WordPress.com Announces New Importer for Medium Posts

photo credit: Sergey Zolkin

Medium started 2017 on uncertain footing, laying off a third of its staff in January after admitting that its ad-based business model was not working.

“We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for,” Medium CEO Ev Williams said. “To continue on this trajectory put us at risk — even if we were successful, business-wise — of becoming an extension of a broken system. Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet.”

Williams said that Medium will be taking “a different, bolder approach” to this problem of driving payment for quality content but that “it is too soon to say exactly what this will look like.” Medium may be experimenting with paid subscriptions in the future, but the company has yet to articulate its next strategy for monetization.

WordPress.com Now Offers an Importer Tool for Medium

Publishers that don’t want to stick around for Medium’s next round of experimentation can now easily migrate to WordPress. Automattic announced a new Medium importer for WordPress.com today and the company also plans to make it available to self-hosted WordPress sites through Jetpack.

Medium users can export content to a zip file and then upload it into WordPress.com’s import tool. The import includes posts, tags, images, and videos and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Previously, Medium sites could be imported into WordPress using an RSS importer plugin, but there were significant drawbacks to this approach. WordPress.com’s importer tool takes this into account.

“Using the provided RSS file from Medium’s export archive was not sufficient, because some of the post data, like embeds, is missing,” Automattic developer Marko Andrijašević said. “Because of that, we are combining the data available in RSS and exported HTML files to accurately reproduce the post’s content.”

Medium hasn’t made it easy for publishers to leave with their full content and has changed the format of its exports multiple times in the past. Andrijašević said this is one of the reasons it took WordPress.com so long to add an importer, along with the fact that the provided data in the exported archive was not sufficient to import everything correctly.

“We’ll have Jetpack support coming soon for self-hosted sites,” Andrijašević said. “One other workaround for self-hosted site owners would be to use the Medium importer on WordPress.com, and then generate a WXR (WordPress eXtended RSS) file with our exporter. The WXR can then be used with WordPress importer on any self-hosted site.”

In addition to its uncertain future and unsightly permalinks, Medium gives users plenty of other reasons to be wary of the platform. Publishers were not notified in advance about the company’s “renewed focus” and its plan to abandon the advertising model. Medium’s product is its users’ content and the company’s terms of service state that it can use that content to promote its own products and services, enable advertising, and “remove any content you post for any reason.”

Part of the appeal of Medium is that it removes the burden of site management. Publishers are now expected to navigate things like AMP, FB Instant Articles, social networks, and SEO to drive traffic to their websites. With Medium, publishers are trading site ownership for convenience. If the company is not able to find a workable way to monetize users’ content, it has a very real chance of joining the hundreds of blogging silos that have died or been bought by a competitor simply to be shut down and have their technology reabsorbed.

Medium’s publishing experience is entirely geared towards making the company successful by monetizing the efforts of publishers on its network. In a post titled The Billionaire’s Typewriter, Matthew But­t­er­ick writes about how the platform’s limitations on features and customization are designed to “let Medium extract value from the talent and labor of others.” He describes digital sharecropping in its shiniest form:

Be­cause in re­turn for that snazzy de­sign, Medium needs you to relinquish con­trol of how your work gets to readers.

Tempt­ing per­haps. But where does it lead? I fear that writ­ers who limit them­selves to pro­vid­ing “con­tent” for some­one else’s “branded plat­form” are go­ing to end up with as much lever­age as cows on a dairy farm.

Medium is a new kind of type­writer—the bil­lion­aire’s type­writer. It’s not the only bil­lion­aire’s type­writer. So is the Kin­dle. So is iBooks. So is Twit­ter. What dis­tin­guishes these new type­writ­ers is not the pos­si­bil­i­ties they make available to writers, but what they take away.

Publishers who want to determine the trajectory and reach of their own work need to migrate to a more stable platform where they have full control of their content. It’s not yet clear how Medium plans to monetize in the future, but the company will undoubtedly continue reaping the economic rewards of its publishers’ work. Whether you choose open source software or some other avenue, it’s worth leaving Medium’s grand experiment in order to own your own work.


8 responses to “WordPress.com Announces New Importer for Medium Posts”

  1. And automattic people are surprised when anybody says that jetpack is bloated…. Guess it is just too hard to release such a thing as an importer plugin, you know the wordpress.org review process sucks so bad even @matt can’t release anything in reasonable time…

  2. If Medium does go the way of the dodo, I’ll have mixed feelings about it.

    On the one hand, it’s core strength has always been its front-end editing system. That, and the core focus on content – single column, clean typography, no glaring pop-ups before you’ve even read the content – made it great for content creators.

    That being said, it lost its way as it started to feed typical link-bait BS to the top, and interesting voices were being lost.

    As shown with Blogger and Twitter, and now Medium, Ev is great at getting funding for projects, but lacks business acumen when it comes to monetizing them.

  3. Medium is a stripped down and beautiful blogging platform. The editor looks elegant and clutter-free. What troubles me the most is the fact that Medium leaves little or no control for the blogger on their blog. The blogs using Medium ( like bullshitist and the ringer) are elegant-looking blogs.
    I am aware of the fact that WordPress has themes that look good but its just that I’ve invested enough while creating a blog over at Medium. I can in no way invest more on purchasing a theme. Yes, I bought a hosting and domain already knowing that WordPress is the future but I will miss the minimalism,community and elegance.

    This is what I plan to achieve: Have a blog with minimal featured images and content to the left with a sidebar to the right. Plus, something that can help the readers know that the blog is a personal curation of all the articles the author has ever written ( even on different blogs)

    How do I achieve that “personal curation” touch? Please help a new wordpresser out.

  4. I don’t think Medium is going anywhere. Just because they backed off their previous monetization strategy they can easily go raise more money with their traction, and find a better model.

    Anyhow, Medium has a much stronger following community then anything I’ve ever experienced with WordPress. For example, I had an article go viral on Medium, and it was viewed over 9 million times.

    Granted, I gave up on WordPress.com a while ago, I don’t believe the capacity to reach that many people is available. WordPress.com lacks promotion and community outreach functionality and capacity, and doesn’t seem to have any curated or algorithmic content matching (unless this stuff was added recently?).

    Medium does its best to match your content with readers who might be interested, and that simply has not been my experience with WordPress.

    What is also interesting about Medium is how it handles “responses” as unique sets of content to have a threaded public conversation. Essentially comments are equal posts types to the main article itself, and can be liked, shared, and generate their own traffic. This extra layer of communication and post type recognition blows WordPress commenting out of the water. Sometimes the “comments” or “responses” end up getting just as much traction as the original article. Something once again that can’t happen with WordPress.

    If WordPress wants to compete with Medium, they’re going to have to radically change their approach.


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