February 17, 2014

The Allure Of Medium And Svbtle

I’ve struggled with Medium and Svbtle for some time. Not with the actual services though, their interfaces and stability is excellent and I’ve just got good things to say about the execution. Both services are home to great content, I subscribe to the featured feed on Svbtle and follow several collections on Medium.

Medium screenshot
Medium screenshot

What I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is what these services mean for someone like me. I really don’t need another place to post content, I’ve got this site and a Swedish one too, along with whatever side project that I’m meddling with at the time. Publishing my words were never an issue, and I’d imagine it’s not much of an issue for anyone these days, with tools like WordPress.com and Tumblr at our disposal. Blogging solved the accessible publishing platform issue a long time ago.

Yet there’s no doubt Medium and Svbtle are alluring. When using these services the content look good, everything is really clean. There are no nasty widgets or crappy free themes to wade through. In terms of freedom to publish, less can sometimes be more. With Medium and Svbtle, you’re just writing and publishing.

I’m curious to see what sort of traction the type of content I’m producing could get on Medium and Svbtle. The former is often said to be writer friendly in terms of getting eyeballs on your words. This is probably true, although it might not be as the service grows. Both Medium and Svbtle are seen as places for quality content, cleverly constructed towards this by being invite only to begin with. Both are open now, which means you can get just about anything on there. Sooner or later there’ll be spammers and linkfarms based on both these services, I’m sure, if they’re not already there. It matters less to me, and to this argument, at this point.

So if it’s easy to get readers on Medium, shouldn’t I be publishing there? I don’t publish on TDH.me to make money, it’s more a matter of getting words out there, and raise awareness for my products (mostly books – see what I did there?). I could just as well do that on Medium, right?

Right, and wrong. I’ll no doubt try some things on Medium because I think it’s an interesting platform, but I won’t put the bulk of my writing there until I can own my content. The fact that Medium can use my words in different ways (read the terms of service, people) matters little in this aspect, but not owning my URLs does. Since I can’t connect a domain to my Medium content, this means that if/when Medium goes out of business, or I just want to move elsewhere, I’ll loose all those links and potential traffic. It’ll be like starting over on whatever new place I choose, because it is in effect starting over. That’s not acceptable to me, which is also why no content from me on Medium will be exclusive for the service. Not counting freelance articles published by others, obviously.

Svbtle screenshot
Svbtle screenshot

Svbtle is better in that aspect. You can connect your own domain and thus it’s a safer place to publish since you can just point said domain elsewhere if you want to, not losing traffic. This is hopefully something Medium will introduce sooner rather than later. On the other hand, I doubt Svbtle will keep up with Medium in terms of growth, which might mean less eyeballs due to the sheer size difference of the services in the future. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong here, I’d love to in fact because I like the basis of the Svbtle network and its existence. I’m more dubious about Medium, because although they’re making a great product it feels less about you as the user, and more about the product as a whole, which no doubt is the way to profit.

Of course, I’m suspicious of both these services, as you should you too. They’re free, which means you’re not the customer at this time, you’re the product. This might very well pan out to be something good, if it means that Medium’ll send your content to magazines and make you money, and Svbtle adds premium services to finance its services, thus making you the customer rather than the product. There are so many ways this could go, and neither service is as potentially evil as Facebook or Twitter.

In the end I’ll dabble with both, I’m sure. It just makes sense to me to play around, because I enjoy publishing. I doubt I’m the target audience though, because it’s easy enough for me to launch a WordPress site that looks and feels the way I want, given my background as a designer, and being something of a WordPress expert. Hell, I could do this very site on Tumblr in four hours (and yes, I’ve written a book on that too), so I don’t need neither Medium nor Svbtle.

But I like them. I feel their allure, and just like the rest of you I might get drawn in. The important thing is to remember why you’re letting yourself get drawn in, and to understand what that means.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.