Should Bloggers Use Medium? (FS171)
Listen, as bloggers we want to get as many people interacting with our content as possible. And more than that, we want them to become FANS, to live their lives in relationship with us.
Recently we made a guide to promoting your blog which talks about syndicating your blog posts, that is, publishing your existing articles to different websites like Huffington Post or Medium.
Syndicate: (verb) to publish or broadcast simultaneously on multiple channels, websites or platforms. (Comes from the Latin syndicus, meaning delegate of an entity.)
Medium has become extremely popular in some circles, and can be a great place to syndicate your blog posts. Why? Because hundreds of thousands of people could come to know about your work!
BUT, are we shooting ourselves in the foot if we use it because it simply doesn’t bring people into a strong enough direct relationship with you?
That’s what we get into on the show today. Great conversation. Enjoy!
Chase: Okay. What we’re going to talk about today is a great question that I got from the Fizzle forums. Not I, we got from the Fizzle forums. Okay? It is one that I think has come up a lot for a lot of us recently. For anyone who is paying attention online to content that is … I don’t know. Maybe just content in general. There’s a website called Medium. If you don’t know about it, Medium.com. You probably know about it, but just in case you didn’t, it’s … How would you describe it? I think of it as it wants to be all the stories of the world. It wants to be a beautiful experience on textual content. Stories, journalism. Some of them are more like traditional blog posts, like “Ten things you didn’t know about something something.”
I’m seeing a lot of interesting stuff get written on Medium. I’m seeing big publications moving their online stuff to be published by Medium.
Corbett: Yeah, several.
Chase: At their own Medium url.
Corbett: Several really big ones.
Chase: Yeah, which is-
Corbett: It’s not a Medium url. It’s their own url, but the system hosting it is Medium.
Chase: The best argument I heard for this was when the 37signals guys moved their blog over, and I think David Heinemeier Hansson wrote about it, and he’s like, “Listen, we don’t have enough time … We think an experience on the web when you’re reading content should be exceptional, but our job is actually to make the software product over here that we sell called Basecamp, which is project management and stuff. Our job is not to keep innovating on the blog side of readership and side of things, right?
Chase: Medium’s doing that for a living. We think the experience is beautiful, and we’re like, “Screw it, let’s do it.” I think that’s a really big bold move for them who’ve been around the web for so long, and who know exactly what you know. Right? Hit me with what you know about using tools like these instead of running your own thing, at your own domain, doing your thing.
Corbett: Yeah, I think we’ve talked about this a little bit before. The biggest concern used to be that if you decided to host your blog entirely on Medium, then it was under a Medium url, and you didn’t have ownership of that. If you decided to leave or whatever …
Chase: Yeah, and that’s a really big … If you don’t know this, you have to know this. Whatever you’re doing online, you have to actually physically own that domain. You have to. You just need to.
Corbett: You don’t know own that if you are on Twitter or Facebook, or anywhere else.
Chase: Facebook or YouTube, or anything like that, but that’s why we always talk about this home base, where it’s no matter what, Facebook changes. You’ll probably have a larger audience … If you take Facebook really seriously, you’ll have a larger audience on Facebook than you might at your actual blog that you own, but you do both of those because your goal is … Over time, Facebook’s going to keep charging you more and more and more and more to reach the people who have already clicked “like” on your page, but you have direct access to the people that you’re building the relationship with on your site.
Corbett: Yeah, exactly.
Chase: That’s the dream.
Corbett: Exactly. Email is an independent channel. If you have someone’s email address, you have the right to reach them until they say no, and that’s not true if you have an intermediary, like Twitter or Facebook, or Pinterest, or Instagram, or Medium. Right? The big concern was that you didn’t own the domain, and yet some publishers still decided to use Medium as their primary publishing platform. That was a big risk. That was a bigger risk than it is today, because Medium has decided that they really want to focus on not just independent articles and bloggers, but on publishers. They have created a number of things that make it easier to move over to Medium, and now they allow you to use your own domain name, and your own publication name, and that stuff, and to host an entire blog on Medium. If I go to, for example, I could go to CorbettBarr.com, and if I was hosted on Medium, then you would be seeing the Medium design, but the url would be my own url.
Corbett: That changed the game a little bit, and several really big publishers … 37signals is a pretty big blog. It’s been around for, I don’t know, fifteen years or so.
Chase: Really long time.
Corbett: It’s the reason that most people know of 37signals and … Actually, sorry, it’s called Signal Versus Noise is the blog. That’s why most people know about Basecamp, their blog. They decided to move to Medium, along with some other really big publications that had been doing probably hundreds of thousands or millions of page views a month on their own site. They decided to move to Medium because it’s really easy to publish there, and I think also because it gains you access, each of the articles that you publish there, you get access to potentially the millions of people that I assume are on Medium.
Chase: It’s the same thing that I think of as YouTube, right? YouTube, the same thing happens. I was talking to someone on Fizzle Friday, today. Christine was on Fizzle Friday. Hi Christine. She listens to the show. Taught her also about using a podcast app instead of downloading every episode directly. Christine, I hope you’re hearing me on your podcast app. I just wanted to set that in stone. If you don’t know this, every Friday we do a small group coaching thing for all the members of Fizzle, anybody who wants to join. It’s one of the big reasons to sign up for thirty-five dollars a month to have coaching, it’s unbelievable. Anyways, she had made videos on how to sketch this particular leaf, and she put that same video on both Wistia and YouTube. She embedded the Wistia one on her blog page, and I was like, “You know what, I would recommend actually from all our public stuff, I think of putting that on YouTube instead, because I think of YouTube as a search engine.” Right? Just like every search engine, the things that have a lot of views, that’s one of the factors in how …
Corbett: People find you.
