The Digital Presence Spectrum — Using Medium and Substack

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The Digital Presence Spectrum — Using Medium and Substack cover

Last Updated on September 11, 2023

We here at Polymash have come up with this cool concept called "The Digital Presence Spectrum". Well, we think it’s cool. Not only cool, but useful in helping our clients, podcasters and followers figure out their digital strategy. In this article and series of podcast episodes, we are going to introduce you to the three main stages of the spectrum: Building an Audience, Building a Platform, and Scaling a Platform.

The Digital Presence Spectrum Overview

And today, let's dive into Stage 1: Building an Audience. This stage is the most important if you want to make a real impact online. We will explore all the strategies and techniques that can help you attract and engage with your audience. Additionally, we will also explore using platforms that have existing audiences built in, such as Medium.

The Digital Presence Spectrum Overview

So you might be wondering, what exactly is the Digital Presence Spectrum? Well, we think of it as a high level roadmap for embarking on your digital journey with a bit more confidence and wisdom. It’s simple, but useful way of prioritizing where to spend focus and energy.

Let's break it down into three stages that are distinct – yet interconnected.

1. Building an Audience

The first stage is all about 'Building an Audience'.

Building an Audience

This is where you focus on creating high-quality content that tells your story and helps you establish relationships with your listeners or readers.

“How do you measure success at this stage? By looking at the growth of your audience and listenership.”

2. Building a Platform

Once you've built an audience, you move on to the second stage, which is 'Building your Platform'.

Building a Platform on the digital presence spectrum

At this point, you may be asking yourself, where do I want my audience members to go?

"Building your platform is not just about having a website or landing page. It's about creating a space that you truly own and can serve both your content and audience well into the future."

It's crucial to have your own platform, not just a website or landing page, but a platform that you truly own and that can serve both your content and your audience well into the future.

3. Scaling your Platform

And finally, we reach the third stage, 'Scaling your Platform'.

Scaling your Platform

This is where the power move happens.

“Scaling your platform means discovering new ways to serve and attract audiences while growing your capabilities.”

You start expanding your efforts, reaching wider and deeper, and discovering new ways to serve your existing audience while attracting new ones.

Digital Presence Evolves Gradually

Digital Presence Evolves Gradually
Photographer: Red Zeppelin | Source: Unsplash

As you navigate through the Digital Presence Spectrum, you'll notice that your goals, focus, and the ideal platforms and tools all evolve along the way. This growth is just as much a part of your podcasting journey as the content itself.

It's also helpful to think of the spectrum as a continuum — a transition from 'Early State' goals to 'End State' goals. You'll move from easy tasks to tackling the hard yards, from basic features to advanced capabilities, and from needing low-level skills to acquiring high-level competencies. You'll also shift from quick tasks to making long-term commitments and from low-cost solutions to making significant investments.

"Your digital presence journey is not just about creating content, but also about evolving your goals, skills, and investments along the way."

It's important to keep in mind that every digital presence journey is unique. Each one has its own starting point, detours, and redirections. So no matter where you currently stand on this spectrum, know that your position is temporary. With every piece of content you create, every interaction you have, and every platform you adopt, you are propelling yourself forward on this ever-evolving journey.

The Stories and Issues That Triggered This Series

Stories and Issues That Triggered This Series
Photographer: Patrick Tomasso | Source: Unsplash

So here's the thing: when it comes to navigating our way across the digital presence spectrum, we need to really look at the common issues that people encounter in the early stages. Many podcasters and entrepreneurs, that we've had the privilege of working with as a digital strategy agency, tend to dive right into their projects with a lot of excitement and zeal. They have this incredible motivation to make their podcast or business idea a reality, which is commendable. However, they often find themselves struggling with some fundamental issues.

Digital Presence = Website = Simplistic Thinking

One of the biggest issues we see is simplistic thinking. Now, don't get me wrong, it's fantastic to see people so passionate about embarking on their podcasting journey. We usually start with the basic idea of wanting to create a digital presence because we have a podcast, a cool project, or an amazing business idea. Some of us are driven by our love for writing or blogging about a topic we're truly passionate about.

For many of us starting out, digital presence translates into ‘I have to build a website’

Everyone Has a Different Starting Point

But here's the thing to watch out for: everyone has a different starting point and prior experience, and this kind of thinking often leads to a significant pitfall. What tends to happen is that we overlook the real goal and focus on the wrong thing, and end up uncertain about our audience. There's this mindset of "build it and they will come," which can really hinder expectations, momentum, effective planning and budgeting.

