So, you’ve decided to start a blog and grow a following. Now comes the tricky part: Which platform should you use?
Medium and WordPress are among the two most popular blogging platforms in the world. However, what is the difference between the two, and which one is a better choice for your needs?
While both Medium and WordPress have their pros and cons, they are very different in the way they work, how you can make money, and what they allow for. Today, I will be comparing these two popular blogging platforms and showing you which one is best.
Let us get into it.
Medium is a website that is sort of in between a blogging platform, a social network, and a magazine for subscribers.
Anyone can sign up and start a personal blog on Medium. There are a few ways bloggers on Medium can earn money, and I will go over them later.
Writing on Medium is entirely free for writers. Readers may read for free, but if they want unlimited access to all content published on Medium, they will have to pay for a premium subscription.
Medium also acts as a sort of magazine for subscribers. It will send readers emails with curated content, based on topics they have previously read about or from writers they have subscribed to.
You can follow writers, “clap” to show appreciation for their articles, create a bio, send out email notifications to subscribers when you publish new content, and more.
There are actually two versions of WordPress, and it is important to distinguish between the two.
Everything will be provided for you, and there are a couple of ways you can monetize your free site. There are also premium plans if you would like more features and customization.
WordPress.org is a bit different. It is self-hosted and open source software that you can download and use to create a website on a third party hosting platform like SiteGround.
In other words, when you use WordPress.com as a free or paid member, WordPress.com will be providing the hosting and website building platform for you. While it may be a bit more convenient, it also means you will enjoy less flexibility.
WordPress.org only gives you the website building software. You then have to upload it to a third party hosting platform and build the site all by yourself.
While it is a bit more complicated, you have a lot more control over your website.
Unfortunately, many blog articles comparing Medium and WordPress focus only on WordPress.com or only on WordPress.org.
Today, however, I will be comparing Medium to both WordPress.com and WordPress.org. That way, you can get the full picture of the difference between these two big brand names and make the best choice for your business.
Writing on WorPress.com is free, but it does come with a lot of restrictions unless you upgrade. Using WordPress.org is always free, but you will have to pay for third party hosting and a domain name; I will go over pricing later.
Medium is perhaps the easier platform for getting started quickly. You can create an account with your Gmail or Facebook and start writing within a minute.
Getting started on WordPress.com is not really difficult, either. However, needing to choose between the different WordPress.com pricing plans can make it a bit more confusing.
If you will be using WordPress.org, it is even more complicated. You will need to download the software, find and sign up for third party hosting, purchase a domain name, upload the software, and start your blog.
Granted, some hosting providers make uploading and installing WordPress possible with just a few clicks. For example, setting up WordPress on SiteGround is really easy, as shown in the SiteGround WordPress tutorial.
Nevertheless, it is still more complicated than Medium and requires a bit more technical know-how.
In the past, there was a time when Medium did not allow writers to connect a custom domain to their blog. Before that, they even charged writers a $75 fee to do so.
Medium claims to allow writers to use a custom domain for free, but it was requiring me to upgrade to the premium plan to be able to do that. However, using a medium subdomain (YourDomain.Medium.com) is free.
While Medium does allow custom domain names, using one might not be the best course of action. Being a writer on the main Medium domain is a lot better than being a writer on a free subdomain, both in terms of the SEO rankings you will get and how people will perceive you.
First, Medium has a high Domain Authority rank. When you write a blog post on Medium, there is a good chance of it ranking on the first page of Google.
Remember, Medium is kind of like an online magazine as well, and your blog posts will be published on the main Medium domain.
On the other hand, a subdomain just doesn’t hold as much SEO power. Even your own custom domain likely won’t be able to achieve a Domain Authority ranking similar to Medium.
Not only that, but people will not take you very seriously if your blog is on a subdomain.
WordPress.com lets you start a blog for free — but only on a WordPress.com subdomain. It will look something like this: YourDomain.WordPress.com.
That just doesn’t look very professional, and it won’t rank as well.
If you would like to use a custom domain, you will need to upgrade to a premium WordPress.com plan or simply use the open source WordPress.org software.
All of your articles will be hosted for free by Medium. Even if you use a custom domain, you simply have to update your DNS records to point them to your new domain — you won’t have to pay extra for hosting.
With WordPress, on the other hand, you almost always have to pay extra for hosting, unless you are using a free WordPress.com account. However, the restrictions are too many for it to be worth it, and you will be forced to use a WordPress.com subdomain.
The main way people make money on Medium is by joining the Medium Partner Program, which rewards you when premium members read your content. As I mentioned before, Medium readers can only access a handful of free articles a month.
