It’s not a publishing platform.

(View this story on Graphite Publishing as well)

As much as I love Medium (loved?), there are growing problems with the platform. Most of these problems seem rooted in a lack of direction. When the direction a company takes a business must yield 10X returns or more on investment dollars, it’s understandable that the company may make some strange moves. Medium, driven largely by its need to finally figure out a permanent sustainability model, has pivoted more times than Tim Duncan in the post. And now, the platform is so cluttered with calls to action and paywalls that it’s become far less of a writing community and much more of a social network with premium subscriptions.

When it comes to writing, the first thing anyone should do is make sure they own their content. Medium promises this is true, but how can you really know? Can you audit their database to verify content is deleted when you delete it? What happens if Medium locks you out of your account? Can you access your writing then? What happens if you write for a publication that decides to stop using Medium? Is the writing yours, the publication’s or Medium’s? Sure, there are plenty of words on plenty of terms of condition pages to help answer these questions, but wouldn’t you rather just know that you own your content?

So, let’s operate under the assumption that you don’t truly own your writing on Medium. That’s OK. You don’t actually own anything you post on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. Again, they will tell you that you do, but you don’t. Yet, you use those sites not because you’re looking for content ownership, but often because you’re looking for content distribution. Social media companies are all about expanding your network, whether that’s for your writing, for your work, or for your personal life. Used right, they are a tool that is perfectly suited to help boost your presence.

Medium is no different.

Using Medium as your primary blog is a mistake. Graphite still links to Medium for its blog content, but the official Graphite blog has moved to Graphite Publishing. Why does the Graphite marketing site still link to Medium? Two reasons: 1) Graphite Publishing is still nascent and I’d like to get custom domains working or self-hosting documented before linking everyone there and 2) Medium is still a viable distribution channel. You’ll notice, The Lead, is not on a custom domain on Medium like many other publications. That’s because Medium is a channel not a source.

Leveraging the distribution channel offered by Medium makes sense. It makes the same sense as leveraging Twitter or Facebook. Amplify your words, but don’t give them away. Retain ownership by creating your content elsewhere but syndicating to Medium.

If you tweet links or drop links on Facebook or put them on LinkedIn, then you should absolutely be putting that content on Medium as well. It’s a great source for pushing content to a wider audience (in theory), but just don’t lock yourself into creating, saving, collaborating, and publishing on Medium. Remember, it’s not a publishing platform, it’s a social media site.

Graphite Docs and Graphite Publishing have either previously experimented with Medium integrations or plan to. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see in either app.