The "Let's Just Do This Quick" Mindset

And guess what? This simplistic thinking usually leads to the next stage of the issue: the "let's just do this quick" mindset. People tend to jump right in, picking the easiest option available and ignoring any features that they don't immediately require.

No surprises here! This approach often leads to the third stage of the issue – where frustration sets in and people realize the complexities involved.

Frustration Sets In

Suddenly, their initial thought of "building it myself" turns into "this is much harder than I thought." This realization usually hits after they've already invested a considerable amount of time. At this point, the challenges of building an audience, creating an email list, offering a paid service, or optimizing SEO become overwhelming tasks.

"While developing a great website is important eventually, it's crucial to remember that the focus early on should be on creating compelling content to attract and grow followers."

Here's where it gets tricky: the simplicity of modern website platforms can be deceiving, because there's so much more to it than just having a basic website.

  • You need great copywriting, appealing graphics, and seamless user experience design to draw and retain an audience.
  • And most platforms don't just magically provide this. It takes work.
  • It takes experience to communicate your unique value proposition or approach effectively. This cannot be solved in a few hours using AI tools or "templates".

Back to the Drawing Board?

Often our clients feel they need to go back to the drawing board a few times before everything becomes crystal clear. That can be a good thing. Eighty percent planning, twenty percent execution.

We should question what our original real goals are. Who our audience is, really? Where our audience is. What platform is the right fit for our project — at this point in time?

Do we even need a website at first, or should we perhaps first build an audience on platforms that already have a "built-in" audience?

It sure is a winding path we embark on, but being aware of these common issues early on can help us navigate our digital journey more effectively, and avoid the pitfalls that many content creators encounter.

Digital Presence Stage 1: Building Our Audience

Stage 1 on the Digital Presence Spectrum: Building Our Audience
Photographer: Alexandre Pellaes | Source: Unsplash

So, let’s talk more about the first stage of the Digital Presence Spectrum, which is all about building an audience. And in this stage, it's important to focus on creating quality content. Think of your content as the sunlight and water that helps your project … or podcast … grow and flourish.

Website Considerations — Do You Really Need One at This Stage?

Now, when it comes to building an audience, you might think that you need to have a fancy website right from the start. But that's not necessarily the case. In fact, you can totally use a free website provided by your podcast host. Sure, these free websites might not be the best in terms of SEO optimization, but that's okay. Especially in the early days of establishing your audience, it's more important to focus on creating engaging content.

If you haven't heard about this before, we have an episode titled 'Podcast Website Builders and Landing Pages' where we discuss the pros and cons of using free website platforms.

Now, here's the thing you might be wondering about: Should you invest a lot of time and money into creating a custom website at this stage? Or even a membership site with features you think you might eventually need? Well, maybe there's an alternative path that can add more value to your audience-building journey.

Consider Platforms With Built In Audiences

Instead of solely focusing on creating your own website, why not explore platforms that already have an audience and are specifically designed for discoverability and audience growth?

“Platforms like Medium and Substack are great options to consider at this stage.”

But wait, does that mean you should abandon the idea of having a website? Not at all. If you already have a starter website, then think of using these platforms as an "in addition to" rather than an "instead of."

You can take your podcast content, transform it into long-form written content, and then cross-post it on platforms like Medium and Substack. This way, you're not just reaching your podcast audience, but also a wider audience who prefers consuming written content.

Now, you might think that this is just about creating better show notes. And to some extent, it is. But it goes beyond that. With these platforms, you have the opportunity to expand, elaborate, and dive deeper into your podcast topics. It's a way to provide additional value to your audience and attract new readers.

And here's the exciting part – many of these readers could be podcast listeners or potential ones. Once they discover your content on platforms like Medium or Substack, they might become interested in checking out your podcast as well. It's like having a funnel that guides readers towards your audio content. In fact, many successful podcasters have already adopted this approach as a key strategy in building their audience.

How do Medium and Substack Compare?

So, let's take a closer look at Medium and Substack. These platforms offer you the chance to showcase your podcast content in a different format – … written articles or essays. It's a way to repurpose your audio content and attract a new audience that prefers reading. And if those readers like what they see, they might become loyal listeners to your podcast.

