Content medium-distribution fit
An argument for finding distribution based on first identifying your ideal content medium, not the other way around.
For entrepreneurs trying to express their ideas on the internet and build an audience, there’s an anxiety-producing, ever-growing list of types of content for expression. You can create tik-toks, write a substack, tweet twitter threads, host a podcast, write books, creating a youtube channel, and the list goes on and on.
Guidance around which types of content to produce generally bundles together the distribution platform and the medium (e.g. create tik-toks, write a substack newsletter) and centers around distribution and audience audience-building. People make content production choices based on what will get the most traction.
But working backwards from content traction to determine a medium is like telling an artist the type of sound they should go with to sell the most records. It can certainly work, but there’s an argument for a more creator-centric approach.
Much like a founder looking for product-market fit, where there’s a delicate dance of pivoting either the product or the market, creators need to find medium-distribution fit. Rather than thinking purely about distribution, creators can benefit from having more intention around their ideal medium.
The quality of content is determined by the combination of the creator and the medium they choose. Creators can produce the highest quality content in a sustainable way when they choose mediums based on their strongest skills and the mediums they enjoy creating with. On the other hand, while working backwards from content traction will usually have the desired result (strong traction), the content quality and the sustainability of content production won’t be as strong. It would be like telling someone who creates tik-toks to write a long-form essay that you know would perform well. While the essay may get traction, it’s likely not going to be the best essay and the tik-tok-er is not going to want to keep producing essays.
Creators who find and lean into their ideal medium can find their own unique ways of unlocking distribution. They can be more platform-independent and end up with an even bigger audience by starting by finding their ideal medium.
I’ve been pondering this idea of medium-distribution fit in my own content creation. In the nine months I’ve been writing this newsletter, I’ve felt the constant temptation to pivot the medium to something that could help me get more distribution. I would describe my medium as “essays that unpack concepts into actionable frameworks using logic, personal anecdotes, and observations of others.” It’s a very different medium of writing from what generally performs well in newsletters – topical, timely, easily digestible, bite-sized content.
One of the reasons I’ve resisted the temptation to pivot my medium is because I’ve seen the value of my medium in the past and how it has unlocked audience-building. Three years ago, I applied this same medium (essays that unpack concepts into actionable frameworks using logic, personal anecdotes, and observations of others) to a book on fundraising. In one month of self-publishing that book, I built an audience 5x bigger than the audience I’ve built running this newsletter for 9 months.
With that book, I had medium-distribution fit. The best way to package and distribute that medium was through a book that tied together a handful of frameworks around fundraising so that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s no coincidence that multiple readers of this newsletter have told me that it feels like I’m writing a book chapter-by-chapter. When I focus on the style of writing which I enjoy and which results in content I’m most proud of, it’s always going to read that way because a book is the ideal packaging of my preferred medium. And I’ve come to the realization that I should lean into that. Embracing that medium means continuing to write in this style but while driving to the end point of packaging it all into another book. I’ve determined that the best way to grow my audience isn’t by changing my medium, but by leaning into it more heavily and focusing on the packaging and distribution that works best for it – much like I did with the book I wrote three years ago.
Focusing on an ideal medium can serve as a foundation for other opportunities for distribution. With my book on fundraising, I repackaged that content into workshops, courses, and more — all of which also unlocked even stronger distribution and audience-building. I expect if I turn these essays I’ve been writing into a book, I’ll find other similar ways of repackaging the content into different formats which can lead to even more distribution.
Acknowledging that this is my preferred medium has helped me find peace when witnessing others produce content and build audiences. Rather than harboring feelings of FOMO or envy when I see people getting 100s of retweets on twitter threads or writing bite-sized newsletters which generate bigger audience with less work, I remember that those are simply not my mediums. Focusing on my ideal medium is the most sustainable way to produce long-term results with audience-building.