Writers can write in spaces we control, or we can write in spaces others control. We can spread our writing around, so one story appears in many places, or we can put each story in one place and distribute pointers to it.
There are tradeoffs. If I write a piece and post it on Huffington or Medium, the theory is that it gets more circulation, our ideas get more exposure, or we get some kind of reputation benefit. Medium is a place where good writers write. Therefore if my story appears there, that leaves an impression that I'm a good writer. Huffington makes it look like I'm a journalist. Same with Forbes these days. But the reps quickly catch up with facts. Pretty much anyone can have an account on any of these systems. And as soon as you see a crude rant show up on one of them, you understand that the name isn't about quality anymore. The value in the name dissipates quickly.
I've written for several of these pubs, and I don't think my stories get any more play there than they do here, on my blog.
Huffington plays games with flow. If you ever get a hit story, they use it to deliver flow to stories written by their own people on that topic. Now that hardly seems fair, given that they don't reciprocate by delivering flow to your less popular stories. When this happened, when I had a hit on Huffington, that was the last time I posted anything there.
When you think about it, if these guys are smart, it has to be that way. They're not going to let big flow come into their servers without monetizing it. So if you don't get much flow from them for your so-so articles and if they siphon off flow from your hits, why should put your work there? It's not a good deal.
Medium has a slightly different proposition. I have put a few stories there over the last few months, some of my best pieces (they got me to think about them that way -- good for them), but they didn't get any more flow than they did here. They have an excellent stats system so you can see. Their hook is that their tools are nice and HTML5-pretty. They feel good to write with. That's nice. But could you get the same thing outside of Medium? Of course. This is not hard to do. But, key point, we have to work together, to iterate there.
If good writers work with good designers and programmers we can keep building so that independence continues to be the basic value of the web. Otherwise we're returning the independence we got from the web to another generation of AOLs.
I think that if you're a writer, you're hurting your own interest by not working with independent designers and programmers, long-term. And the leaders, the people who advise other writers on what they should be doing, I think they're hurting us even more by leading the parade into the new AOLs. Same with teachers of writers.
This isn't about any one writer, designer or programmer, it's about all of us. Remember how far the open web has taken us. Let's not abandon it now. It can keep delivering, but only if we work together and feed our creativity and passion into it.
Writers, designers and programmers. FTW! :-)