by Allan LEONARD
27 April 2019
When Medium appeared, at first glance it could be seen as just a reiteration of a free-to-publish online platform for bloggers and specialist writers. Posterous 2.0 if you will. But its creator, Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger.com and Twitter, also sees Medium as a democratic means of incentivising quality content. The Medium Partner programme provides payment for user-published content, based on metrics beyond clicks (or applause). This feature was initially also available for publications at Medium, but only after your publication was approved into the programme. The ambition is to become a Netflix for writing.
I duly enrolled and submitted a variety of my sole-author content; none of my publications were approved. I never earned a single penny (everything is denominated in US Dollars), even for posts with hundreds of views. No bother, I wasn’t in this for any fortune. But hopefully this doesn’t reflect the quality of my contributions!
Rather, it is clear that Medium’s target market is the US. There is a preponderance of published articles on technology, entrepreneurship, self-help, and the workplace. A chatty version of Wired.
Medium’s shift in publication promotion clarified that matter — less focus on users’ efforts (i.e. those with low external audience reach) and more on established media outlets. On one hand, a single portal for access to a selection of articles by the likes of the Financial Times, The Economist, and The Atlantic is a very attractive proposition. But this is no democracy for the start-up publication.
Yet there are two main reasons why I decided to leave Medium as a publishing platform (to complement my primary platform at WordPress.com): the poor user/reader interface and low return on investment of effort.
In my opinion, the current frontpage user experience is horrible. It now approximates Facebook’s mother-of-all design disasters. There are just little rectangle-sized boxes of headlines and small-sized font text, with a primary endless-scroll list of suggested articles in the left column. Previous versions of the Medium frontpage were easier to navigate, more coherent, and with some ability to customise what context appeared or surfaced (especially from those you chose to Follow at Medium). As a non-paying Medium user, I hate this interface but have to live with it. I certainly wouldn’t pay to use this. It’s sad that the design dimension of online publishing has been so underappreciated at Medium.
My second reason for departure is due to a risk that I was aware of when I signed up — you are providing your content to Medium to drive readers to Medium. You are feeding their project, not yours. This is the same case as publishing at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The Medium Partner programme takes some of the sting out with its financial reward, if you’re a duly lauded sole author or chosen as a publisher. But there is no integration with Google Analytics or any other product (such as MailChimp) that would enable you to learn more and increase engagement with your reading audience. You could hope that Medium’s “Elevators” — staff curators — give you attention.
I interrogated WordPress.com for any Medium networking features. I found myself using WordPress’ Reader, especially to find related material by entering a list of topic keywords. This has revealed more new discoveries than at Medium, with much simpler navigation. Feedly is also a great place to curate your reading lists (WordPress, please bring back Lists to your Reader!).
While I have removed my content at Medium, I haven’t deleted my account; Medium may prove to be a useful portal for content from established publishing houses (and perhaps writing directly commissioned by Medium?). But for a more bottom-up and egalitarian experience, I’ll seek my writing peeps for inspiration and support at WordPress.