Chase: Yeah. How much is going to show up on the results, right? Things like that, but Wistia does give you the ability to have a little email pop up in the middle. “Hey, go watch the rest. Sign up for the email.” I think something we haven’t played with at all, but I think of … All I’m getting to is the fact that YouTube is also a search engine, where there’s people already on YouTube going, “What should I watch next?” There’s people already on Medium similarly going, “What should read next?” You’re in that stream, you know what I mean?
Corbett: Yeah. If you think about, if you publish a video on your own website versus publishing on YouTube, there’s just massive potential there for it to take off on YouTube. For example, on your channel, Chase, you have some bag reviews that have thirty-plus thousand YouTube views, and if you just publish that on your own site, it’s really unlikely that you’d get above [crosstalk 00:14:14].
Chase: Now if I put that on Wistia and then embedded it in a blog post where I’ve got all the H1 tags, it’s titled well and all that other stuff, yeah, there’d be some traffic to it from people that are searching it on Google, and then finding it, but everybody who’s searching for a video about a bag review, I think most of them are searching it on YouTube. Right? Right now, that’s where Medium is-
Corbett: They’re looking at Google, but Google owns YouTube, and YouTube results are highly integrated with Google.
Chase: Yeah, absolutely. I want to stick on this similarity between YouTube and Medium for just one more second here. For me, I don’t know about you, Corbett, or anybody listening, when I have a problem and I want to search for a solution for it, I would say eighty or ninety percent of the time, I’m going to YouTube first to search on it.
Corbett: It depends.
Chase: I want to find a quick video on it, and I watch it in twice speed, and I just see if this person knows what they’re talking about, because in about four seconds, I can tell if I’m going to find my answer here or not. Where as on a blog post, I might be scrolling for a while and I can’t really … I’m [inaudible 00:15:14] Yahoo Answers. When I search for something and the first page has a Yahoo Answers result on it, I’m like, “I’m going to YouTube.” You know what I mean? That’s probably a personality thing. I think that’s how I prefer to infest info.
Corbett: Yeah, definitely do. For me, if it’s a physical thing, if I’m thinking about buying a car or some physical item, then yeah, I’m going to look on YouTube, or I just go to Google and type it in, and then click on “videos.”
Chase: Hopefully there’s a video up, yeah yeah.
Corbett: Which might include something else, but ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s YouTube.
Corbett: Otherwise, if I’m looking for any just regular information not involving a physical product, then I just go to Google and look for blog posts.
Chase: Okay, got it. Okay, cool. I don’t think people are doing that with Medium. I don’t think they’re going, “I want to know about how to make a blog,” and there’s a million search engines. Google’s going to result in who knows how much bullcrap. What have people written on Medium about it?
Corbett: I think you’re totally right about that.
Chase: I don’t think they’re searching [inaudible 00:16:07].
Corbett: I think Medium is topical and current events-focused, and it’s not as much how to. YouTube is really-
Chase: I think there’s a chance that it could be, right? What do we know about Medium? For me, I know that it’s very clean, it honors good writing. Things that are written well do well on the system of Medium, right? If your thing’s written well, it doesn’t mean it’s going to do well, but if things are done good, well-ish … I can’t remember what’s the word. Then they’re also not the things that are performing really well on Google, right? If you searched on things, on a topic, you’d find the things that are ranking really high on Google, and you’d find a bunch of crap. You’d find the things that are ranking really high on Medium around that topic, they’re probably going to be new, they’re probably going to be interesting, they’re probably going to be well-written.
Chase: Right? Maybe that becomes like that in the future. I could totally picture that.
Corbett: It could.
Chase: They’re clamped down so hard on what you can do. You don’t have a side bar. You don’t have ads. You don’t have blinking crap, you know what I mean?
Corbett: Right. When a publisher decides to move over to Medium, design could be a factor because they like how simple it is, and the functionality of Medium. How easy it is to write. It’s got that front end writing tool where you see what it’s going to look like as you’re typing it, which is cool, but those are pretty lame reasons to move, because counteracting that is the fact that you have no control over the design.
Chase: No control.
Corbett: Aside from a banner. Really the reason that you’re choosing Medium is for the discovery aspect.
Chase: The discovery and you’re saying … You’re right. Okay, keep going, keep going.
Corbett: For the discovery aspect to say that when I read an article, it’s likely that if it’s popular, it will be placed in front of a lot of other people that I wouldn’t normally have access to on my own site. Therefore, I might get more readers, visitors, to an individual post.
Corbett: Now counteracting that is that the discovery works two ways. You might write a great article, but at the end of that article, who’s to say that someone’s not going to go click off on something else within Medium, because there’s links from Medium on the site all over the place. They might click off somewhere else and you might lose that [inaudible 00:18:25], where as you could’ve kept them better on your own site.
Chase: You could have a pop-up show up, right, as they’re clicking the browser to leave and go, “Are you sure you want to leave?”
