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Advice for the Early Stage Startup: Just. Medium.

Last week, I was asked 5 times what CMS or blogging platform a new startup should use. I recommended Medium each time.

Everyone knows that Medium is an awesome place to discover content. And startup adoption of Medium for both content management and distribution is growing quickly; according to our own research, nearly 10x as many startups and founders were using Medium as a blogging platform at the end of 2016 vs. the end of 2015.

However, the majority of startups are still leaning on legacy platforms with 1 out of 4 startups using WordPress. The reasons are varied. Inertia & switching costs. Confusion around whether Medium is a CMS vs. distribution channel (or could it be both …). Concerns about Medium lacking the customization and flexibility of the alternatives.

At Stacklist, we think a good business tool for a startup is low maintenance and powerful. A good tool sits quietly in the background and lets the team focus building and executing the idea. Medium meets these criteria handily.

It’s Easy.

The setup is fast. Medium will ask you to follow people/publications relevant to your interests to recommend you stories to show up in your feed. It imports your Twitter followers so if you have a large Twitter following they will be in your followers.

Medium takes care of the channel, technology, and design which frees the startup to think about what’s most important: their message and their audience.

A Powerful Channel

Most of us startups are looking for a rich marketing channel to grow our brand, a megaphone for thought leadership in a certain sector or some combination of both. Publishing on Medium gives startups much faster access to a large audience than they would normally have. In December (2016), Medium had 60 million visitors each month, up 140% from 2015.

Medium optimizes for the success of any article that is compelling and well-written. One of the reasons most of us think there are great articles on Medium, is because Medium does a stellar job matching readers with the content they like with recommended stories and daily digest emails.

Medium also has strict rules about spam and programmatic posting which keeps the threshold of quality high.

“… Distribution-wise, Medium is great because you can get a big audience with the right tags and some virality, and you can reach a larger demographic than just your users.”

– Jason Shah, Founder & CEO of Do

Few Choices. Much Freedom.

There are not many choices on Medium. The infinitely customizable creature comforts we’ve come to expect out of content tools are not part of the Medium package. You don’t have 200 templates to choose from. There’s no color palette on the editor at all. You don’t need to add an SEO package for $5/month. And you have two font sizes: h1 and h2.

This is the beauty of Medium: a forced exercise in restraint and lean thinking. 

The absence of these bells, whistles, and widgets are a good thing. It forces attention to substance without distractions. And good design without paying a designer.

“We chose Medium for our blog because of the ease of setup–everything is there. The distribution is pretty good. As of right now, we look at tools that help us get things done quickly and look aesthetically good. We have so much to do between us 3. The fact that you can make a publication on Medium and embed it into your site is also good.”

– Vinay Hiremath, Founder of Opentest

And, unless you’re a writer intimidated by the blank page, the minimalist editor is amazing. It makes writing a pleasure.

As founder Ev Williams put it

“We’ve taken a great care to create a writing environment that gives you just the tools you need in terms of formatting to focus on your words.”

Other Reasons You’re Hesitant (but shouldn’t be) 

Yes, you can use your own custom domain on your Medium blog if that’s important to you.

Yes, if you have your own blog and also want to use Medium for distribution, you can. For SEO purposes, you’ll want to use canonical links

Yes, you can monetize your Medium articles through subscriptions or “memberships” for readers. You also might be able to do some advertising soon – Medium has launched a beta for native advertising.

Yes, there’s easy access to analytics on Medium. You can also a custom domain publication to Google Analytics.

. . .

Fortunately, there is a vast landscape of content options available for startups. As you consider the best route for your startup, take 5 minutes to first consider Medium and ask yourself what the downside of NOT using Medium as your site’s blog would be. Or perhaps what the downside would be of using Medium for a few months until you’re more certain of your company’s needs. 

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