ThinkProgress has recently raised eyebrows by moving its entire web presence from WordPress to the online publishing platform, Medium. After hearing this news, the question that immediately popped into my mind was: Why would a news organization make a jump from a standalone, branded presence to something less autonomous and integrated with another brand (Medium)?
The answer lies in both the way online news consumption is changing and the new ways publishers can monetize content outside of a native website. According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Americans get news from social media, a 12 percent jump from the last time data were collected in 2012. This behavior shift is making it less important for a news organization to drive traffic to websites, and instead pushes them to meet audiences where they are spending the majority of time online — mainly Facebook and other social media platforms. This shift also necessitates a change in advertising strategy to ensure publishers get credit for readership and engagement with their stories. In the case of ThinkProgress, it will continue to post sponsored (e.g., paid) stories on Medium as it did on WordPress. However, it will no longer have the option for more traditional display and banner ads since they will not have control over the platform on which they are publishing. Given display and banner ads are diminishing in popularity, ThinkProgress says it is confident about its ability to still make money on Medium.
While there are differences in the way nonprofit organizations produce online content from news publishers like ThinkProgress, this shift raises the question of whether nonprofit websites should also consider moving to Medium — even if only for blog content.
Below are key questions to consider before taking the plunge:
- Am I comfortable with losing a little control of features and layout? While Medium is generally considered to be aesthetically pleasing, it’s a quickly growing company that is still testing new features. If you make a jump to Medium, be prepared for changes in features like the comments or tagging systems to the entire layout of pages.
- Is my audience on Medium? Medium generally sees a younger, more affluent, tech savvy audience. But, it also has niche areas of interest in just about any topic. In general, it’s safe to assume that a blog post on Medium will see more traffic than the same post on your website, because Medium has a larger existing audience base than most nonprofit websites.
- Does my content need special formatting? Medium has a clean, simple layout that doesn’t allow for much customization. This is fine for most text, photo and video content, but does not have the same flexibility as a standalone website. For example, Medium isn’t ideal if you need to integrate a membership sign-up form or a database into a post.