The Pros and Cons of Brand Publishing on Medium
By George Nguyen on October 2, 2018
Hosting your own digital publication as a subdomain of your company's website is standard practice in the business of content marketing, and for good reason. You want an authoritative space to share and organize all of your content that allows you to speak directly to your customers and stay consistent with the message and image of your main brand. However, getting people to discover that content can be a tall order. It can be hard to reach new audiences when they always need to enter into your brand's "home" to hear what you have to say.
That's why companies like Square, Sweetgreen, and AirBnB are publishing on the popular community blogging platform Medium and bringing their content to audiences that are actively seeking new stories. So what is Medium, exactly? A platform? A publisher? A CMS? And most importantly, is it actually the right channel to publish or distribute your branded content?
Like its name implies, the answer is somewhere in the middle. Medium positions its model as an online publishing platform and content network that is committed to letting readers control and customize their experience. Described as both "Twitter for long-form content" and a hybrid player in the new landscape of social journalism, the site is intriguing to marketers looking to grow the readership of their content. However, some brands may still be wary about giving up control to a third-party platform.
Before you embrace Medium either as your primary distribution channel or a tool for content syndication, there are some pros and cons that you'll need to weigh against your content goals.
Reach and Convenience
Image attribution: Nicole Honeywill
Convenience might as well be Medium's middle name. The platform has a built-in readership of 60 million monthly users, according to the company. Additionally, if your brand already has a verified Twitter account, your followers on that platform will automatically follow you on Medium as well (given that they're also Medium users). This integration is hugely beneficial if you've invested time in gaining a Twitter following and lets you start publishing to the platform without having to build an audience from square one.
Publishing on Medium only becomes more tempting when you factor in that it's free and that it has an intuitive, minimalist interface. On top of that, the company has a mobile app that provides audiences with an additional way to consume more of your digital content, a huge advantage for marketers as smartphone use continues to rise.
The Control Factor
If you're used to creating and delivering content via a dedicated blog, this is where you'll have to make your compromises-you just won't have as much control or flexibility. That's not necessarily a knock on Medium, though; the same goes for any platform that's not owned by your brand.
There is only one type of content on Medium: a post. You can embed other media into it, but at the end of the day, it's still a post and relies mainly on that initial discovery moment within a user's feed to get attention. If your brand goals are to extend the longevity of your content and develop a familiar, vested interest with readers through things like frequent evergreen content or periodically updating larger assets and educational resources, a Medium post just isn't the place for them. You'll need a full-fledged web page to host it as well as a website to direct visitors to to really extend the life of your content ecosystem.
Medium is one of your best bets for republishing content. You can breathe new life into an old piece or get the most out of a recently published article by making it available on their platform. One might assume that the downside of content syndication (anywhere, not just on Medium) is cannibalizing your own search rankings. Medium has already taken care of these considerations by including a migration tool, an import tool, and a WordPress plugin so that search engines can determine the original source of the content and index appropriately.
Community: Exposure and Engagement
Image attribution: Hello I'm Nik
Even if your content is stellar, few brand blogs are bustling hubs of discussion. One of the main factors holding your content back could be the platform it's presented on: your company's website. It's simply not where most people go to engage in that way.
By contrast, Medium positions itself as a hybrid content host and social media forum, allowing readers to interact with your brand content through recommendations, responses, and highlights.
- Recommendations: These serve as an endorsement. When users recommend one of your articles, that piece of content will be displayed in the feeds of those who follow that particular user, increasing your organic reach.
- Responses: This is Medium's commenting system, which improves on the traditional comment thread by displaying responses on both the article as well as on the author's profile, keeping users accountable for their words and promoting a troll-free community.
- Highlights: Readers can annotate parts of a post to show the author and other readers which excerpts made an impact on them. This can provide social proof for your article and help inform future content ideas.
One of the primary reasons you'd want to publish or syndicate your content on Medium is to market your brand to a bigger audience and take advantage of another avenue that could attract readers to your main site. If your content is compelling enough to capture readers' interest, then Medium might just help you achieve your goals. However, there are some big limitations to be aware of if you're considering Medium as the primary vehicle for your content marketing.
If you're used to depending on lead generation tools like landing pages, gated content, or pop-ups, you'll find yourself woefully ill-equipped. One technique you can still put to use, though, is a newsletter sign-up form, which is embeddable on your Medium blog posts thanks to Upscribe.
Medium is great at generating backlinks and fostering engagement with your readership-both of which may help your content's search rankings. Beyond optimizing for a keyword, structuring your content, and crafting your descriptions, there's not much more you can do on the platform. Medium does not offer custom domains, and URL structure customization is limited as well.
Medium's stats include basic insights into your views, reads, and fans, with traffic breakdowns according to referrers and reader interests. While that information is useful, it cannot replace the granularity of a full marketing analytics solution.
Primary Publishing Platform versus Content Syndicator
The cons of using Medium as a primary platform for brand publishing may seem quite staggering at this point, but it all depends on your brand's specific content marketing goals. There may come a time when your brand is willing to forego lead generation tools and owning its own content in favor of connecting with Medium's audience. Perhaps you lack the resources to stand up an owned-domain content destination, but you're still interested in exploring what benefits content marketing can bring. In this case, Medium may act as a helpful jumping off point that gives you the ability to distribute content and maintain a brand voice before investing in your own site.
While there is still a use case for making Medium your exclusive publishing platform, remember: every time someone clicks through to your articles from a search engine results page, your brand appears as a subdomain under Medium. And, if the platform eventually goes, your content will go with it. For larger scale, enterprise brands looking to publish frequent, high volumes of content, you likely want to keep your brand publication within your main domain.
As a platform for content syndication, on the other hand, republishing on Medium will yield you all of its benefits without any of the sacrifices: you get to store and curate your content on your main website without cannibalizing its SEO, and you'll have access to your audience across multiple platforms.
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Featured image attribution: Trust Tru Katsande