The Real Reasons Why I Left Medium

Getting into some previously-undisclosed details of my troublesome stay on this platform.

I’ve been reticent to talk about this because it will fundamentally alter my relationship with the people at Medium — a few of whom I was and in some cases am still very good friends with — but given my decision a month ago to depart the platform for pastures new, I thought it would be only appropriate to outline the reasons why I switched to Substack after what has been a relatively successful three years on here.

The main reason I started a Medium blog in the first place was because of an argument on Twitter–I thought to myself initially that there is no way the nuance of what I was trying to say could be conveyed in a few dozen words at most — and Medium’s founder Ev Williams thought as much — so after seeing that this was basically the only blogging platform with a half-functional discovery system and some semblance of mainstream recognition, I decided to hop in. The experiment started out mostly as a hobby, but it evolved to become something far more polished–my thinking at the time was also that if I kept at it and produced clips worthy of publication on a more traditional outlet, then it’s only a matter of time before my stay at Medium is no longer necessary.

A pivotal moment came to me at the end of August 2019 when a piece of commentary I wrote on Bret Stephens — the NYT’s infamous rabble-rouser — caught a few of GEN’s editors eyes and got picked up by the publication. It was then communicated to me by an editor — whose name I will not disclose — that an opportunity had potentially become available for me to write on a more permanent basis for GEN, and maybe even other in-house Medium publications–much to my dismay, this was followed by radio silence, and the doors had been shut since for any of my writing to be promoted in any official capacity by the platform.

My suspicion at the time was that my series of posts on ContraPointsthe first of whom published a mere few days later after the Bret Stephens kerfuffle — had caused some apprehension in Medium’s upper echelon not to hire me, presumably because I’d become a Glenn Greenwald-like liability. I beat myself over that hard in the coming years, sometimes picturing a scenario where I’d picked a less controversial tone as a writer just to be more desirable as a media product, but given that none of what I’d written since had ever gotten any attention outside of social media fanfare and favorable treatment by search engines… I’d all but given up hope on joining Medium’s roster of staff writers.

That was at least on some level tolerable since I wasn’t exactly getting absolutely nothing from the Partner Program–I’d say the pay was about comparable to what similar levels of engagement on YouTube would yield, and with a regular 30k views/month showing and a whopping 140k at its highest, given my relatively-small size of followers, I thought this was going to remain sustainable until I’m able to turn it into an actual paying gig. Despite it occupying much of my waking hours, having my basic needs taken care of by my mom and the welfare state meant I could still keep pushing until something better came up.

The reality of the situation had only set in until the initial hype of what I was writing about swiftly faded. Readers had perhaps gotten the wrong impression that I was solely an internet culture commentator, and I’ve certainly attempted to fit that mold in the past, but I’m interested in “hyper-concepts” above all–internet culture dissected as individual events and few troublesome actors with no rapport between each other doesn’t interest me as much as the systemic analysis, so I’ve naturally branched out into politics, the digital economy, and so much of the discursive and technological foundation that even makes internet culture a thing.

Needless to say that when you talk in a very inside-baseball jargon about concepts most people are not familiar with — or don’t care to learn — you lose a lot of eyeballs, and as much as I’d tried to tie the themes of what I was talking about into the stuff that people were interested in — in that case, a lot of creator drama and culture war critique — that endeavor was ultimately unsuccessful, and it was my choice to either dumb it down and make it more palatable for a larger audience, or double-down on my niches regardless of what reservations my earlier fans had about my new brand of writing.

This leads neatly into my transition to Substack, which is all about choice and passion for me: I’m not as bound up in the media cycle as I try to sleuth my way into desirable search rankings, and since it is technically a newsletter tool rather than a blogging platform, being personal isn’t as fraught.

One lesson I’d gotten from my extensive analysis of my stories’ analytics on Medium over the years is that readers hate when you talk in first-person–I used to do it a lot, but no one would give a shit about the stories. So as time went on, I chipped away on as much of my individual character as possible just to keep people engaged, and when Medium weighed story pay-outs in favor of engagement over claps, I was all-the-more compelled to never use “I” or “My” in a story ever again.

My transition to Substack is a bit of a return to roots if I’m being perfectly honest, and I might start addressing my audience in more personable terms if I feel more comfortable with it. But needless to remind everyone reading this if they haven’t seen it already, you following me on Medium no longer serves a purpose as I’ve fully transitioned everything over to Substack. There’s around thirty people following me on Substack as there remains a thousand and four-hundred of you here–it would be my greatest pleasure to welcome you to my new home as I chart a new path forward.

Click this link to be taken to my new Substack page.

This page is now decommissioned. Follow me here instead: https://akhaled.substack.com/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store