Why I Quit Medium And Moved To Substack

My final Medium post

Tom Kuegler
8 min readAug 17, 2023

Hello. My name is Tom Kuegler, and I have over 60,000 followers here on Medium.

A few weeks ago, I announced I was moving my writing to Substack.

Today I’m announcing that I’m officially done writing on Medium forever.

Substack is my home now, for better or worse (here’s my newsletter if you want to subscribe).

Well, that and LinkedIn — which is where I write the most nowadays.

There’s a couple big reasons why that I’ll be breaking down in this article.

It’s Not For Bloggers Anymore

Go to Medium’s homepage.

What do you see?

This is what I see:

Barack Obama.


Book authors.

The terminator.

On YOUR Medium homepage you might not see this, but log out and go to Medium.com for a second. You’ll see what I’m seeing. This is how Medium’s marketing itself to possible readers.

I get it.

It’s impressive to have Barack Obama and Arnold on your home feed. It says “Hey! We have important people publishing here, therefore there’s important stuff to read here!”

But Arnold’s post is two minutes long. It’s probably not that life-changing. And Medium’s boosting this 2-minute post while telling us they’re looking for longer, higher-quality writing. Like this snippet taken from their latest announcement.

We want the incentives of the Partner Program to encourage writers to take that extra bit of time to weave more meaning into their stories, to tune those words, to land that ending, to ultimately make the story better for readers.

……Exceeepppttt for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He can do whatever he wants and get boosted. You all — the peasants — you’ll be held to different standards.

And this is the core problem I have with Medium.

How gatekeepy they are.

I wondered why they rolled out a new badge that showed who’s an author and who isn’t a few months back. Now it makes sense. They’re trying to draw the line between “good writers” and “bad writers.” If you don’t have a badge, you’re not in the club.

Medium looks, sounds, and acts like the cool kids clique at school.

And this is a trend that started with Ev Williams back in 2019.

They hired a bunch of Editors and journalists to start their own high-quality publications. Then they plastered all their “original content” above the fold on the homepage and stuffed the lowly “normal posts” from the “normal bloggers” down below.

Guess what? Two years later Ev announced this experiment didn’t work and wasn’t bringing in the revenue they hoped for. He laid everybody off (with severance packages) and Medium basically went into limbo for a year before Ev stepped down and Tony took his place.

What’s crazy is I see Medium, under Tony Stubblebine, making ALL the same mistakes they did a few years ago.

There’s a lot of focus on “quality” in their announcements, which everyone seems to be cheering for, but what everyone’s forgetting is that they already tried that.

It led to dozens of people losing their jobs, the nosediving of Medium as a whole, and Ev Williams stepping down from the company he’d worked on for more than 10 years.

What even is quality? Long blog posts with drab headlines written from a stark liberal perspective about a left-leaning idea?

Notice how there’s little to no blog posts that Medium promotes with a Conservative perspective. So, quality, which means only left-leaning ideas, please.

From what I can tell, they’re trying to turn Medium into the New York Times, which is what they tried to do in 2019 and it failed miserably.

Medium’s cliquey, and it’s going to lead to their permanent downfall.

They Don’t Need A “Boost,” They Need An Algorithm

Tony Stubblebine unveiled “the boost” a few months back. It basically means if someone at Medium thinks your article is good, they’ll “boost” it to more people across the platform.

Cool, right?

Except no, not cool.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Here’s a list of platforms that don’t have a manual boost system:

  • Youtube
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Tiktok
  • “X”
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest

So, nobody.

These platforms have algorithms, which take care of giving users more of the content they want to consume automatically. It’s pretty awesome.

For instance, Youtube gives you statistics on “click-through” rate — the percentage of people who click on your video when it’s shown to them. If you don’t have a click-through rate of at least 4–5%, then your video is pretty much doomed to obscurity. It makes sense, right? Youtube wants to give users content that’s not just awesome, but that people ACTUALLY click on.

If it keeps giving us videos on our homepage that we don’t click on, then we’ll leave the platform. Youtube’s goal is attention and engagement.

It also, smartly, measures retention.

If a video keeps someone watching for longer periods of time, Youtube knows it must be engaging and therefore promotes it more.

When a platform DOESN’T do this, what you get is a bunch of pissed off creators.

Medium promises to “boost” high quality articles. The problem is, what’s high quality? Who defines that? And why do so many Medium users feel their best work isn’t being boosted while their borderline articles are?

