So you want to start publishing and you don’t want to setup a platform, hire a designer and make your way through a CMS, servers, security and traffic loads.
You have come to the right place, and you aren’t alone.
Medium has been growing as a publishing platform, and while I personally didn’t understood it a while ago, then I eventually got it right. It’s become a one-stop place to write and edit a story, add relevant media with minimal effort, and throw it off to the world. Plus, latest developments are now helping makeshift publications to start using the platform to publish more professionally. More on that later.
So you’re stuck with no ads and no subscriptions. That might be good, at least you won’t be tempted to stick with the legacy.
Depending on the subject, tone, branding and mission of the publication, one or a mix of the following will eventually do the trick to bring a real benefit to a branded publication living mainly on Medium.
The always free model and how to live begging the others
Everyone still seems to be looking at pageviews instead of looking at real, engaged audiences. People are forgetting that people are still people, not clicks. As always, a revenue model depends on personas, and understanding what need or problem your thing is solving. If it is a desire to be informed — maybe impartially — then you’re right about publishing stuff.
We don’t care about pageviews on Medium. The currency here is reads, read ratio and recommends. With its minimalistic dashboard approach, this all stands for engagement.
Guess what, when people engage with your writing, they tend to subscribe to letters, come back often, or click the heart to recommend to others. You’ll want to be under the scrutiny of people in your target segment, and that’s a great plus provided by Medium as a distribution mean.
Publishing on a schedule and keeping your readers informed about what’s going on within your organisation, let them have a glance behind the screen and making you human, will all do for the sake of transforming them into supporters.
No supporter will ever be born if your pages are cluttered with ads, or if you request money insistently to go on reading. Learn from The Guardian’s website for this.
At some point an engaged audience will need to start an economic transaction with you. No matter how and when, if you have one, you will have someone willing to give you money.
Start a new project, a book, a short film, a creative production which is collateral to your publication and needs some funding to become a thing. After your audience will have validated your writing and your effort, they will be ready to donate, or just share your ideas to friends that will donate.
Remember to stick with your writing schedule and keep posting articles like “behind the scenes” and “why I did that” or “why I need your help”. They go a long way on Medium.
The freemium model, or how to trick others to pay you some money in some cases
There’s nothing wrong with giving out something for free, and retaining the rights to ask for a little money when a reader is loyal and start needing the whole deal.
Medium is a great distribution platform. Reaching out to interesting niches out there, or just use it as a beautiful landing page for social shares is still an option.
Try to avoid pitching stories and cutting them to make people read the remaining part on a paid platform. A story is only worth when can be read in full with no strings attached.
Don’t make enemies, just let some content drip to let people get a taste of what you can offer.
Dripping content might follow a time based schedule or a subject selection one. Either way, the free content on Medium will be fully available to leverage shares, recommends and the likes.
A time-based schedule let’s content drip to Medium after a while, leveraging the need of a segment of your audience that wants to stay on top of your publishing cycle. They will be keen to pay to be part of the premium, paid platform.
A subject selection scheme will leverage niche readers. Let’s say you have a great deal of content around a specific topic, and some of your best journalism is on Medium, free. Some of the readers will want more, and you’ll provide plenty of links to go deeper with the stories on the paid platform. Want even more? Here’s a newsletter you can subscribe to for free. A mix of free and paid stories from both medium and your website is allowed.
The pitcher. You aren’t really throwing stuff away for free, aren’t you?
This is basically how the internet works nowadays. Selling stuff or selling users’ data are still the only available ways to make money flow from one person to the other.
To be honest, I think it’s the worst way of using the internet today. Using platforms and distribution just to get more clicks to your business isn’t a viable option anymore and should be done cautiously. You’ll prefer building a community, instead of advertising your business model.
I have seen too many times large publishing outlets stalking people on social media with click baiting headlines and boring shareable churnalism. Sub-pop culture feeds only make the brand worst, ultimately bringing the value of a publication so low that it will never be able to claim for respect anymore.
Making people click on links isn’t the only option, unless the publication isn’t even worth bothering to read below the deck. Unlike the latter, just pitching links need to stop. Social networks are made to bring people together and connect, and being there as a publication needs a lot of caring. You’ll actually need to engage, reply and explain in real terms why, what and when you’re telling stories.
You might engage with the readers around just an headline and a picture only if you are ready to create additional content outside the box, using the social networks to deal with user generated content and provide more engagement.
Live digital, make money in the real world. Or locally
This looks like the ultimate lifesaver for newspapers. Lots of them are experimenting with live events, training classes, instant paper books, special print editions and so on, to bring legitimacy to the tangible world.
An easy assessment of the most engaged people in your audience will provide the lead to locate your real world business in geographical terms, and another due diligence will pitch the newly conceived product to the right ones. Experimenting with several products and styles is so easy when you can have instant feedback.
Pitch a new book with a collection of content and a special feature to your readers and only produce it when you reach a critical mass.
Create a meetup and see if a topic sticks with your audience, only then hire the venue and work out a list of speakers.
Got a strong keyword rating around a specific thing? A live event, a conference or a training session that gathers some of the best influencers in the field seems like a no brainer.
Prepare for revenue models
Having followers and subscribers to your letters on Medium will make you ready when the storm comes. Almost everyone in the publishing industry is waiting to discover a working new business model, and Medium is here for nothing less.
Time ago they clearly stated that they will be going to experiment with user subscriptions, or anything similar that will be proved to have a chance to work. It is crystal clear that no one has any clue of what is going to work before doing it. But maybe — being on this big ship with well presented content – might ultimately be worth the bother.
What can Medium do for you today
Get a domain for your publication
You can now have a domain mapped to your Medium publication. Apart from branding your stories with a nice and personal url, it will mean retaining rights over your permalinks. Your content will have a unique home on the internet – that once crawled by search engines – will stay forever even if you decide to move home in favour of your own website.
Recruit editors and accept pitches
Medium publications can now have multiple writers and multiple editors, each one with his own access rights and privileges. If you have a small team you can assign writers the right to submit a story, and editors to edit, delete and publish stories, giving you a first look of a proper editorial workflow.
People from outside the publication will also be able to pitch a story to you, and you’ll be able to accept it and include it in your stream instantly.
An idea of using Medium as a platform to collect pitches for stories and growing the engagement came from ESPN in late 2013. Check it out.
Having a loyal audience also makes for growing contributors, who are half of the cake when doing publishing.