After that, they have to pay a subscription fee to access more content. As a member of the Medium Partner Program, you get paid when premium members read your content.
You also get paid when free members read your content and then upgrade within a month.
The exact amount of money you will make varies. When you start out, it might be just a few bucks a month; you will need a large readership to make a considerable amount of money.
You will get paid every month, but you will need a Stripe account to receive payments.
However, you can only join the Medium Partner Program under certain conditions. For example, you need to already have 100 subscribers on Medium.
In addition, the Medium Partner Program is only available to writers in certain countries, almost all of which are in Europe, North America, or Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). There are also three Asian countries/territories supported: Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.
That makes the Medium Partner Program unavailable to most of the world. Nevertheless, there is another way you can make money on Medium: with affiliate marketing.
You don’t even need to have 100 subscribers to do this. You are allowed to place affiliate links in your Medium content, and you can also link back to your main affiliate site.
However, you must disclose your affiliate links on Medium to your audience, as per FTC guidelines. Otherwise, Medium may suspend your account.
While affiliate links are allowed on Medium, you do want to use them sparingly. If you have too many affiliate links, your Medium content probably won’t rank as well, both on Google and on Medium.
Finally, Medium itself has an affiliate program that pays you when you refer premium members to Medium.
When using a free WordPress.com site, there are only two ways to make money. You can insert affiliate links into your blog posts, or you can get paid for sponsored posts.
However, actually being hired to write a sponsored post with a free WordPress.com subdomain blog is not very likely.
Finally, when you use a free WordPress.com site, you will have to allow WordPress to place ads on your site. Not only can you not remove those ads, you don’t even get paid for them.
However, as soon as you upgrade to a premium WordPress.com plan, your options broaden. On all plans, for example, you can block certain content and only make it available to paying readers.
If you don’t want to lock any content, you can also request tips and donations.
Alternatively, you can create a membership site, offering any type of perks to premium members.
The higher tier plans allow for additional earning methods. For example, you may join the WordPress.com advertising network, which allows you to earn money from ads placed on your site from Google, Facebook, AOL, and other advertising networks.
Depending on your plan, you may also sell physical or digital products and accept payments via various payment methods.
However, for ultimate earning flexibility, you will have to create your own site using WordPress.org. Once you have your own site, you can make money through many ways:
- Selling a course or ebook
- Creating membership tiers
- Locking content
- Advertising with the ad network of your choice
- Creating an email list and selling solo ads
- Selling software or white label products
- Starting an ecommerce store
- Promoting affiliate products
- Getting paid for sponsored posts
With your own site, you are also not restricted in the type of content or products you can sell. If you want, you can sell adult products, for example.
So, who wins here? If you want to make money with zero expenses, Medium is a better choice, because a free WordPress.com site is fairly restrictive.
However, overall, WordPress wins. While WordPress.org gives you supreme flexibility in how you can earn money, even WordPress.com offers many more earning methods than Medium, provided you sign up for a premium plan.
Unfortunately, you can’t really start an ecommerce store on Medium. Medium is a blogging platform, not a place to sell products.
While you can link to your ecommerce store on Medium, you can’t sell directly on the platform.
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org allow you to start an ecommerce store. Nevertheless, WordPress.org remains the better choice.
You can sell products on both Wordpress.com Business and eCommerce plans. However, both of them come with costly monthly fees, and they are generally not worth it when compared to the cost of running a regular WooCommerce store, using WordPress.org software, with third party hosting.
If you are starting from scratch, Medium is the better platform for building a following. That is because on Medium, you can enjoy exposure to a built-in audience.
Remember, Medium is like an online magazine. It promotes hot articles to its readers via email and by placing them on the front page.
Medium readers can find your articles easily. In addition, simply writing on Medium gives you a good chance of ranking high on Google, getting even more exposure.
Medium is also somewhat of a social site. Readers can comment, “clap” when they like your article, share your articles easily, and so on.
If you are starting from scratch, it will take more time to build an audience when using WordPress.org. You will be more on your own, and you will have to know SEO well to get people to see your articles.
WordPress.com does have a Discover page with Editor’s Picks. Overall, however, Medium is better than even WordPress.com for exposure.
However, you can import your content from WordPress to Medium. A special tag will be added, so Google doesn’t consider it duplicate content.
There is no doubt about it: When it comes to flexibility, customization, and control, Medium is the poorer choice.
On the one hand, Medium offers a quick and easy way to get your content out to the world, with zero costs. It’s simple, straightforward, and quick.