It’s exceedingly frustrating to NOT let the market decide what’s quality and what isn’t.

Medium has a metric for read time, but there’s never been a metric for click-through rate. The fact that they’re not tracking that at all for articles shows me they’re incompetent.

How can you expect to run a social media platform that depends on attention for revenue without caring about click-through rate?

It’s like building a car without a motor.

Medium just “boosts” stories and sends up a prayer to the Big Man that people will actually click on it.

That’s….a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see if it pays off.

The “boost” is an unclear, cliquey, historically bad idea whose spirit led Medium to the brink of annihilation two years ago under Ev Williams.

I don’t know why Tony and company are doubling down on hiring a bunch of human beings to vet stories. Trust your audience. Track click-through rate AND read time, and you’ll get scores of new eyeballs, users, and subscribers overnight.

But no, Medium loves telling you what you want to read.

The craziest part of all this?

Medium’s basically admitting their algorithm sucks. Yeah, you heard me right. Why would any platform with a functioning algorithm NEED a manual team of curators to find and promote under-performing content?

…..when their algorithm sucks.

And when discoverability sucks.

So with the boost Medium’s just admitting both their algorithm and discoverability sucks.

You Kinda Need Clickbait, Dude

Medium hates clickbait, too. I quote their latest announcement post:

“We don’t want to incentivize attention-grabbing clickbait, formulaic derivative or AI-generated writing, misinformation, hate, and other forms of polarizing negativity.”

It’s funny because just 6 months ago Medium said they were fine with AI as long as you put, in your post, that it was written by AI.

So, complete 180 on that.

Why is it wrong to grab attention? I ask you this question seriously.

What’s bad about clickbait is when someone uses clickbait to say the most outlandish crap and then not follow through on what they promised in the headline.

That’s the problem.

The problem isn’t clickbait itself.

No matter how much Medium doesn’t want to admit it, clickbait works. The best Youtubers literally agonize over their titles to make sure people are clicking.

This is not Field of Dreams. If you write it, it’s not guaranteed that people will come.

And in a world where the human attention span is dwindling year after year, I don’t understand why Medium’s taking the stance of “Post and pray” I.E. Write a great post and pray people will just show up to read it.

It’s not going to happen.

You need to be a master of both worlds — getting attention AND writing quality — to survive as a writer. Heck, to survive as a creator in general you must do both well. This is a yin-yang relationship here. It’s not just yin. It’s both, and Medium’s going to pay the price for only focusing on one side of that circle. They already did back in 2021.

There’s No Crab Meat There Anymore

On Medium I used to get what my brother calls “a lot of crab meat.”

It’s the incredible sensation, while eating a crab, when you pull out a huge blob of crab meat from the claw after breaking it open.

It kinda felt like hitting the jackpot.

We’re from Maryland. If you know, you know.

I used to get a ton of views in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Heck, in 2020 I used to get pretty decent views sometimes, too.

But since 2020 it’s fallen off a cliff. A lot of my favorite writers ended up abandoning Medium, like Michael Thompson.

The bottom line is, Medium’s still decent at giving views, but there’s no crab meat there anymore, and if you DO hit the crab meat in the form of a boost, you’re probably not going to hit that jackpot again unless you’re a journalist or your name’s Barack Obama.

I’m not talking about 5,000–10,000 view months. I’m talking about 100,000 view months. Heck, even 50,000 view months. It’s probably not going to happen for you.

And that’s because Medium simply doesn’t have the readers it needs. It needs more readers. I wonder whether clickbait might help with that?

I just don’t see Medium recovering the readership they had back in 2018–2019.

I’m Sticking To My Principles

I could probably make another $1,000 per month on Medium if I kept writing there. That’s not bad. That’s my rent, more or less.

But I simply do not want to write for a platform that doesn’t appreciate me.

That’s a principle thing.

My publication, the Post-Grad Survival Guide, STILL one of the biggest publications on Medium, applied for their revenue sharing program. They never got back to me.

They don’t care about me. They want Obama. They want authors. They want journalists.

So, I’ll go to a platform that cares about me then.

On Substack.

Subscribe to my newsletter there if you want to support me on this journey. I’d really appreciate your support.



Tom Kuegler

Travel blogger. 30 years old. Currently in Mexico. Subscribe to my Substack: https://mindofawriter.substack.com/