Corbett: Yeah, which is the whole reason-
Chase: “Only people with tiny genitalia leave this website. Are you sure you want to do that?” “I have something for you to download if you’re not an idiot. Do you want that? Click ‘yes, I’m not an idiot,’ or ‘no, I’m a total idiot.’”
Corbett: Thanks very much.
Chase: Thanks very much. That’s the thing. That’s what the web has become, because we’re eating ourselves, right? We know we’re marketers. We’re all marketers on the web, because we need people to pay attention to us, and we’re using things that work. Right? The things that work are getting more and more … Are getting worse and worse. The things that work are getting worse and worse. These things have worked before, but we haven’t used them because there was more pure, better things that we could do that were still working. Now as it’s just noisier and noisier and noisier on the web, it’s harder to stand out. Right?
Corbett: It is.
Chase: It’s turning the whole web into this gross, gross, gross thing where in order to be a successful publisher online, whether you’re an individual blogger or a larger thing, I think you have to do more than just have the … You have to reach out through the noise in some real emotional way.
Corbett: Sure. Another reason that publishers might be moving Medium is this first mover advantage that you get on any new platform. Not that Medium’s that new, but it is for publishers. You think back to watching Twitter rise and now fall to some degree. You just remember in the early days, people who grabbed a foothold there and became Twitter personalities in some way, they were able to amass a big number of followers, even though they might not have been famous elsewhere. Then as Twitter got bigger and bigger and bigger, that effect just magnified. Same thing for YouTube, right? YouTube stars who had been around for five years or something, a lot of them were in the early days, they grabbed a foothold and that magnification effect just kept fueling them more and more until …
As the platform grows, if you’re one of the top five percent of publishers there, or the top one percent, or even higher than that, your share of that is just going to become … You’re going to find more and more viewers, more and more readers, more and more followers. Being somewhere in the early days can be-
Chase: It’s a big deal. I remember being early days on Vine and it just being, “Wow, I could be somebody here.” Just because it was early. That’s it.
Corbett: Right. You can make bets on every new platform that comes about, and I think Gary Vaynerchuk does that pretty well.
Chase: He does.
Corbett: He’s on pretty much everything that comes out, and some of those-
Chase: That’s a big point that he makes, because he’s like, “Listen, if you’re not on Snapchat, if you’re not on the thing that just came out yesterday, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.” In order to be on there, you’ve got to be willing to waste some time on there learning how to do this thing.
Corbett: Plus, you have to be willing to waste a lot of time on platforms that don’t work out, because people said the exact same thing about Google Plus and yadda yadda yadda.
Chase: Exactly, yeah.
Corbett: You could build your entire business on a house of cards. Here’s the difference between Medium and something like Twitter. Publishers are using Medium as their home base, especially publishers that are not Signals Versus Noise, which is really a blog that advertises its software product. Publishers whose blog is their main business are moving to Medium. This is a lot different than just participating in some social network that might collapse.
Corbett: If Medium doesn’t work out, or if the bets that you’re making about how Medium’s going to pay off for you as a publisher don’t work out, then you’ve invested a lot into this big platform. There’s a bigger risk there. That’s why I haven’t been a big proponent about moving-
Chase: It is a … If you think about it, hey, what’s one of the best practices we know on the web that works is you get … I think it might be the case … Tell me if you think this is true, Corbett. I think the only reason why we really blog, or not the only reason, but the main reason why we blog, main reason why you do anything on the web, is to build an email list. I think the email list is the purpose of everything, which is just … The email list is just symbolic of communication with customers. Right?
Chase: I love to write, I love to put stuff in front of people, but we have a business goal.
Corbett: Yeah, I would challenge that a little bit.
Corbett: I think that the main point is to engender trust and to build relationships with people. Email’s a great way to maintain that relationship, but for example, if you had followed Oprah for a long time, you might be willing to buy something from her if you hear about it. It doesn’t mean that you’re on an email list, because she doesn’t operate that way.
Chase: I think, yeah, that we’re saying the same thing though. Okay, I want to engender trust and stuff with people, right?
Corbett: Yeah, and create relationships.
Chase: Create relationships. In some ways, you could argue that asking for an email address is asking too much. I’m not going to trust you. No, we’re actually asking for trust so that we can communicate with you, so that you’re willing to buy the things that we want to-
Corbett: Right, and because we’re business owners, we do all of this. Some of this we do for fun, and we write things on the side that aren’t about business stuff, just for personal creativity purposes, whatever. The things that we write about blogging and podcasting, whatever, to have fun-
Chase: It has a purpose.
Corbett: They have a purpose, and the ultimate goal is to sell something to someone.
Chase: To sell something eventually. In the next five, ten years, I want to get you into Fizzle, and I want it to change your life. That’s what I want, right?
Corbett: Yeah, and the issue is if someone reads a blog post and you impress them, with the best intentions of keeping in touch with you might still just forget about you, because there’s so much going on. The email list is one way to make sure that they remember you.
Chase: They’re not … For all these reasons, I think really the most valuable … Everybody’s talking about how valuable it is to have an email list, and I think I’m really convinced that’s really the only thing. If we had another thing that worked better than blogging, by a long shot, on getting people on to the email list, and if we had something that was just a page we sent people to, that there was no such thing as search engines, there’s no such thing as people finding our content, it was just them finding this page that just gets them signed on to the email list, our life would be so much easier. Then we’re just writing emails to people to keep them engaged, to keep them interested. To stay valuable to them. To keep them wanting us. You know what I mean?
