I created my first website in 1995, a place to showcase my fiction and to experiment with web design in the early days of the World Wide Web. When social media sites began to emerge 10 years later I tried out as many as I could. I began blogging daily in 2007 on Google's Blogger platform. About four years ago I started writing on Quora as well. I enjoyed answering questions and found it a nice way to unwind at the end of the day. I became a Top Writer on Quora within a year. Then I found Medium.
I liked many features of Medium, which was created by the co-founder of blogger and co-founder of Twitter. This was his ad-free brainchild, an ad-free community for writers and readers.
WHAT DID I LEARN? In blogging, you have to think of the long game... As you note, it takes a long time to build a following. What Medium does that is very good, however, is it enables you to re-cycle content you have created. For writers who have been blogging a long time, they can share the same content here as well, and find a new audience, new clusters of readers.
A downside for some on Medium is that the rules can change and sometimes have a negative effect on what you are doing. I have seen numerous hotshot Medium writers come and go during the years I have been here.
You are correct about Wordpress. They make something simple into a complicated mush. It is "free" but all the good stuff is time consuming to learn and you pay for things you wish you hadn't. I dislike all things Microsoft anyways and live in the Mac world. I like Google Blogger for another reason. The dominant search engine is Google and I have to believe their search engine favors Google Blog content over others. They provide excellent analytics for their bloggers and it is all free. 3 million pageviews works for me.
You mention other platforms, and I will only note that if you do not own your own website, you will always be subject to the ones who make the rules there.
Finally, everyone has to decide WHY they are writing. The real money is made from having clients who pay you. If you are in it for the money, use your published writing to get a foot in the door with a company that will pay you for that. My blogging experience garnered clients for whom I wrote and was paid.
Have realistic expectations and think long term. Keep improving your writing, your knowledge and experience. Opportunities will come.