Monday, August 8, 2016

My Love-Hate Relationship with Medium

[ed. The last paragraph in this article is exactly why I hardly visit Medium anymore. Who wants to wade through a bunch of self-indulgent, self-promoting, whiny posts, about - whatever - searching for something of value? And that goes for so many other 'hot' media sites these days: BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Vox, Slate, Salon, Tech Crunch, Fast Company, Jezebel, Vice, Vulture, Fusion, Thought Catalog (is that still around?) etc. ... the list goes on and on. Echo chambers mostly, selling click bait and navel gazing, with objectives like those articulated below. At least in the old days publishers and editors acted as effective gate-keepers to quality journalism (because it mattered and markets responded accordingly). These days, not so much.]

By day, I am a wireless industry analyst and consultant. By night and on weekends, besides being an exercise and outdoors enthusiast, I write running guides. A few years ago, I self-published three books on running in the Boston area. In late 2015, I started a new project called Great Runs, which is a guide to the best places to go running in the world’s major cities and destinations. It’s geared toward travelers who run and runners who travel. This time, I decided to develop the content online, but I wanted more than a traditional blogging platform. A colleague recommended Medium, the online publishing platform started in 2013 by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

This has been a love-hate relationship from the get-go. By turns liberating and also maddening. I decided to focus a column on Medium because of its potential as a next-generation instrument for writers and readers: Ease of use, democratization and social journalism. But Medium also embodies a lot of what’s wrong with the web.

So here’s what’s fantastic. Medium is essentially a Version 2.0 blogging platform, allowing anyone from amateurs to professionals to corporations to post a story. Within five minutes, I was signed up and writing. The site is easy to use and visually elegant. Medium has kept things very simple, with limited formatting options. It’s easy to insert images, and they align and look beautiful. Content is auto-saved nearly constantly. I’ve hired some freelancers to develop content, and it’s easy to add them to Medium and edit their work. Write a piece, press "publish" and ba-bang, it’s out there for everyone to see. Social media sharing tools are well-integrated.

Authors are also interested in community, so the main Medium site has a list of tabs including Editor’s Picks, topics of the day and "For You," which seems to choose articles based primarily on folks I follow on Twitter, LinkedIn contacts and perhaps some relationship to tags in my stories (running, fitness, travel, etc.).

So, in many ways, Medium has been great. I’ve got more than 50 city guides up on the platform, and the responsive Great Runs "site" looks great on PCs, tablets and phones. I didn’t have to get a publisher or hire a web/WordPress/app developer.

And now for the downside. First beef: Discovery. Despite some pretty good content and a well-defined target market, getting my stuff discovered on Medium is hard. Really hard. The whole idea of a blog or "social journalism," as I think Ev calls it, is to build an audience. Yes, your Medium content is easily shared with your Twitter followers or your Facebook friends. So it’s great for Luluemon, which already has a huge social media presence. It now has more than 10,000 "followers" on Medium, and tons of folks recommending its content. For brands, established authors, and the companies who are seemingly flocking to Medium, it’s great. Because they already have an audience. (...)

My second major beef is monetization. As a side note, I am curious how Medium itself plans to make money. But as an author on Medium, there is presently no way to make any money from content. Blog sites, WordPress sites and so on all have some opportunity to run ads, host sponsors or sell content. But on Medium, nothing. Not even the ability to direct one’s Medium audience to a site where content could potentially be monetized in some way. (...)

In the end, some of Medium’s greatest benefits are also its biggest liabilities. Anyone can write on Medium. Which means anyone can write on Medium. There needs to be some delineation between the individual who wants to just post the occasional story on Medium and the individual/brand who want to use Medium for at least semi-professional or business purposes.

by Mark Lowenstein, Recode |  Read more:
Image: Lam L. / Yelp