Medium is said to be a lot of things – a writer’s dream-come-true, a cross between Pinterest and Tumblr, a machine-curated and crowdsourced New York Times, and a highfalutin publishing platform, just to name a few.
Personally, I believe it is a reader’s dream come true, where you get a break from the usual LOLcats and clickbait articles. But that’s neither here nor there. So here’s a step-by-step critique of Medium – how it equates to other existing blogging platforms, Evan Williams’ vision, and most importantly, its capabilities as a reading and writing tool.
Disrupting Content Publishing
With a flurry of blogging and publishing platforms like Tumblr, WordPress and Squarespace, we might have been led to believe that we have seen it all. However, when Medium was born, publishers and readers were surprised at a number of things it could do which other platforms didn’t do that well after all.
- For starters, it provided a fast and easy way to start blogging or publishing without having the “responsibility” of setting up or maintaining a blog.
- Secondly, it is less restrictive in nature. You don’t need to post regularly or about a particular topic; you are free to write whatever takes your fancy.
- Lastly, Medium disrupts old school publishing where editors “fixed” the topics of articles and new age publishing where can post any rubbish, paving a new path where you can have best of both worlds.
The Idea of Medium
When Ev first started Medium, he said he wanted to build a “haven for quality content.” It is difficult to see how it can be so, given that Medium went from an invite-only publishing platform or ‘platisher’ to an open community for anyone to rant and rave about everything from trannies to terrorism.
On their About page, you will find this simple explanation about the purpose of Medium.
“Medium is a different kind of place to read and write on the internet. A place where the measure of success isn’t views, but viewpoints. Where the quality of the idea matters, not the author’s qualifications. A place where conversation pushes ideas forward and words still matter.”
Despite all these grand ideologies, Medium can still be considered a ‘work-in-progress’ at best.
Let’s see why…
Go Slow: Work In Progress
In a series of interviews with different people, it came out clear that Ev Williams hasn’t worked out many of the problems related to publishing and monetizing Medium.
For instance, when John Battelle, founder of Wired magazine, CEO of NewCo and executive chairman of Sovrn Holdings, asked Williams how publishers would make money on Medium, the reply was sadly unimpressive and unclear. From branded content to advertising to turnkey premium content, a lot of options were discussed but no tools have been rolled out yet.
When asked about discovery on Medium, Ev said that discovery is not great and they had just started working on it, but it still has a long way to go.
And though they announced a new feature which allows moving your domain to Medium, there are a number of things it doesn’t do, yet.
- You can’t extend custom domains to support profiles.
- You can’t bulk import your archives from another site.
- You can’t redirect URLs from old posts.
- You can’t use Google Analytics (or any other) on your Medium channel.
- You can’t backdate your old posts when you move over to Medium.
However, there is still hope for Medium.
A Dream Come True
There is a loyal community of fans who swear by Medium. Easy collaboration tools, highlights and responses are valued the most by both writers and readers.
The way Medium is built you can read and write without any noise. It is not a blog, but a magazine or literary club where you can connect with the writer and other readers, and can take on the article word by word.
How many times have you read a particular sentence and connected with it instantly wishing you could tell the author “How true!” or “I feel like this all the time.”
Medium lets you do that.
At that particular point.
As a writer, it makes me feel good that my work creates that kind of sentiments. As a reader, it gives me the power to connect with the writer and share my concerns or opinions.
Writers get greater niche-specific exposure for their work, because unlike other sites where you add a tag or label according to your post, on Medium you need to fit your post into an existing or relevant collection. This ensures your post has wider audience of people who read these collections.
The best part about Medium is you can publish anything on it, even if it has been published elsewhere before (provided you own the content). Sounds like a writer’s dream come true alright!
Another amazing thing about Medium is it doesn’t work in the usual reverse chronological order; so the better your post, it has more chances of staying evergreen on Medium than any other platform.
Readers also like the one-page or ‘infinite scroll’ format that makes for uninterrupted reading on Medium.
A lot of websites and publications these days favor one-page websites because of the ease and convenience it offers visitors. This is in fact, a concept borrowed from ecommerce, where landing pages rule the roost.
Another great, but not uncommon, feature is the read time. From 10-minute listicles that you can quickly browse on a cab ride to a client meeting to snuggling up on the couch in the evening with really strong coffee and your favorite pillow while reading a bookmarked 40-min horror story, Medium has it all.
Verdict – My Two Cents
At the risk of being asked to fuck off by Mr. Evan Williams, I would say that although Medium is not just another blogging platform, it is clearly not ‘anything’ at the moment. But if Google Ventures and Series A angels are investing in it, we can hope for more clarity of purpose in the near future.
Meanwhile, I would recommend writers keep a backup of all their work published on Medium (just in case, you know)!