Anyways, one of the things in the best practice in some blog stuff, you have a huge feature box upfront that just says, “Hey, here’s what I … If you’re into sketching on nature hikes, I have a guide for you on that. I think you’re going to love it. I have a seven-day email series that’s going to teach you … Basically the tricks that I found most people don’t know about yet.”
Chase: “Get it here.” Sign up, you get your email address to do the thing, because now I can really communicate with you. You can’t do that on Medium, right? Medium has its own baked in way of communicating with the audience. Basically you get an email when you’re a Medium member or something. You get an email if you choose to, saying, “Hey, here’s some things that came out we think you’re going to like this week.” You follow your publications. It’s a very different way of doing things where yeah, as a publisher, you have your hands tied a lot more, right?
Corbett: Right. Yeah, the mechanism on Medium is “follow,” which means that that’s person’s articles, or that publication’s articles will appear in your feed when you go to Medium, but it’s a weak mechanism. It’s a weak relationship. You don’t have the ability to push anything.
Chase: It’s like following on Twitter or Facebook. We know the deal with this. It doesn’t actually … It’s not a fraction of the effectiveness of being in someone’s email inbox. For example. If there was something better than an email inbox, I’d be saying that instead. Do you know what I mean?
Chase: I think the email, and this is something that 37signals has talked about themselves. Why build a feature in your product if you could just do it through email? It seems to be the baseline of this thing.
Chase: Hold on, let’s reset here, because what we’re talking about is publishers moving on to Medium. That’s a good little overview right there of Medium has these new tools for publishers. You can move your entire blog on to Medium. This is a really cool thing because if you’re a very future-thinking, if you were willing to partner, basically get in bed with Medium for the future of your business, this is a very interesting idea. I would say people have done that in the past with other companies, getting in bed with Google. Getting in bed with Facebook, and it has hurt them in the end. Facebook just goes, “Hey, there’s ten thousand people who have liked your page, and I know we used to put your stuff in front of all ten thousand them. We just can’t do that anymore, you have to pay now to get in front of all of them.”
Corbett: Yeah. However, YouTube, it’s worked out pretty well.
Chase: YouTube has a great relationship with their creators. They’re one of these-
Corbett: [inaudible 00:27:28] them off recently with the-
Chase: What did they do?
Corbett: The red whatever subscription stuff.
Chase: Have people not liked that?
Corbett: They’re forcing the publishers to … They basically can say, “Either you’re with us or you’re not. If you’re not, then you’re screwed.”
Chase: I’m a YouTube red subscriber.
Chase: Right? I watch a lot of YouTube videos with my son. You know what I don’t want? I don’t want any ads in there. My son is going to grow up commercial free, Corbett. That’s a big deal to me.
Corbett: That’s great.
Chase: Every commercial he sees, I go, “What are they trying to sell you, buddy? What’s the lie they’re telling you about that? If you have that car, then you’re going to be happy, and it’s baloney. Are you kidding me?”
Corbett: The joke’s on you because-
Chase: I know. The whole world is going to be advertising.
Corbett: Yeah, all the content is advertising.
Chase: Those kids that grow up and they look at the world a little differently.
Chase: Maybe he’ll be one of them.
Corbett: Yes, the thirty-second ad spot is a crude medium, but now it’s just product placement.
Chase: I hate that that’s the model that we found that works for everything. We’re just, “Advertising. Hey, how are we going to fund this? Advertising.” For everything that reaches mass culture. Very few things are getting paid for by consumers that are mass culture where there isn’t an ad attached to it.
Chase: Switching gears now from the publisher conversation to Medium is still a very powerful tool to use to syndicate your blog posts. What we mean by that is, you’ve written a blog post, it’s a great piece of writing, article, something or other. Now it’s been on your site maybe for a little while. “How do I get more people to this stuff?” is the question. You’re like, “I have a Medium account. I can stat publishing, re-publishing articles that I wrote on my site over there. Should I do this?” Is the question I think a lot of people are asking.
Corbett: Right. I don’t know if you mentioned, but you call this “syndication” basically. The idea is you have a blog post, and then you are syndicating, meaning sharing copies of that on other platforms. The most common version of this is something called “RSS,” which actually stands for “real simple syndication.”
Chase: It’s real simple.
Corbett: It’s real simple. That basically provides a feed of all the-
Chase: Do you know how much about RSS I know so deeply? I’ve hand coded my own RSS feeds because when I was working in the startup stuff before, we used a lot of RSS to scroll and scrub websites and stuff like that. It’s such a powerful technology. Now the whole world … You don’t even need it at all, because it’s so baked in to-
Corbett: You do need it. You just don’t even know-
Chase: The consumer doesn’t even know it exists on your site. You just go to Feedly and you type in “CorbettBarr.com,” and then it goes, “Yeah, I already know.” You’re subscribing to websites you don’t even know you’re using RSS.
Corbett: All the CMSs, whatever, that’s a content management system, like WordPress or Squarespace, or Medium, they provide a fee. Actually, I don’t know if Medium does. I assume they do.
Corbett: They provide an RSS feed and other-
Chase: An Atom feed. Same conversation.
