium, but the barriers to entry seem unnecessarily high. I suspect that it’s not the right platform for a programmer who publishes science fiction with a small press who’s trying to find an audience. Furthermore, even if Medium users see my posts, I have no reason to expect them to follow a link back to my blog.

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