In my first article of this year, I mentioned that I would start posting articles only on my personal website (the one on which you are reading this). In effect, I am abandoning all the other platforms on which I have written before. The only exceptions are those for which I continue to write commissioned or pitched pieces.
The reason I gave was that I wanted to consolidate all of my content onto one platform, which I think will be easier to grow. But I did not explain why, out of the options I have, I chose this website to be that platform. Medium, where I currently have 171 articles dating back to 2014, stood out as a strong alternative I should have given more thought.
In this article, therefore, I will explain why I did not choose Medium to be the home of my content going forward. From the outset, I must make it clear that this is not an attack against Medium. Neither is it a recommendation that anyone else should make the choice I made. It is merely an exploration of the factors that influenced my decision.
I first encountered medium in 2015, when I read an article shared by someone I cannot remember, titled “Everything is yours, everything is not yours.” Discounting the power of the story itself (you can read it for yourself), I instantly fell in love with the way it was laid out. It was simple and clean, with a hyper-readable font, excellent image placement and no ads.
Initially, I thought Medium was a curated publication. However, when I learnt that it wasn’t, and that I could also use it, I created an account and started writing. The text editor on Medium is simple but powerful, with intuitive options for image placement. You see the article, while writing it, exactly as it will appear to readers once published.
Moreover, Medium is built like a social network for writers. It is a great place to discover and engage with content from a large community of writers. Some are long and some short. Some are deep, and some are flippant. Some sing with the clarity of angels singing (to borrow an expression from Jeff Bezos) while others go down like bean-starved githeri.
Soon after I created my account, I imported all the articles I had put up on other platforms, like Google’s Blogger (on which I created my very first blog in 2013, when it was still called Blogspot) and WordPress. This is how my 2014 articles ended up on Medium. Both of these old blogs are, incidentally, still up, although I intend to pull them down soon. For now, you can check them out if you want a trip down memory lane.
I moved because I considered Medium to be the perfect choice. It was my blogging future. When they added the option of using custom domains for publications, I was among the first to take them up on it. I migrated a website I ran with some friends (varsityherald.co.ke), together with the articles we had posted on it.
For about a year and a half after that, I pushed new content onto Medium. Even after we wound up varsityherald.co.ke, I continued to write there. I was particularly prolific in 2016 and the first half of 2017. It was on Medium that I first posted “The Death of Lake Victoria,” my most popular article of all time.
However, things soon started unravelling. In late 2017, Medium stopped supporting custom domains. This meant I could not migrate my newly-acquired personal domain (after letting go of varsityherald.co.ke). All my posts would have to sit on a publication under the Medium domain. Since I had previously blogged on other platforms with similar arrangements, this would have remained a small annoyance if Medium had left it at that.
Instead, they also did a bunch of other things that made it harder to stay. Some of these actions are documented very well by this blog post from the makers of elementary OS (skip to “The Decline of Medium”). For me, the most egregious affront came in June 2017, when Medium, for some conceited reason, decided to use the colours of the rainbow on its logo, in observance of Gay Pride month.
The Medium logo appears on every page created on Medium. That means everyone who dropped by to read my articles saw it. Yet I do not share the ideals of the LGBT agenda, as I have made clear in multiple articles. In their quest to tout their wokeness, Medium had laced my content with their message. The adage that says “the medium is the message” could not have been more ironically true.
My requests to get them to revert to the old logo, or even to give writers the option between the normal and the LGBT-themed one, went unheeded. I had to include, in each article I published that month, a reminder to readers that I had no control over the logo, and that I did not agree with its placement.
This experience woke me up. Medium had become quasi-curated publication, a chimeric cross between WordPress and The Economist. Although it was still open to any writer who wanted to use it, it had a large influence on what readers saw alongside the content that drew them in. Not only was it in control of the logo and where it appeared, it also included article recommendations from other writers at the end of my articles.
In itself, this is not a bad thing. Medium is a company, and its owners have the right to run it any way they like. But, as I work on rebuilding my writing career, I want to regain control of my content. I want to have a say over what gets associated with it. In short, I want to have a corner of the internet that is truly mine.
This is partly why I bought a domain back in 2017. Initially, I intended to use it for my Medium publication. However, because Medium ended support for custom domains soon afterwards, I chose to set it up with WordPress, which is free, open source, and supports virtually limitless customisation. Sadly, I then got myself into a writer’s block, and thus didn’t quite get to build out my new blog. Until now.
Over the next few months, I will migrate all the content that I published only on Medium back to this website. Of course, this means I will lose all the views my articles have racked up so far. It also means the 86 souls who follow me there, some of whom created accounts just so they could follow me, will no longer see any new articles from me. I think I will put up a notice on my profile to say that I have moved.
Ultimately, my main reason for consolidating my output is to avoid distraction and dissipation. I want to focus on pushing the limits of my writing abilities. I could have easily chosen any of the platforms I have talked about in this article. Medium was particularly compelling. But I choose my personal website because I think it is the best of them all, because of the reasons I have outlined.
Again, this is not to say that everyone should leave Medium. There is a place on the internet for spaces that curate content from a larger number of people than traditional publications. In fact, I will keep my account, and I will continue to read using it. Maybe one day I will even join the Partner programme and help pay the writers whose content I enjoy.
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