Medium Overview

Medium, for instance, is a platform that allows writers to share their stories and expertise with a wide audience.

You can create your own publication on Medium and publish your podcast-related articles there. It's a great way to establish your authority in your niche and reach more people who are interested in your topics.

Substack Overview

Substack, on the other hand, is a platform that focuses on newsletters. You can use it to deliver exclusive content to your subscribers.

This is a fantastic opportunity to engage directly with your audience and build a community around your podcast. You can share insights, behind-the-scenes stories, and even exclusive bonus content through your Substack newsletter.

So, don't only think of Medium and Substack as alternatives to having a website. Instead, think of them as complementary channels that allow you to expand your reach and connect with a wider audience.

By leveraging these platforms, you can attract new readers who could become dedicated podcast listeners.

Exploring Medium in Detail

Exploring Medium in Detail

So, let's dive into Medium, shall we? It's this awesome online publishing platform that has been around since 2012 and it's been empowering writers to share their thoughts, ideas, and narratives. But here's the cool thing – it's not just for writers and readers, it's also a fantastic space for podcasters like us to bring our content to life in a different format!

Medium Statistics

Now, let's talk numbers and see just how big Medium is. Brace yourself because this platform has over 100 million active monthly readers. It's one of the top 150 most engaged websites worldwide. Talk about a buzzing platform, right? And here's what's even more impressive – Medium has a high domain authority of 95, which means your content has the SEO potential to reach a massive audience.

Niche Publications on Medium

One of the reasons why Medium is such a success is because it caters to a wide range of reader interests. It has over 10,000 niche publications. What does that mean for us podcasters? Well, no matter how specific your subject matter is, there's a good chance that there's a dedicated audience for it on Medium. It's like a goldmine for niche content!

Medium Demographics

Now, let's talk about the age demographic on Medium. The majority of its visitors fall between the ages of 25 and 34. And you know what? This age group is not only tech-savvy, but they also love listening to podcasts. So, when they're not busy devouring books, they might just be tuning into their favorite podcasts. And hey, guess what? They might stumble across your long-form podcast content while they're scrolling through Medium and hit that play button on your latest episode. How awesome is that?

Using Medium Digital Presence Instead of a Website

But here's the best part – using Medium allows you to focus on creating amazing content without worrying about the technical aspects of website building. It provides you with an instantly available digital presence that is visually appealing and user-friendly. You can develop your content strategy and messaging right on the Medium platform. No technical headaches, just pure creativity and content creation!

Pros and Cons of This Approach

Let's take a deeper look at the pros and cons of using Medium. First, the pros: Medium has a built-in reader base, so you already have an audience waiting for your content. The platform itself is beautiful and showcases your content in an elegant way. Plus, there are minimum technical hurdles to overcome. And guess what? You can even embed podcast player widgets on Medium, and it looks great, especially with Spotify!

Now, let's move on to the cons. One thing to keep in mind is that if you don't have your own website to publish to first, the SEO benefits will go to Medium's domain, not your personal platform. So, it's important to consider that. However, if you do have a website, you can use a technical term called a "canonical tag" to send the SEO benefits to your own site when publishing on Medium.

Another factor to consider is that while you can export the email addresses of your followers, it's not applicable to everyone. You can only export the email addresses of those who choose to opt in with email notifications for your content. So, keep that in mind if you're planning on using Medium to build your email list.

All in all, Medium is a powerful platform for podcasters like us. It has a massive reader base, a wide range of niche publications, and it's user-friendly.

So, why not give it a shot? Publish your stories and podcast content on Medium, watch it reach a whole new audience, and who knows, maybe you'll be the next big thing in the podcasting world!

Exploring Substack in Detail

Now let's shift our attention to Substack. So you've built up an audience on Medium (or other places) and you're ready to start making some money. That's when you should start considering Substack.

Exploring Substack in Detail

Here's the deal – Substack is a platform specifically designed for sending newsletters. And, they have over 1 million users with paid subscriptions. This makes it a pretty attractive option if you already have a solid email list or if you've been working hard to build one.

A lot of writers and podcasters reach a point where they've successfully grown their initial audience and now they want to start monetizing their content. And while there are many ways to do this on podcasting platforms, when it comes to online publications, many people make the move from Medium to Substack.

An Edge on Monetization

You know why? It's because of Substack's awesome monetization features. You see, on Medium, it's a bit tougher to earn money because they only pay you if your content gets featured in their partner program.