On the other hand, while Medium is great for simply writing content, it’s not as great for branding.
Don’t get me wrong — you can customize your blog by changing the colors, background, font, header, and more.
However, even if you have a custom domain, the customization options available on Medium don’t come anywhere close to what you can get on WordPress.
First, Medium has the same general format across its site, despite slight differences if you have your own domain. For example, you can add your own branding and customize the look somewhat, but those who are aware might be able to tell it is being hosted by Medium.
Furthermore, by using Medium, you are agreeing to their content policies and terms of service.
Technically, the content you write on Medium is yours.
However, practically, Medium can do with it whatever they want. They can restrict certain topics, delete your content when they decide to, and even delete and ban your blog altogether.
Finally, Medium’s focus is on telling stories in your content. In fact, they are now calling all blog posts on the site “stories.”
Now, you don’t have to actually tell a real story in your articles; you are allowed to write any type of blog post. However, if your goal is to publish content that revolves around the products and services you already sell as opposed to writing content for the sake of it, it might be better to use your own blog.
WordPress just offers a lot more flexibility and control. Again, the ultimate flexibility you can get is when you use WordPress.org.
Using WordPress.org, you can choose any theme you want, customize your site with code, install plugins, write about anything you want, and so on.
However, even with WordPress.com, you get more control over your site, though it does depend on your membership plan.
For example, with the Business plan and up, you get access to over 50,000 WordPress plugins, which you can install on your site to customize it, increase your conversion rate, and make your site easier to navigate.
Source: Casey Botticello
While Medium does offer analytics and viewership reports, the analytics you will get are somewhat limited. Here is a general idea of the type of data you can see:
- Total views, reads, and fans for the past month and for specific days, along with a chart displaying trends over the past month. Views refer to people who clicked on your article, while fans are those who “clapped” to show appreciation for your article.
- Views, the percentage of views that turned into reads, and earnings for specific articles.
- The interests of your readers. That can help you write articles better targeted to them.
- A general idea of where your readers are coming from. You’ll see which search engines are driving traffic and the percentage of traffic from Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, email, Facebook, etc.
That’s still pretty limited. For example, you can’t see which search keywords are leading users to your articles, nor can you analyze user behavior when reading your articles and see which pages they visited after the first they landed on, for example.
With WordPress.org and all paid WordPress.com plans, you can integrate your site with Google Analytics. In addition, with WordPress.org, you can analyze your traffic even further by using more advanced tracking services, such as heat maps that show you where on a page your users are clicking.
In general, Google Analytics is one of the most advanced analytics suites out there, and it is entirely free to use. You can track keywords, user behavior, user journeys, conversions, and a lot more!
- It is incredibly easy to get started.
- It is entirely free.
- You can earn money just from having people read your articles.
- You can use a custom domain with free Medium hosting.
- Medium has a high domain authority rank.
- There is a built-in audience.
- You are limited in the ways you can make money.
- There are no ecommerce capabilities.
- There is limited customization and flexibility.
- You lack full control.
- WordPress.org offers ultimate flexibility.
- You can make money with a wide range of methods.
- Lots of plugins are available.
- It is not free, unless you limit yourself to a WordPress.com subdomain with ads.
- WordPress.org is more complicated to use than Medium.
- There is no built-in audience.
As I mentioned, Medium is 100 percent free for writers. The only cost is if you host your blog on your own domain, in which case you will have to pay a yearly fee for that domain name.
In addition, as of now, it seems like you need to be a premium member to be able to connect a custom domain. Premium membership costs $5/month or $50/year — check this page for updated information.
WordPress.com has several plans:
- Personal, at $4-7/month
- Premium, at $8-14/month
- Business, at $25-33/month
- eCommerce, at $45-59/month
The lower price range is for when you pay annually. For example, the Personal plan costs $7/month when paid monthly and $48/year ($4/month) when paid yearly.
Paying annually will also give you a free domain name for your first year.
Check the pricing page for updated pricing information.
Finally, WordPress.org is free to use, but you will need to purchase a domain and a hosting plan, which vary based on the registrar and hosting provider you use.
|Use Custom Domain||✓||✓|
|Earn From Readership||✓||✗|
|Total Control & Flexibility||✗||✓|
|Additional Costs For Added Features/Flexibility||✗||✓|
Overall, WordPress is the better choice, provided you are using WordPress.org with third party hosting. However, if you are looking for the quickest way to start a blog with zero costs, Medium is the way to go.
Nevertheless, there is no reason you can not use both. The best thing to do is start a blog using WordPress.org and use your Medium blog to grow your audience and link to your WordPress site.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.