Rarely do two platforms take such different paths to what is ultimately the same goal. Medium presents an attractive option for those wanting the fewest number of hurdles to creating and publishing content. WordPress offers nearly endless customization for blogging and numerous web-based endeavors, should a user’s ambitions grow larger.
One reason for the popularity of Medium is its pricing.
To blog and publish on Medium costs you nothing. No fees or other use-related costs. Create an account, and you can start blogging immediately after. This free-to-blog model makes Medium so attractive, especially for novice bloggers or those on extremely tight budgets.
The only cost associated with Medium comes from its readership, a subscription of $5 per month to access paywall content. Non-subscribers get a select number of free articles – typically from three to five – which resets each month. This distinction matters should you want to monetize what you post.
For WordPress, as we noted earlier, the costs to get started and manage your blog are far more varied.
Yes, the WordPress software is available to download and install free of charge. As a self-hosted platform, you are responsible for costs that come after, including a domain, hosting, and any ongoing management and customization.
The basic start-up costs for a WordPress site using one of WordPress.org’s preferred web hosts, Bluehost, is $2.95 per month plus a free domain for the first year. Effectively, your first-year costs would be under $50.
Should you look elsewhere, a domain typically costs between $10 and $15, and basic non-discounted web hosting from $5 up to $20. Not including taxes or add-on fees, an annual total between $60 and $255.
With WordPress, additional factors can bump your costs even higher. Steps such as paying for themes (for example, this site you are on uses Divi) or plugins over those offered at no cost or hiring a third party to help you create your site or manage it can prove cost-prohibitive.
On pure start-up cost alone, Medium wins since nothing beats free. But WordPress has the potential to net you far more in return than what you pay for it annually.
Ease of use
The more complicated a platform makes it to blog, the less time you have to create content. Of course, that creates the snowball effect of the less content you put out, the harder it is to reach your goals.
Here, Medium’s simplified process and low threshold to start blogging are matched only by the ease at which you can create content on the site. Everything from setting up your blog to writing and publishing an article is uncomplicated in the extreme.
Medium’s story editor is distraction-free writing at its finest. Highly responsive, with all of the tools you need and none of the ones you don’t, Medium eliminates almost every UI-related excuse you might have for not writing.
As with all open-source software, setup and operating the WordPress platform is more involved. The difficulty depends a lot on your technical know-how, and even then, it’s no guarantee there won’t be hurdles, regrettable choices, or testing and retesting until everything feels just right.
Even with selecting an editor – yes, including plugins, there are many options to choose from – there’s no clear choice and nothing as simple or easy to use as Medium’s single option.
Over time, as your comfort level with WordPress grows, so will your ability to manage, improve, and broaden the reach of your WordPress blog.
Again, Medium finishes ahead of WordPress as its entire UI has a narrow purpose – creating content as quickly as possible and without obstacles.
Even for those who know what they’re doing, establishing a WordPress site is an ongoing process, with many options, decisions, and trial and error. If Medium is the apple, WordPress is the orchard.
Customization and control
Despite its two central selling points – it’s free and easy to use – Medium is not a site to do as you please. Medium makes it easy to create content because content is what Medium needs. Your ability to customize your space on the platform is limited.
You can change the look of your blog’s homepage (or publication, as Medium references it) using preloaded themes.
Logos, page layouts, headers, backgrounds, and a few additional settings are also customizable. Medium has a professionalism to it that is easy to admire. It’s clean, uniform, and easy to read, search, write, and publish on. And that’s the point.
Many bloggers won’t mind this and welcome content as the focal point. Others may appreciate what Medium is trying to achieve but are disappointed their presence on the site doesn’t fully represent them as content creators.
To appreciate the amount of customization possible with WordPress, consider the following companies employing the platform for some or all of their website needs:
- BBC America – for users to access their U.S. television lineup and library of shows
- Realtor.com – for their real estate news section
- Sony Music – for their official website
- Sweden – for the country’s official informational website
- The Walt Disney Company – for their corporate website
That’s a tiny sample, but one that shows the range of what’s possible with WordPress. If there’s a setting or element to change on your site, you can do it on WordPress. Themes and plugins further add to the possibilities of creating a one-of-a-kind blog. For some users, it can prove overwhelming.
Being clear about your initial goals helps keep the early stages of your blog development grounded. As you explore and grow more familiar with what you can do, you have the chance to build a unique place within the online community.
Regardless of the platform, WordPress wins this category every time. WordPress is the ultimate platform for crafting a unique web presence representing you and your content creation goals.
Medium is the price you pay for playing in someone else’s sandbox. Since it’s free, it’s not a bad deal, though some may find its limits too limiting.
SEO optimization and building your audience
SEO Optimization and Building Your Audience
Building your audience has as much to do with effective SEO as engaging content. If no one can find your blog, you’re just publishing for family and friends.
As with everything else on Medium, the approach to SEO is basic. Employing on-page SEO, you can optimize your content through titles, meta descriptions, headings, and links. That’s it.
The SEO strategy improves Medium’s search engine standing, not necessarily your own. While that’s an indirect benefit, it’s not nearly as effective as having direct control over your SEO. You can improve your content to rank higher within Medium’s internal search
Counter that with WordPress offering a full menu of options to control every aspect of your SEO, and the software takes this category going away. Aside from the SEO features in the initial download, you can leverage a vast plugin library to further dial in your optimization and improve search engine rankings.
Our final category highlights the starkest difference between our two blogging platforms – how you can monetize them.
Medium offers two paths to earning income – their Partner Program and Referred Memberships. You can also include affiliate links in your content, but you must disclose them.
The Partner Program is Medium’s primary monetization source. Upon applying and being approved for the program (you must have at least 100 followers), your content goes behind a paywall, and you are rewarded based on the time someone spends reading your content. It is an imperfect calculation, and most writers that earn money take home less than $100 per month.
With Referred Memberships, if you refer someone who becomes a paying Medium subscriber, you get half of the $5 subscription fee (less processing fees) each month for as long as the referral maintains their memberships. Have 100 referrals with monthly active memberships? If you have a strong sales pitch, that’s over $220 per month. You must be a member of the Partner Program to participate.
WordPress offers no such programs. What it does provide is freedom. Freedom to offer your own paid memberships at a price point you set. Freedom to use ads, secure sponsorships, use affiliate links more liberally, and eventually add an ecommerce component (selling content, products, or service, or all three) to your website. And you add these components however you see fit.
The dream of many writers and bloggers is to earn money from their online pursuits. Even those content creators with more altruistic goals sometimes appreciate the monetary reward of a thoughtful, well-written blog post.
On Medium, you might generate a couple of hundred bucks every few months after building a decent following. With WordPress, the potential is there to make blogging a full-time career.