But with Substack, writers can charge their readers for access to their content, and here's the best part – they get to keep all the money they make. Talk about a win-win situation, right? Substack not only allows you to monetize your writing, but it also provides you with tools to build relationships with your readers and gather feedback. It's a top choice for writers who want to turn their passion into a full-fledged career.

So if you're a writer or podcaster who's already built up an audience and you're ready to start earning money from your content, Substack is definitely a platform worth considering. It offers a range of features that can help you make some serious cash from your amazing writing, and it also provides a space for you to connect with your audience. You can design beautiful emails, set up newsletter operations, and have a tried-and-true approach to monetization. And the best part? You get to keep all the proceeds you earn.

It’s a Journey: Why Substack Comes After Medium

Okay, before you jump into Substack, let me just share a small caveat. Unlike Medium, Substack may not have the same built-in audience and the web experience might not be as visually appealing. Also, Medium is better at SEO and attracting Google Search traffic. But hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

Digital Presence Spectrum Main Take Aways

Remember, at this stage, you have a variety of platforms to choose from to grow your audience effectively.

“But here's a pro-tip: focus on where your ideal audience already hangs out.”

That's the first step – building your audience. Once you've done that, you'll be well on your way to reaching new heights with Medium, Substack or any other platform you choose.

FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the questions we are frequently asked by bloggers, podcasters and entrepreneurs who work with us as a their digital strategy adviser.

Hopefully this Q&A offers detailed descriptions of the digital presence spectrum, a roadmap to building your digital audience, and various tools for building and scaling your platform:

1. What is The Digital Presence Spectrum?

The Digital Presence Spectrum is a concept developed to help podcasters and entrepreneurs understand where they should invest their time to create a meaningful digital presence. It's a roadmap for digital journey and consists of three key stages, namely Building an Audience, Building Your Platform, and Scaling Your Platform.

2. How can the Digital Presence Spectrum help in my digital journey?

The Digital Presence Spectrum serves as your guide for embarking on your digital journey with confidence. It helps you understand how to grow your audience, build your platform, and scale it. It allows you to focus on the most appropriate tasks, capabilities and investments at different stages of your digital presence.

3. What is the first stage of Digital Presence Spectrum?

The first stage of the Digital Presence Spectrum is called "Building an Audience". This is where you create high-quality content that resonates with your target audience, fostering relationships with your listeners or readers and growing your audience base.

4. Can’t I just grow my audience on Social Media?

While social media can be a useful tool for maintaining engagement with your current followers, it is not the most effective way to grow your audience. Your posts on social media will predominantly reach people who already follow you. Relying solely on the chance of a post "going viral" is not a sustainable growth strategy. Rather, it would be beneficial to leverage platforms designed for discoverability and visibility, such as Medium and Substack, to attract new followers and grow your audience in addition to your social media activity.

5. What common issues do people encounter in their early digital presence journey?

People often dive into their projects with simplistic thinking, operating under the assumption that "if you build it, they will come.” However, this can lead to overlooking the importance of knowing their audience and planning properly. This mindset often leads to initial quick and easy solutions, but eventually, the complexities and challenges of building an audience and creating a email list can become overwhelming.

6. What is simplistic thinking and how does it affect my digital journey?

Simplistic thinking is the belief that having a cool project or a great podcast will naturally draw an audience. However, this approach often overlooks the real goal of understanding and building a dedicated audience. This mindset can lead to inadequate planning, ineffective budgeting, and a lack of understanding of the challenges involved in building a strong digital presence.

7. How can I overcome the challenges of building an audience?

The best approach is to reflect on your true goals, understand your audience, and think thoughtfully about the best platform for your content. It involves transitioning from immediate, simple tasks to long-term commitments with significant investments. You need to be prepared to shift from quick tasks to more strategic endeavors, learning from each interaction, and using these lessons to propel yourself forward.

8. What are some alternatives to having a website in the early stages of building an audience?

Instead of focusing heavily on creating a website early on, explore platforms that are designed for discoverability and audience growth. Platforms like Medium and Substack allow you to transform podcast content into long-form written content to attract a wider audience. These should be considered as an "in addition to" rather than an "instead of" having a website.

