Everyone’s been talking about Medium lately. Alexis Madrigal wrote a post about it for The Atlantic. I’ve received multiple invitations from writers who are looking for feedback on drafts of work they’ve posted on Medium. Students in my Blogging for Beginners class have been talking about Medium. But what is Medium? And should you be using it?
Medium is a blogging platform founded by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone in August 2012. But unlike Blogger or Wordpress, you have to be invited by another member to join, and, rather than posting to your own blog, you post to the site’s communal blog, where posts are grouped according to broad topics like “American Dreamers,” “Better Humans,” and “Boinkology 101.” (Screenshot from today's home page on Medium)
The idea behind Medium, according to the founders, was to provide a place users could post content longer than 140 characters—“Medium”-length content. The site has built its cachet by hiring professional magazine writers to create high-quality content that gets widely circulated through social media sites, thus creating buzz for Medium. But, like on sites like Smashwords and Scribd, there’s a lot of junk, and the amount of junk is increasing as more and more people are invited to join.
This is how Medium works: Someone sends you an invitation to comment on a draft of a blog post they wrote on Medium. You read the blog post and comment. (Comments appear in the margins à la Tracking Changes and can be made public or private by the author of the post.) Once that author publishes the post, you receive an invitation to join Medium. Then you can post your own drafts and invite other people to comment and join.
So should you use Medium? I’m on the fence about this. If you already have a blog, I would post all your original content to your own blog first. Then consider reposting it to Medium. After all, if you’re going to write content for free, the least you should get out of it is to build your own platform rather than Medium’s. (And don’t feel it’s any big feat to publish on Medium. Soon the entire world will have been invited to Medium—just like the entire world eventually received invitations to Gmail.)
But some authors argue that posting to Medium allows them to expand their audience. It may, but at the expense of driving more readers to your own website or blog. And how difficult is it to get your post seen on Medium? The editors are going to highlight the pieces they’ve paid professional writers to pen first. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess how pieces make it to the front page—no different than having a post “pressed” on Wordpress. And the more people join, the fewer chances we'll all have of seeing our posts chosen as Editors' Picks.
What I like about Medium: The slick interface (Apple fans will love the clean, clutter-free design), the usability (the ability to comment on each paragraph of a draft makes me feel like I’m contributing to a piece’s development, not just responding to a finished draft), and the reader experience. (The “Freelance life” collection is right up my alley, and I love that each post is labeled according to how many minutes it takes to read.)
What I don’t like about Medium: It’s one more website profiting from writers’ willingness to give their work away for free. The comments are clunky from a reader’s standpoint. Rather than being able to read all the comments in one nice stream at the bottom of the post, I have to click on the number next to each paragraph to get those comments to appear. The vetting process could be better. I want to read high-quality content—not junk—and I don’t have time to vet it myself.
Overall, I’d say the jury’s still out on Medium.
What do you think? Have you tried Medium? Have you been successful in using it to route traffic to your own website or blog, or in increasing your readership? For those of you who haven't tried it yet, will you?