Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

The plural of ‘Medium’ is clearly ‘clusterfuck’

Medium announced a while back that it was shifting gears:

According to Williams, in a post he published on the site Wednesday night, Medium is not a publishing tool—a statement that might confuse some of the writers who have been using it as exactly that for the past year or so, not to mention some of the staffers who have come to think of publishing as the core of what Medium does.

What does Medium want to be when it grows up? More like Twitter, it seems by Mathew Ingram (849 words).

This is a major change for the site.

It’s more than just an announcement of a new direction or new emphases. It affects existing staff and services much in the same way that a chicken are affected by a farmer’s announcement of a strategic shift from eggs to chicken soup.

The focus now, according to one source, is to redouble efforts into beefing up Medium's network and community and focus less on top-line article consumption. As a result, Medium's editorial properties are being reorganized. Re:form, the company's design vertical, was killed after the company failed to find a sponsor to replace BMW.

Medium Is Shifting Focus by Charlie Warzel (1462 words).

Nearly all of Medium’s sites are undergoing major upheavals, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider. While it’s true that The Message is undergoing some shuffling, other more popular Medium sites are being hit even harder.

Medium insiders have been largely silent about the changes because all editorial employees are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding them from talking about internal changes when they join the company.

Medium, the publishing platform started by one of Twitter’s cofounders, is gutting some of its most popular sites by Cale Guthrie Weissman (758 words).

This will be the last week of The Nib’s regular lineup. We will no longer be running certain work on certain days or with the same regularity. It’s a departure from what we’ve been doing, for sure, but I came here to experiment with publishing. You’ll see more of it in the coming weeks: response driven features, a new collective I’m building, and anything else I can think of to create interesting comics.

Some Changes at The Nib by (419 words).

This is a major transformation, not only in terms of perception but also in terms of changes in actual functionality that this is going to require.

What Medium used to believe in: storytelling, writing, publishing.

While the exact nature of Medium was never nailed down, they were abundantly clear about what their values were in all of their messaging.

“If you already know what we do, don’t expect big changes yet. Our service is an ongoing experiment, but we have no immediate plans to alter the team, the places we publish (our website and the Kindle store), or how much we charge for each article. More importantly, we have no plans — at any time — to stop crafting hard-hitting narratives about big ideas. One of the things that made it easy to join Medium was the knowledge that the company believes in great storytelling as much as we do, and is prepared to support what we do.

Evan Williams’ Medium acquires long-form journalism site Matter by Laura Hazard Owen (394 words).

Medium as an organisation used to believe that good writing itself had value that social media networks wouldn’t and couldn’t deliver.

He also said that while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms may satisfy users’ obsession with the new and novel with a constant stream of updated information, Medium — which displays content in Pinterest-like “collections” of contents — is designed to give preference to higher-quality, longer-lasting and potentially longer form content.

People will always be attracted to the new and shiny object — and he said much of Twitter’s value comes from its real-time nature — but not all content on the Internet needs to be fast and fleeting.  He acknowledged that they sometimes wonder if they’re being “naive” to think that people might want more than the “junk food” content on the Web. But Medium’s hope is that people will “eat their information vegetables.” And If the site only appeals to a smaller audience in the process, he said, that’s just fine.

Ev Williams on Medium: We’d rather be HBO than mass market programming by Ki Mae Heussner (461 words).

Really. There are only two reasons for comparing your company to HBO.

  1. You’re a producer of porn that is just a creative edit away from being hardcore.
  2. You are a producer of high quality, long form, narrative content that is so good that people will go to extraordinary lengths to acquire it—up to and including actually paying for it.

To say that this isn’t that big of a change because they never committed what Medium was supposed to be—that they explicitly considered it to be an ongoing experiment—is patently false.

Medium’s messaging was consistently about the central role of good writing—of well-crafted narratives—and of its importance over the more conversational, bite-sized writing that you find on Facebook. Now, all of their messaging is about exactly the sort of writing that they categorised as junk food.

They’ve gone from having a specific worldview (“we’re writers and we like writing”) to having a generic worldview (“we’re a social network but with none of the features you associate with social networks”).

I’m not the only one to notice the contrast between the old and new Medium.

2012: "Medium is reading & writing — & little else" https://t.co/Dj6pYZdw5T

2015: "Medium is not a publishing tool" https://t.co/AsA1kHCDz1

— Dan Cohen (@dancohen) June 2, 2015

But here’s the punchline: while Medium started out as a decent publishing system it’s actually a pretty bad social network:

  • Discoverability of both people and content is next to non-existent compared to Facebook or even Twitter. It’s hard to even avoid discovering people connected to you on Facebook.
  • Using it on mobile, even with its app, is a pain in the ass (slow, slow, SLOOOOOOOOW, and devoid of functionality).
  • The ‘responses and highlights’ structure makes conversations disjointed and unreadable (which in turn hinder the discoverability of other users and topics).
  • They offer very few features for managing your network, e.g. blocking, muting, privacy settings and the like.

Medium as a social network is just a prettier Google+. If anything, that’s being unfair to Google+ (which actually has decent features, just no people). Medium doesn’t have the critical mass necessary for people to build up clusters of communities about an interest or a topic. So everybody ends up in the same generic, slightly hipsterish, grab bag of bland.

It’s like walking into a bar full of designer conference attendees. Within five minutes you will realise three things:

  1. The bar only serves expensive white wine and ‘artisanal’ vodka. Maybe an obscure, undrinkable micro-brewery if you’re really lucky.
  2. Everybody there is a twenty-something who only watches pretentious movies, thinks Malcolm Gladwell should both get a a Nobel for literature and another one for science, and none of them are capable of holding an interesting conversation.
  3. The loud music makes conversation impossible anyway.

And you can’t just wander off to another room that’s more quiet and filled with other people interested in other things because all the rooms are filled with the same people.

So, yeah, colour me skeptical about Medium’s chances.

You can also find me on Mastodon and Bluesky