Corbett: Not anymore, but …
Chase: Was Atom first?
Corbett: I don’t know, but I think it’s lost.
Chase: Whatever it is, it’s a layer of communication, and now, any technology, you can go, “Hey, I know when there’s a new thing that’s been written on this place or that place, and pull it in for you.” This idea of syndicating was you used to have Google Reader or something like that, and you’d add your blogs that you want to follow to it, and you’d go in every day and see what blogs have written new things.
Corbett: Right, and now, instead of doing that, what you’re assuming is that people are spending time on other platforms. Maybe not Google Reader, but they’re spending time on blogs that are collections of other blogs, articles, like Huffington Post or Medium, or whatever. You’re thinking, “I’m a publisher, I want to get in front of people. How can I get in front of people on those platforms?” Medium’s open, so you can publish anything there, including you can re-publish articles that you’ve already put somewhere else.
Chase: Word for word.
Corbett: Word for word if you want to. The big concern that everybody always has is this fallacy of the duplicate content penalty. People used to believe that if you publish the same article in multiple places, that Google would penalize the original article for that, and that you would lose out on potential search traffic. You can look it up. [inaudible 00:31:38] is the SEO god at Google, has said it doesn’t exist. The only consideration is you want to make sure that it’s clear where the article was published first if you want the SEO juice to land there. You want to publish it first o your own site, and you probably want to link back to the original article from the places that you published elsewhere.
Anyway, what you can do is take an article word for word from your own site, and then you can publish it on Medium to get it in front of those people there. I think people have questions about this. “Is it worth it? Should I do it? What are the down sides to it?” I think that’s really what we wanted to get into.
Chase: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about our experience with Medium so far. We’ve done the syndication with … Really we haven’t really done it with Fizzle posts that much. I did one a long time ago to see what it was like with the third tier theory of networking, which is still I think a pretty good idea, and the results from that were fairly small in terms of … On Medium, I love … It should be said how nice it is to write on Medium.
Corbett: It’s great.
Chase: It’s great to write on Medium. It’s actually great to publish on Medium, because you get … I think it’s a trick, right? It’s a trick in a good way. You’re writing on Medium, you share it, and you get it out there, and people will heart it, or recommend or whatever. You see their little face. Even if you only get three people have read your thing, or let’s say thirty people that have read it and three that clicked the “like” button, you can see all their faces and who they are, and they’re real people. It’s not just a number on Google Analytics or something.
Corbett: It has a nice commenting system, and highlight system, and all that stuff.
Chase: It’s really nice. The whole thing is just humane.
Corbett: Yeah, slick, and the reading experience is amazing as well. Not just the writing experience, right? The reading experience is great. I spend a decent amount of time there reading articles, and it’s nice to know that there’s not going to be obnoxious pop-ups and crazy shit going on on Medium because they have control over what you can do there.
Chase: Yeah, totally.
Corbett: Let’s talk about our experience with publishing there. You and I, we don’t have anything for Fizzle there specifically.
Corbett: You and I each have an account at Medium, and I was just looking to see how much I had published there. I think I published maybe six or eight or ten articles there, something like that. Over the past couple of years. I was looking at stats to see how these articles have done.
Chase: There’s two things, right? There’s how many people are seeing my work is one. Maybe the next time they see my work, they’re like, “Yeah, I remember this gal. She wrote this cool thing. Maybe I should follow her, she’s pretty cool.” Right? How many people are seeing our stuff, and then there’s how many of them are going deeper? Which is okay, a big goal for you. We talked about earlier is getting people on your email list because now you actually can build the relationship over time. How many people when you’re publishing on Medium are coming back to your site and joining your email list? We should mention James Clear here and what he does before we even get into our stats, just as here’s the dream of syndication.
Corbett: Yeah, okay. James Clear writes at JamesClear.com. He’s a personal friend of ours, and we watched him about three years ago make a transition from a blog that he was writing about personal finance to a more of a personal blog that is about human potential and motivation, and things that appeal more broadly. Personal development stuff. He’s a great writer and he published consistently I believe three times a week or so on his own site. He decided through observation that he was going to put all of his promotional eggs in one basket, and that was syndication. Medium didn’t exist at the time, but he decided to syndicate on anywhere that he could get a recurring author’s ability, like the Huffington Post or Fortune or Entrepreneur.com, or Medium would be one in the future. He lined up a number of these. I don’t remember how many, but maybe ten of them.
Instead of writing original articles, he would just take what he had already written, customize it a little bit, and then re-publish it on these other platforms, and then point people back to a landing page. A landing page is just a really simple page that makes a cell-
Chase: I looked at a bunch of his recently and at the bottom of it, if you like this article, this article’s written by James Clear, if you like this article, you’d like joining his email list where he writes about habit forming and something. It’s just a link to “join his email list.” You land there and it’s just a very simple bare bones page, you sign up, and you’re going to get this.
Corbett: Over the course of three years or so, with this one strategy, James grew his blog’s email list faster than any other blog I’ve ever heard of.
Chase: Anyone we’ve ever, ever heard of.
Corbett: Ever heard of. With the exception now maybe of Bill Simmons with The Ringer, but he’s ESPN. He’s huge, he’s huge, he’s on TV and stuff.
Chase: Yeah, he already had a massive platform.
Corbett: Right. James was starting from scratch. He grew his email list over those three years that I don’t know what it is now. Close to three hundred thousand people or something.
