Medium vs. WordPress: Which is The Better Blogging Platform?
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When I first started writing on Medium, there were no affordable resources available for writers. Growing my monthly Medium earnings to over $1,000 per month was hard and took me over a year! That's why I created my own Medium Course.
Founder, Blogging Guide
Medium and WordPress are easily two of the top blogging platforms available to writers today. Although both platforms offer writers top-notch tools for publishing content, they represent two diametrically opposed models. So, should writers choose to blog on Medium or WordPress? Ultimately, when analyzing Medium vs WordPress, the decision of which platform is better comes down to a writer’s individual experience, goals, technical expertise, and monetization strategy. This article offers a detailed comparison of Medium vs. WordPress, designed to help any new blogger figure out which blogging platform is right for them.
Medium’s low threshold for accepting writers of any skill level, covering any topic (with certain restrictions) is consistent with the platform’s mantra as “a place to write, read, and connect.” The online publishing platform was established in 2012 by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
Following the model set by other social media platforms, Medium relies on its community to build its content base – what it calls stories. They allow writers to create high-quality posts and reach an already established audience.
But not simply a place for first-time bloggers, Medium draws its fair share of professional creators – journalists, authors, experts, and thought-leaders. That said, most published content comes from independent creators – either those with an already established audience or those trying to build one.
It needs that content, too, to help satisfy the appetite of its roughly 725,000 monthly paid subscribers. According to Medium, the overall monthly readership (in terms of unique views) is 100 million.
Through its Partner Program, Medium contributors can also monetize their content based on the amount of time subscribers spend reading their work. Writing and making money blogging on Medium is not without its drawbacks.
What you produce is part of Medium’s collective content hive. How you monetize your posts is limited and doesn’t directly influence the views of your website. It does, however, boost the web presence and traffic for Medium. And though you still own your content, unless you have that personal website or another option to capitalize on it, Medium is not inherently set up to make a blogger rich.
You always have the option of posting your work and making it free to read, which ultimately feeds why the platform is so popular. Anyone can sign up for an account and start creating content immediately after. And yes, it is that easy to do.
WordPress probably requires less of an introduction. Even those unfamiliar with the world of website building and what powers them will recognize the WordPress presence on at least a few of their favorite internet destinations.
In 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little developed WordPress to fill a void left by a discontinued piece of blogging software. Already an upgrade over what it replaced, the next seven years saw tremendous development for the software. In 2010, WordPress became the open-source software we are familiar with today.
Depending on the source, WordPress serves as the foundation for between 40% and 45% of all websites currently on the web. It’s not difficult to understand why. Effectively the Swiss Army Knife of content creation, WordPress is equal parts content management system, blogging and publishing platform, and website builder.
The open-source WordPress software is available for free to download and install. You are, however, on the hook for registering a domain name and securing web hosting for the site you create. The key to WordPress’ popularity is the software’s open-ended flexibility.
You can use it to create a simple blog, build a mid-sized company website, or create a massive ecommerce store. To be sure, accounting for the cost of a domain (from $10 to $15 annually) and web hosting (from around $3 per month), you could realistically manage a blog for less than $100 annually. The WordPress sandbox is vast enough that you could also create a site that costs from $5,000 to more than $25,000 annually to manage.
Self-hosted WordPress sites require that you set up, design, and manage the site yourself. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, but it’s not a plug-and-play solution, especially for those with limited technical experience. There is almost always a learning curve involved with open-source software, and WordPress is no different.
However, the reward is a site to use and develop as you please. For most beginners, I recommend Bluehost to set up their first WordPress site due to its combination of low pricing plans and flexibility when it comes to growing your website.
Platform Features Compared
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.
Medium vs. WordPress: Which Platform is Better for Bloggers?
As we mentioned early on, Medium and WordPress could not be more different as blogging platforms.
In less time than it takes to read this comparison, you could be drafting your first story on Medium. And do so without any guidance or tutorial. With WordPress, you could still be deciding on a domain name and comparing hosting services.
Medium helps you hone your blogging skills, get your content in front of an audience, earn some notoriety, make connections, and potentially build a loyal readership. Or, if established elsewhere, it’s just one more site for you to publish on. And it doesn’t cost you anything.
WordPress allows you to establish a presence on the web. A presence that you own, control, and monetize however you see fit. WordPress is the clear choice if your goals include building an established blog, pursuing it as a viable income generator, or growing it into a full-fledged business. Yes, the road may be bumpy and filled with challenges, but it makes it more satisfying when your WordPress blog succeeds.
Of course, given that one platform is an entirely free option, you could do what many WordPress bloggers do – use both. Utilize Medium as a launching pad to establish yourself while you perfect your WordPress site. And even upon establishing the latter, the broader your blogging efforts, the greater your chance for success.