Yesterday, I did something pretty drastic: I deleted the last 28 articles I’d published to Medium. These were longform pieces — most between 1,500 and 2,500 words — that required a lot of research and labor to write. They appeared first on my Substack newsletter as a benefit for paid subscribers, and then after about a month I’d republish them here.
My goals were twofold: First, I wanted to generate some additional revenue through Medium’s metered paywall. Second, I hoped to drive signups to my newsletter through a call-to-action at the bottom of the articles. I basically wanted to leverage Medium’s supposed network effects to widen my audience.
But the experiment failed. When I recently looked at the analytics across all 28 articles, I realized that not a single one had attracted over 1,000 views. And most of the traffic came from outside sources, meaning Medium was doing very little to generate new readers.
It wasn’t for lack of quality; after all, most of these articles were “chosen for further distribution,” an indication that someone who works at Medium had read the articles and wanted to expose them to more readers. The platform also put me on some kind of recommended user list that generated several hundred new followers per week. In the past year, I’ve grown from 9,700 followers to 12,900. Despite this rapid growth, I saw no correlating rise in traffic to my content.
As for the monetization? I never received more than $11 in a single month. I had hoped that this number would grow as I amassed a larger back catalogue of high quality content, but each month was as disappointing as the last. Let me put it another way: If I add just 10 paying subscribers to my Substack newsletter, I generate more money in a single month than I did on Medium over the last year.
So yesterday I pulled the plug. I concluded that I was providing more value for Medium than it was providing for me, and that I needed to double down on growing the newsletter. So I deleted all 28 articles.
Do I have thoughts on why Medium isn’t doing a great job of distributing content? Definitely. But that’s the kind of analysis I’m going to save for my Substack. If you want to follow along, you can sign up here.