Chase: Yeah. What made that work? Okay, let’s just break that down as quickly as we can. Not to make it a huge segment here, but what do you think made that work for James?
Corbett: It was low effort because he had already written the articles. There wasn’t this friction or hurdle that he had to get over every time to go publish a new article. He just took what he already had and re-published it in sometimes multiple places. The other thing is he was able to get in front of other large audiences, and then bring them back to his site, and he directed them to a very specific page, and he prepped them before he even sent them to that page that it was going to be about signing up for his email list. It was a very probably high converting action for someone to click on that link. He just milked it. He used it over and over and over again.
Chase: He just kept doing it. One of the tricks about growth is you find something that works and you just keep doing it.
Corbett: You just keep working it.
Chase: You just keep doing it.
Corbett: Yeah, until it doesn’t work.
Chase: I think one of the reasons why it worked is because how are you going to get more people to your content, right? One is you, if Google finds it and really likes it, and starts showing it to everybody who’s searching for that topic, right? You don’t get to control that beyond having something great that people don’t click away from, and it’s got the key words that you need in it somewhere. The topics that people are using when they search. What he’s doing is saying, “This is good. I know it’s the kind of thing that people like. How do I get this in front of existing audiences?” He’s just finding existing audiences on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com. The content fits for that. He’s great at writing, very professional, and he systematizes writing process, it almost feels like he knows, “All right, we’re going to find a piece of research. All right, we’re going to tell a story. All right, we’re going to come away from it with a very actionable thing.”
It’s literally looking at what kind of experience you want to have from a blog post, and then he just engineers that backwards. Working backwards from the payoff. Every time. I think for a lot of reasons, this works for him, and it should be said that similar with Derek Halpern and Social Triggers, he found a lot of success early on. A lot of success quickly, because it was not his first rodeo. Both of these guys had spent a lot of time doing blog stuff, building from scratch before, cutting their teeth, getting all of the tools of the trade. Then they restart and it goes “bam.”
Corbett: Likewise, Derek had one primary strategy that he used for the first year at least, which was he got in front of other bloggers’ audiences by doing something for that blogger. In a lot of cases, he gave a site critique or something, and that allowed him to appear as a guest writer, or on someone’s podcast or whatever. That worked really well. He was able to, I think he had twenty thousand or so email subscribers at the end of the first year, which was phenomenal as well.
Corbett: Then he took off from there.
Chase: Which, by the way, that’s a great … Really quick, I just think, because what we’re really talking about is how do I get more people to my thing? This is a continuation of our “how do I promote my blog? How do I get more people to my thing?” conversation. Right? Which if you didn’t see, listen to episode 170, and see the associated post that went with it, huge post we did on how to promote your blog. There’s a million posts about this out there. Most of them are “A hundred and seventy-five things you can do to grow your blog.” This is the only list that you need. It’s basically all of those things categorized by … Just the stuff that actually works. You know what I mean?
Corbett: Yeah, and I think this is the big misnomer about growing an audience or promoting your blog. People feel like man, those who are growing their sites fast must be doing a million different things. Right?
Corbett: They must have this checklist a mile long that they do for every post. Where they syndicate and where they share, and all this crazy stuff. In reality, the people that we know who have grown their blogs the fastest put ninety percent of their effort behind one simple strategy and just crushed it.
Chase: Yeah. You know what? When Derek did that, another strategy that he did, that Corbett mentioned, was Derek Halpern identified ten or fifteen bloggers with huge sites, and he was like, “Let me come on, we’ll do a YouTube video of me critiquing your website live, and telling you how to convert better, because that’s what I’m good at.” He’s great at copywriting, he’s great at conversion type stuff. People don’t want to hear that. Are you kidding me? [inaudible 00:41:08] this? I don’t care about this. You know what I mean? He’s so great in them. He called it “the drafting technique,” when you’re the expert to the expert that people are already following. You get all of the trust that that expert already built, plus more. He did that and got in front of all of these huge audiences, and then I think the whole time, he must’ve had a … “Listen, I made a booklet on this conversion stuff. Go over here and download it.” Right? It would’ve been something like that.
Super smart. He did fifteen critiques and gets twenty thousand subscribers. Right? It was done so intelligently. I had never heard of anybody doing that before. James Clear doing the syndication thing, I actually had never really heard of other people doing this kind of thing before in our space. I bet a lot of people are doing it in a bunch of different spaces. It’s working for him.
Chase: Right? He’s intelligent, because he’s writing good stuff, because he knows how to figure out what people are interested in, and how to make that stuff work. I think that’s such a big point, Corbett, that the idea that’s going to work for you probably isn’t going to come from, dropped from some list somewhere, which is one of the reasons why our list … It’s, “Here’s a bunch of things you can do. Here’s the important thing about each one of these.”
Corbett: The thing that’s going to work for you you’ve already heard about.
Chase: You’ve already heard about, or-
Corbett: You’ve tried it and you didn’t put enough effort into it, or you just glossed over and said, “That’s old, people have done it before.”
Chase: Yeah. You just didn’t know what the core of that thing needed. What was really actually important about that. I do think you can take, for example, this idea of syndication, right? Don’t hear syndication and go, “All right, they mentioned Forbes, Huffington Post, and Medium for syndication. That’s where I need to go.” Don’t say that. You’re talking to your specific audience, and your question is all about where are they already? If you’re really deep down into that topic, you already know. They’re on this Subreddit or that forum, or this other thing.
