Medium, Wordpress.com and social platforms are siloes you should try avoiding
Or why and how to own the connection to your audience.
It’s fairly popular to write blog posts on Medium or WordPress.com. As I argue in my post on How to feel at home on the Internet, that’s a good thing compared to posting on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or siloes alike.
Unlike most social media platforms, blogs are largely standardized. This means you can fairly easily move your blog from one platform to another, should you ever want to or need to. The thoughts and things you have shared won’t die or become irrelevant along with the platform. Even if Wordpress.com or Medium happen to suspend your account, something Twitter has been doing a lot lately, you can at least export your blog in a way understandable by another platform. You get to own your content on a blogging platform. But what about your relation with your readers and followers? Do you own that too? This is where Wordpress.com and Medium aren’t good options.
Owning the connection to your audience
If—nay—when Twitter shuts down or becomes irrelevant, you won’t be able to export and import your followers to your new chirp-site. Heck, you can’t even move your followers if you create a new account on Twitter itself. The same is true for nearly all social media platforms. The ethical socials of Mastodon and micro.blog are rare exceptions to this rule though their processes to retain your followers aren’t easily discoverable. Wordpress.com and Medium have unfortunately borrowed the anti-user trick from social platforms to lock-in your followers.
Now, both platforms do provide email subscription options for your blog, meaning there’s an email followers list you can export any time. But it isn’t presented as a first class option to visitors. For example, for people logged into WordPress.com, the platform replaces the default email option with a “Follow” button, which is a separate list. Despite being the blog owner, you can’t export this list and so those followers are tied to your blog being on WordPress forever.
Medium, on the other hand, displays but a small icon-only email subscription button besides the larger “Follow” one, which leads to much the same issue. Even if people click the email button, Medium asks them to create an account, something that isn’t really required for this functionality.
Essentially, you’re semi-locked-in with regards to owning your relation with your followers when you use WordPress and Medium. I would know because I have my nearly 10K followers locked on Medium since three years now. It gets worse. Thanks to Medium’s infamous algorithm, almost all of these followers literally never see anything I publish on the platform. For the same reason, posting to alert my Medium followers to subscribe to my new blog didn’t work.
This is why I’m now wholly invested in having a direct relationship with my readers based on open technologies that allow portability: Email and RSS. It’s also partially what made Substack my blogging platform of choice since it allows people to follow my blogs using those two methods only. There’s no such thing as a “Substack account follow”, meaning my audience isn’t tied to the platform. Should I want or need to move my blog to another platform tomorrow, I can carry not just my content but also my current audience of about 1,300 email subscribers and an estimated 100 RSS followers. Email lists can be exported and imported in a few clicks, and RSS feed links can be redirected in a few more.
What to do
So what can you do if you’re blogging on Medium or WordPress.com and want to own your relationship with your audience? Since I advocate not discouraging people from blogging on “non-ideal” platforms, I want to provide you with not just one solution but a few options, each of which could solve the problem for you.
Move your blog to Substack, write.as, Ghost or any other platform which provides full audience portability. I recommend Substack because it’s the path of least resistance but other options are fine too.
Continue publishing on WordPress but move your blog from being hosted on WordPress.com to any other easy to use hosting provider to avoid audience lock-in.
Note: There’s an issue with content formatting when moving from a WordPress blog regardless of where its hosted. Even though WordPress is open source and widely used, complex blog post layouts & formatting created with its new Block Editor won’t import reliably into other blogging platforms. So don’t use fancy formatting and presentation tools in your posts, unless you know they work well on other platforms too, to make your blog easily portable in the future.
Keep your Medium blog but not as your primary one. Copy over your blog from Medium as in point #1, and then crosspost articles to your Medium profile using their easy Import tool. This way you can still benefit from Medium’s network effects—if that somehow works for you unlike in my case—while pointing people and search engines to your main blog as the prime location.
If you need help moving your blog from Wordpress.com or Medium, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to guide you. I know some of my friends have blogs on these platforms so if you’re reading this, you know what to do!