Medium and Substack.
The two platforms have different aims and objectives.
Medium claims that it provides writers with a forum to get their “stories” to readers and to enable a dialogue to exist between writer and reader. Although there is no censorship on writers — they can write whatever they like, there’s no clear way of getting your posts to interested readers so that they can participate in the topic. Let me explain in more detail with examples.
The tagging system
The tagging system does not necessarily allow posts to go to those who have searched under that particular tag. The most popular tags on Medium are those on getting rich quick and how to play the system to get more followers. Writers are tempted to choose a popular tag rather than a tag which is appropriate to their topic. They do this because using the correct tag will not get any views from readers.
A respected Japanese writer on food and health uses Culture as a tag in order to get her stories read. She can get away with it since she has many posts on the Medium platform and Medium turn a blind eye. Lesser known writers don’t have that advantage.
You can’t read all the stories
Medium readers can only read and comment on a certain number of posts per month. Admin will not say what that number is. To be able to read and comment, a reader has to upgrade to a paid membership of $5 per month. They can then read any story published by any author on Medium without restriction. I have not tested that but assume it is true. I mention Medium’s perceived actual business model later.
Medium writers can, according to the stated rules, publish articles (“stories” as Medium prefers to call them) which can be read by both paid members on Medium and those who have chosen not to upgrade to a paid membership.
Writers who have a paid membership will have their membership withdrawn if they don’t maintain a following of 100 readers. It is not known whether Medium’s algorithms affect the number of posts that can be written or seen by readers.
Both Medium and Substack are for-profit businesses, they are not charities or philanthropic institutions. Although I have no problem with that, I yearn for more transparency in how they are operating. Some of their rules, as shown above, contradict their stated objective of being an open unrestricted forum for both writers and readers.
The aim of Substack is to build up an audience for its writers by allowing them to develop an email list much like that which is offered by companies such as Mailchimp. Substack focuses on its customers — both writers and readers. It’s much easier to write on the platform than on Medium. There are more features which writers can use to make their work more professional.
Although readers are encouraged to pay subscriptions to writers, they are not forced to do so. Substack allows readers to read for free. All my posts are on free subscription. For writers, they can only monetize their work by getting paid subscribers and, unlike Medium, readers have to pay a subscription for each writer they wish to follow.
Sinem Gunel has some good tips on how to master Medium but she runs paid courses so is a tad biased. She runs Medium Writing Academy as a business. Her free U-Tube videos show how much money she has made by following her strategies. Of course, that does not imply that others can be so successful. She was established some time ago and is useful to Medium as she brings in paying members.
There are other commenters, such as Zulie Rane, whose videos are worth watching provided that you realise that some of their ideas only apply to well-established writers. Their suggestions on how to get works published on third party platforms sound feasible at first but not so easy for ordinary writers to achieve. Medium have said they are reviewing how they are allowing their members to use other publication platforms. No details are available.
The Take Away
I will write a further “story” on my experiences on these platforms and how I intend to proceed in the future. Briefly, I will use both Medium and Substack but not go for paid subscriptions. And my posts will be free to readers. I will not monetize.
Heidi Thorne at heidi.thorne.com is a must read if you want an unbiased view of the real business models of both Medium and Substack and how you should use the two platforms. If you do nothing else, google the URL and read.