A year ago, my wife and I welcomed our new baby girl into this world and my sleeping habits haven’t been the same since. Although she does sleep well, I still end up making the frequent 3 am trip to the crib to rock her back to sleep. In these quiet moments, I find myself catching up on all the news and stories I was too busy to read at the time but pocketed for later (thank you, Apple Night Shift!). More often than not, I’ve been spending my very early mornings fully entrenched in conversations on Medium, a unique blogging platform developed by Twitter creator Ev Williams, who’s steady growth, lively community and fanatical appreciation of the user experience has made it a valuable platform for engaging conversations and exploring big ideas.
At first glance, you might think Medium is simply another blogging platform but there are a few notable differences that make it a much more dynamic community. Medium’s head of politics and government affairs, Matt Higginson describes it as a platform “centered around conversation, where audience engagement is not an afterthought but something inherent to the Medium experience. A place for thoughtful and authentic voices to connect, collide, and converse — through words and images — to build upon, or challenge, our understandings, making us all smarter as a result. Medium is a network for the “exchange of ideas”. Honestly, how many social platforms can you name that actually have a constructive and engaging comments section?
I find the way content is organised by categories lends itself to better discovery and much richer, longer lasting conversations than traditional blogs organised in chronological order. This organisation is of course, by design and what makes Medium so fundamentally different than other social CMS platforms. As Ev Williams puts it, Medium was created in a way to “help people pay attention to the most valuable stuff first and to have the best ideas win”. The content I read on Medium feels more thought out, measured and open to a useful exchange of ideas. It’s a channel I go to for inspiration or to read about big ideas on wide ranging topics from the future of America’s workforce and it’s impact on the global economy, to the proper way to assemble a burrito.
This week, Medium announced a long-awaited, major update that will provide features and functionality for publishers to customize and monetize their content. Medium for Publishers marks a watershed moment for the platform that includes two interesting ways for content creators to earn revenue:
- Promoted Stories: Essentially, sponsored content. Medium is now working with a small group of publishers who “who consistently produce meaningful, original content and maintain a loyal following of engaged readers” to host stories from brand partners like Bose, Nest and Intel on their Medium pages.
- Member-supported Content: Offers the ability for publishers to create member-only content and other exclusive perks in exchange for a monthly fee.
These updates should get publishers and their readers excited for a lot of reasons but what I find so reassuring is that Medium continues to focus on making the platform a space for original and meaningful (also, just really good) content. Yes, there will be ads on Medium, which will be a change for readers but content on Medium shouldn’t ever feel like a typical ad or overly promotional content because that’s not what the platform has been designed to support. Publishers who have long struggled with constantly evolving algorithms on Twitter and Facebook will likely welcome a platform like Medium that provides more control and still generates reach and engagement.
Medium for Publishers is not the platform’s first endeavor with brands, in one of it’s most significant undertakings with branded content, Medium worked with Marriott to create “Gone”, a collection of travel stories sponsored by the hotel company. Launched in December of 2014, Gone was a hybrid of native advertisements and sponsored content, which curated strong storytelling that aligned to Marriott’s key brand attributes.
Since it’s inception, Medium has been an important channel for thought leaders, organisations, tech startups and other brands seeking to cut through the social media noise to break significant news. As my colleague, Sally Wilkey writes, Medium is “user-led publishing” which has become a platform for many major political messages. Most notably, President Obama has leveraged the Medium platform for a number of major milestones in his presidency, most notably, publishing the Fiscal Year 2016 budget (Medium suggests it will take me about 4 hours to read – far longer than the usual time it takes to get my baby back to sleep).
As a digital marketer and avid reader (and father of a sleep-resistant one year old), I’m excited for Medium and believe the platform has reached a tipping point in it’s short history. Medium for Publishers is a great step forward that should get content creators and influencers to think differently about their content strategy.