Corbett: Yeah. People are syndicating on Reddit like you said. They post entire articles, or on Facebook now, because you can do native posts within Facebook. There’s all kinds of options for it.
Chase: There’s so many options, and what will matter most about this is how much you know about what it’s like to be on the other side of the screen. What it’s like to be a member … Someone searching for this topic and finding it. Someone being a part of this Subreddit community and what I wish someone would post in there. Right? Then you’re becoming valuable. You’ve got to be more valuable, as Jim Rohn always says. As the famous quote from Jim Rohn goes, Corbett.
Corbett: Let’s go back to Medium.
Corbett: I’d love to just share a little bit about what we know from our experience on Medium and publishing there. A couple of things. One is we have some comparisons between articles that we published on our own site, and articles that we published on Medium. We can look at how much traction did each of those get. For example, I’ll just share one here that I published on my own site, and then I syndicated on Medium. Let me see if I can find the dates for that. This is from, looks like I published it in August of 2015, and then I syndicated it on Medium on September 1st. About two weeks later, okay? This article is called “How to Create a Vision for Your Life,” and on my own site, since publication now, I have received six thousand seven hundred page views on that article. On the Medium-
Chase: That’s a big article. What was the title of it again?
Corbett: “How to Create a Vision for Your Life.”
Corbett: On the Medium version-
Chase: When did you publish that?
Corbett: That was August of last year.
Chase: Okay, it’s been around for a year.
Corbett: It’s been around for, yeah, close to a year now.
Chase: Got it.
Corbett: On the Medium version of that site, I just pasted exactly the same article. It has received twelve thousand views.
Chase: Really? Much more views.
Corbett: It became even bigger on Medium than it was on my own site.
Corbett: Now of course page views are important, but that’s not the end goal.
Chase: Yeah, what I was saying on Fizzle Friday today is, “Yeah, we all want more people to our thing, but actually, we don’t just want that. We want more of the right kind of person to our things.” Yeah, we all want twenty thousand views on a post the moment we publish it, but what we really want is a hundred people and all of them become buyers.
Chase: Right? That’s what we want. Small and profitable. Right?
Corbett: Yeah. Let me share another one. This is an article that I published at Fizzle again in August of 2015. Then I syndicated that to Medium shortly afterwards. This is called “The Two Hundred-Word Guide to Personal Branding.” This article on the Fizzle site received four thousand six hundred page views. On Medium, it received three hundred thirty-eight page views.
Corbett: Radically different in that [crosstalk 00:46:16].
Chase: Completely the opposite. Way less on Medium than …
Corbett: Exactly. This is a factor of the kinds of people that are reading Medium and what they’re into. For us, if you think about we are publishing things about hardcore entrepreneurship and content marketing things on Fizzle. On my own site, I’m writing things that are a little bit more broad and general. Those things tend to do well on Medium. Let’s see, you got anything to share stats-wise?
Chase: I’ve been using Medium … I love writing for Medium, and that’s where I put my personal stuff. I do some writing on grief and loss, on fatherhood, and just creative life stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit at Fizzle. I write there, and dude, the grief stuff … I have one articled called “Miscarriage from the Father’s Perspective,” and that thing has got fifty thousand views, two thousand recommendations, which is really … That’s the most I have ever gotten.
Corbett: That’s a lot on Medium for any article.
Chase: That’s a ton. It’s being found right now and I don’t know where. I’m getting new recommendations on it every day, probably five or six. I don’t know where … I could probably go look and see where the traffic’s coming from. That article, if I wrote that on my site, wouldn’t have had any … That’s a story I want out in the world. I think that’s helping moms and dads everywhere. Same thing with the stuff that I wrote about other stuff that my wife and I have had to deal with. This thing, “Thirty-Six Things to Do for Those in Grief,” a hundred and forty-five thousand views, but only a hundred and sixty recommendations, which is weird.
Corbett: That’s interesting.
Chase: A hundred and forty-five thousand views on that thing, “Thirty-Six Things to Do for Those in Grief,” I think on search engines it’s just landing a lot for people who don’t have Medium accounts.
Chase: You know what I mean, because it’s a just a perfect thing. Those are two really big ones. I’ve also written really small ones that just don’t get there, they just don’t get there. You know what I found is basically when you reach a hundred recommendations, and if you reach a hundred recommendations in a shorter amount of time, Medium grabs it and starts promoting it for a week. You’ll see huge numbers. You get this effect there that’s really, really nice. Now, I like writing for Medium not having to think too much about how I’m going to pull them into my website. All those things, those are just for fun. Those are just for fun, right? I think if you’re writing for Medium, if you want to syndicate, you got to be smart … Not you have to be. You’re just not doing your best work if you’re not intelligent, creative, and delightful about how you entice people back to your site for a thing.
Everybody out there’s got a damn PDF to sell. “Get my free ebook.” Yeah, honestly on Medium, that feels cheesier than anything else. Right? Make me feel something about what you’re writing and why I should join you thing. Keep going.