9. How can I utilize Medium and Substack for building my audience?

Medium and Substack allow podcasters to expand onto platforms where users prefer consuming written content. By repurposing your audio content into written content and cross-posting it on these platforms, you have the opportunity to not only serve your existing audience with additional value but also attract new readers who could potentially become podcast listeners.

10. How can transforming my podcast content into written form help my digital presence?

Repurposing audio content into a different format like written articles creates a funnel that guides readers to your audio content. Many successful podcasters have transformed their podcast content into written articles or essays to present their ideas to a wider audience and draw potential listeners to their audio content.

11. What is Medium and how can it help in building an audience?

Medium is an online publishing platform that allows writers to share their stories and expertise with a broad audience. It has a built-in reader base and high domain authority, making your content reachable to a massive amount of audience. As a podcaster, you can use Medium to publish your podcast-related content, expanding your reach and possibly attracting new listeners to your podcast.

12. What is Substack and how can it contribute to my digital journey?

Substack is a platform that focuses on newsletters. You can deliver exclusive content to your subscribers, allowing you to engage directly with your audience and build a community around your podcast. When you're ready, Substack also provides features allowing you to monetize your content and turn your passion into a career.

13. Why should I consider moving from Medium to Substack?

As you grow your initial audience and start to think of monetizing your content, Substack can be a great platform to consider. Unlike Medium, Substack allows writers to charge for access to their content and keep all the money they make. It also provides tools to build relationships with your readers and gather feedback.

14. How do I decide between a website, Medium, and Substack?

Your choice depends on your specific goals and where your audience hangs out. In the early stage of audience building, leveraging platforms with built-in audiences, such as Medium and Substack, can be beneficial. As you grow, owning your own domain and building a scalable website becomes essential. Over time, you'll likely use a combination of these platforms to reach and engage with your audience effectively.

15. What are the challenges of building a website in the early stages of podcasting?

In the early stages of building a digital presence, the focus is on basic tasks and low-cost solutions. Building a website can be complex and time-consuming, often requiring advanced skills and significant investments. Therefore, it's crucial to evaluate if having a website is necessary at this stage, and if not, explore different platforms like Medium and Substack for content creation.

16. What are the SEO benefits of Medium?

Medium has a high domain authority, meaning that your content has the SEO potential to appear in Google search results and reach a wide audience. However, the SEO benefits go to Medium's domain and not your personal platform.

17. What if I don’t have a website when starting with Medium?

If you don't have your own website, you can still begin building your digital presence on Medium. Medium provides creators with an instantly available digital platform that is user-friendly and visually appealing. You can focus on creating your content rather than dealing with technical aspects of a website.

18. What are some of the downsides to using Medium?

While Medium offers a built-in audience and a visually appealing platform, SEO benefits will go to Medium's domain, not your personal site. Also, exporting the email addresses of your followers can only be done for those who opt for email notifications for your content.

19. What does Substack offer that Medium does not?

Substack offers a deep connection with your audience via email newsletters and an opportunity to monetize your content, with creators able to charge for access and keep all the proceeds. Though it may not offer the same SEO benefits as Medium, it's an excellent platform for turning your passion into a profitable endeavor.

20. How can Substack benefit podcasters with a substantial following?

For podcasters with a significant following, Substack provides an opportunity to monetize their following by providing exclusive content and direct engagement with their audience. By charging for access to their content, podcasters can generate income from their audience while delivering additional valuable content.

21. What is the difference between the growth on Medium and Substack?

While Medium provides a platform with built-in audiences for growing your reader base, Substack offers direct engagement with your readers and a clear path to monetization of your content.

22. What are the benefits of using podcast player widgets on Medium?

Embedding podcast player widgets on Medium allows your content to be available in both audio and written format to Medium's large base of readers. This can drive potential listeners to your podcast right from your Medium articles.

23. Can I use Substack to send out regular newsletters?

Yes, Substack is designed specifically for sending out regular newsletters. It's an excellent platform for sharing insights, behind-the-scenes stories, and exclusive bonus content directly with your podcast's audience.

24. Can I monetize my content on Substack?

Absolutely. Substack provides tools for creators to charge their readers for access to their content. This allows you to monetize your podcast or any other content you create and share on Substack's platform.

25. What is the demographic of Medium readers?

The majority of Medium's readers fall between the ages of 25 and 34, a group that is tech-savvy and likely to enjoy podcasts. So, they might stumble across your long-form podcast content and could become listeners of your podcast.