I have been watching with interest as large publishers continue to leave Medium. The reasons given vary, but ultimately it comes down to results. People are just not seeing the same returns on their work there. This forces them to take a closer look at Medium’s evolving model and they don’t like it.
I like the logic of their reaction. People move to platforms to build value for their effort. When things aren’t working out as expected, it follows that people would leave. The sobering up period after “free success” often gives people a moment of clarity before they find the next platform that promises to give massive benefits with less work.
If you are an author who is in this sober moment, please consider your platform wisely before going all-in on it. Your writing is your’s, it is how you get noticed. It is one thing to let someone use it if it benefits you. It is another thing entirely to sign it away wholesale for the benefit of a platform.
So how are you supposed to make a decision?
I enjoy this quote that is attributed to Bill Gates about platforms.
“A platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it, exceeds the value of the company that creates it. Then it’s a platform.”– Bill Gates (via @chamath), from Stratechery Daily Update 2017-01-12
Are the combined legions of people using Facebook able to extract more value from Facebook than Facebook? No.
If this is your main consideration when choosing a publishing solution, you will see your choices begin to melt away. Suddenly the Facebooks, Mediums and Pulses don’t seem like that good of an option. They are laid bare as what they really are, advertising platforms that you are feeding with your own work.
I want people to get the most value from the least amount of work. That it the promise of technology. The problem is that the moment after you hit publish on your brilliant idea it is suddenly the brilliant idea of ten thousand other people. This means your slice of success just got a lot smaller. Not surprisingly, platform companies have figured out brilliant ways to monetize that.
Get in early and you will probably see some benefits, but come late to the party and you will be forced to compete. This is exactly what these platforms want. To drive down the value of your work. That way you produce more and they can wring more value from you.
Sure you can try a platform for a while and then take your ball and go home, but that requires hard work on your part, especially if you have gone deep on a platform that does not allow for easy export of your content. What’s worse, sometimes a platform or parts of it can disappear entirely, leaving people scrambling to reclaim their content with no easy solution.
If you are coming late to a platform, save yourself the effort. Take ownership of your work and find yourself a solid hosted software solution like WordPress. Then decide where YOU want your content to live. It might appear to be more work at first, but in the end, if you are serious about an online presence, you will see these “platforms” for what they are.
Mirages that deliver less and less while requiring more control over larger amounts of your effort.