The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Content Ownership

A lot of folks I admire have posted content on Medium in recent months. Medium is a nice looking tool, another creation of the wonder pairing of Ev Williams and Biz Stone. The focus of this service is on sharing ideas, a publishing tool that houses your content and enables better interaction.

Mr Williams describes it this way:

More concretely, Medium is a system for reading and writing.

Sounds nice. It also sounds a lot like the Internet in general …

The question that must be asked then, is this: “Should I give someone else control of my writing?”

Control

Here’s what I don't like about Medium. I'm putting my hard work, my words, into someone else’s hands. Ev and Biz have shown they can build amazing services, but they haven't proven to build services that are profitable.

This criticism is not only directed at Medium. Svbtle and other networks (platforms?) like it are the same. Services like Twitter and Tumblr fit this idea as well. I use both, but one is used more for content consumption and the other is simply a mirror of the content I publish on my blog that I have full control over.

In 2013, it’s now very evident that when your content resides within a free service, you're ceding control and ownership to someone else. Is using a service like Medium better than publishing your own content on a site you control?

I believe the answer is no, but let’s consider a few factors.

Quality

Tools do not make the writer. But it appears that Medium has this goal in mind. Ev has this to say on his Welcome to Medium post:

Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced.

I appreciate the idea of tools that make collaboration in writing more simple. That’s why I'm excited for Editorially. The difference there is that when completed, you put your work, your content, somewhere else. That's not how Medium works.

Perhaps there is some editorial aspect to the service. Without having used it, I can't say for sure (I have seen some poor writing there, along with some good). But even if there is something that aids in improving the quality of one’s writing, is that worth the price of giving control of the content to someone else?

And the big question is what happens to your content when Medium is sold to some larger entity. That's been the model of Ev and Biz, so until they show differently, that is what I'll expect in Medium’s future.

Complexity

Many have turned to hosted publishing options because of the ease of use. Services like Tumblr make it very easy to post (or repost) content, but they also take care of the technical details like databases and web servers. This is an attractive aspect for people who need less complexity in their lives, not more.

But the question is the same. Is this is enough of an advantage to put years of content into a service someone else controls?

Bigger Audience

Last, I've heard some acquaintances mention that part of the allure of using Medium is getting a piece of writing in front of a larger group of people than using their own blog would. Without seeing statistics, it’s difficult to know if this is accurate.

And when considering investing in a service, you have to think long term. If Medium has success, with thousands, or even millions of users, will this advantage exist? Does using a Blogger site give someone a bigger audience to start?

I see this as factor not even worth consideration when deciding whether or not to use a service like Medium. It's the shiny and new right now, but that fades.


Overall, the value is not there. There are other ways of improving the quality of your writing that allow you to still maintain control of your work. We should all be leery of using free services and expecting to have that control, or to be anything other than the commodity being sold in such a service.

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