Alan Ralph

Wearer Of Many Hats

Silo To Silo

Adam Tinworth:

It deeply bothers me that ongoing access to a whole load of important and significant writing from the last few years is entirely based on the continued existence of only two companies: Medium and Substack.

I commented on his post on Micro.blog:

Particularly in the case of Medium, thanks to their zigs and zags over the years, links to content hosted there have succumbed to bit-rot, either through the blog closing down or being removed, or because a paywall is now in the way. Substack hasn’t zagged yet, but that would definitely be in the back of my mind.

I want to expand on the above paragraph a bit here. I’ve been a member of Medium in the past, albeit as a reader rather than a writer. There is a lot to like about it, particularly its annotation system that lets readers comment on parts of articles and the author(s) respond. The problem with Medium has been its business model, or rather its search for one. They’ve tried out quite a few over the years, with varying degrees of success, and a lot of fallout in terms of writers and publications getting burned.

So far, Substack seems to have learnt from Medium’s missteps. But there’s no getting away from the fact that, while it might be profitable for both Substack and their user base, it’s a silo in much the same way as Medium. Yes, you can probably export your writing, but then you have to find a new home, and all the links to your posts on Substack stop working, unless you own the domain name you used and make sure the rehomed posts have the same URLs.

Services like Medium or Substack are popular because it reduced the spadework required to create a presence online and get noticed. The downside, however, is that the spade-wielder is between you and your audience. And, as Medium has shown, the foreman may direct the diggers to become bricklayers or erect fences.


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