Corbett: Yes, but the question is you have hundreds of thousands of views on Medium. The question is, what is that worth at the end of the day? We have some stats on that as well. I looked at the number of visitors that we’ve seen to both Think Traffic … Sorry, not Think Traffic. I keep saying that. To The Sparkline, Fizzle, and also to my own site, CorbettBarr.com, over the past year. Keeping in mind that over the past year, my articles on Medium have seen maybe thirty, forty thousand views, something like that. On my personal site, what I found was I have had nine hundred sessions that came from Medium directly to my personal site, and that resulted in … Actually, this is for Fizzle.
Chase: This is for Fizzle, yeah.
Corbett: Nine hundred sessions that came to Medium, and that resulted in four sign-ups.
Chase: Nine hundred people came to our Fizzle website from a Medium article somewhere, a link in a Medium article.
Corbett: Which doesn’t even mean that it’s one of our articles.
Chase: Yeah, it could be anywhere.
Corbett: Someone else could be writing about us.
Chase: Could be anywhere. Those nine hundred people have resulted in …
Corbett: Four sign-ups.
Chase: Four sign-ups.
Corbett: Now we don’t necessarily make a pitch. We also don’t do this regularly. I think we’ve probably syndicated two articles or something.
Chase: Yeah, we have not taken this seriously.
Corbett: Now on my site though, in the articles that I have syndicated, which is probably four or five of them, I do say something more specific, like “You can sign up for my weekly newsletter, blah blah blah,” at the bottom. From Medium to my site in the past year, three hundred and thirty-three sessions, and that resulted in seventy newsletter sign-ups.
Chase: Got it. That’s a much higher conversion rate [crosstalk 00:51:03].
Corbett: Just thinking about the amount of time that I’ve put into that probably was less than an hour to result in seventy newsletter subscribers. That seems like a no-brainer, and it’s probably something that I should do more.
Chase: Here’s what I want people to do. I think if you screw around on Medium, if you’re writing crap, and it’s not that good, and it’s just link baity or … It’s not actually connecting, it’s not helping … It’s not going to do well on Medium. I don’t see it yet as a place where crap can get big. I also think your stuff probably has a better chance of having long-term search engine placement on your own site than it does in Medium.
Corbett: right. Yeah.
Chase: Right? I want people to do Medium as Gary Vaynerchuk would encourage you to. Understand what Medium is and then win by those rules. Right? Play by those rules, use that vernacular. Realize who’s on Medium and what they’re looking for, and then cater to them. Right? I could totally picture a thing where we have our most popular things, and we might do a rehash of our most popular articles from The Sparkline on Medium, but they’re somehow a little bit different. You know what I mean? They’re somehow catered to Medium in some way. We’re able to say … I would want to have a free thing for each one of those. I would want to have an email series almost for … To send the Medium people to.
Corbett: Yeah, and again, we’re focusing, we’re talking a lot about Medium and we’re just assuming that there’s a fit between the audience on Medium and the things that we want to publish. I think people listening to this could be just making that assumption as well. I could be a food blogger and I could be thinking, “Should I be syndicating on Medium?” The question is, are there enough people who are reading articles about food, or whatever your topic is, for Medium to make a difference? The thing that we see from our own stats, as well as just looking at he most popular articles overall on Medium is that personal development, and entrepreneurship, and startup stuff seems to do best.
Chase: My question is, how much of that is … We should call it a close here pretty soon. How much of that is just our bubble of it, right?
Corbett: It’s not because you can look up literally the top, top stories, and I know that Medium’s tailored or whatever, but if people get the most popular stories by month or whatever, those two topics come up over and over again. Now there are also social justice issues that are coming up more and more on Medium, which are people talking about their experiences with racism and sexism, and other things. Those are popular as well, but you just need to look at Medium if you’re considering using it and ask yourself, “What kinds of articles are doing well there, and is that a good fit for me?” Of course, this is a really low effort platform to experiment with if you’re seriously talking about syndication. Even if you just want to go bang out a few original articles, the writing experience is so easy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be long, deep wealth.
Chase: Honestly yeah. If I was starting out as a blog, I’d be really … If I was just starting out, I’d be really tempted to just write on Medium for the time being, and then have a very strong call to action to join the newsletter in every single post. You know what I mean? It’d be Medium and a newsletter, Medium and a newsletter, Medium and a newsletter. Then eventually either writing for my own thing, because then you don’t have to set up your domain. You don’t have to do anything of that yet. Right? Yet. That’s a very James Clear “this is my second time around” way of doing it. It wouldn’t be my first time around.
Corbett: I would modify that just to … I would publish articles on my own site as well because if you’re going to write them, you might as well have them on your own site, and I would publish them there first so that you get the long-term SEO benefit.
Corbett: Definitely making your site newsletter-focused is a great way to go when you just start off.
Chase: Yeah. I think absolutely. All right, anything else to add before we go?
Corbett: Think that’s it.
Chase: I put in these show notes here a handful of links to a few of our posts from Medium, just so people can see what we’re doing. We by no means are the experts in this thing at all. This is just our take on it right now dealing with the literally thousands of entrepreneurs that we are helping to get through this within Fizzle. This is hopefully going to be helpful for you all of you thinking about this, because I think it’s an important question. All right. I have been Chase [inaudible 00:55:34] Reeves.
Corbett: I’ve been Corbett Lee Barr.
Chase: We’ll see you then. Okay. We’ll see you on another time. All right. Really though, get your transmission figured out.
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