Has Medium become out of touch with the everyday writer?

Jon Peters
Aug 21 · 6 min read
Image created by the author

Before we get started, let me clarify one thing. The points I discuss in this article are my opinion and should be considered as just that, nothing more. This article is not written with the intent to dissuade anybody from writing on Medium. I think it’s a wonderful platform, where I’ve had the fortune to connect with a wide array of like-minded people. But I do have some concerns.

And I don’t think I’m the only one.

Medium — Where Words Matter

I know just how difficult it can be to make your voice stand out from the crowd. We live in a world where to become a writer you need nothing more than a WiFi connection and a dream. I attempted to start my own gaming blog a few years ago. I’m an avid gamer, and I enjoy writing, so in my mind, it was a match made in heaven. But apparently, that thought had occurred to everybody else first. I struggled to get anybody to find my blog, let alone read my content. It wasn’t long before I stopped trying.

But then I discovered Medium.

When I first joined, I stumbled across this video on the ‘About’ page. It gives an introduction to what the platform has to offer, and how it differs from other sites. It’s well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before:

Writing on Medium was like a breath of fresh air. It makes it so easy for writers to get their content in front of others, without needing masses of followers.

Curation is a great example. Quality writing is distributed to other readers, regardless of whether they follow you or not. But above all, Medium prides itself on being for writers, thinkers, readers, and those with original ideas. What’s not to love?

I’d read about writers being able to give up their day jobs to write full-time. Imagine, making enough money from writing to be able to quit my job. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not just here for the money. If I could achieve that one day, fantastic. If not, I’ll still be writing anyway.

I wanted to be one of these writers, writers who have achieved what I’ll refer to as ‘celebrity status.’ While they aren’t ‘celebrities’ in the traditional sense of the word, on Medium, people know who they are. You’ll have no doubt heard of some of them:

There are more of course, but these are the ones that initially came to mind. Combined, they have over 300,000 followers on Medium.

Most of us dream of emulating their success in the future. I know I certainly do. I’ve not been around long enough to know whether or not they began their writing journeys here on Medium, or whether they established themselves elsewhere first. But do you know what they all have in common?

They all write on Medium, a lot.

“That’s okay. I write on Medium a lot too. Maybe in a few years, people will look at me and think ‘I hope I can achieve what he has’,” I think to myself.

But this morning, as I sat enjoying the sunrise, drinking my rapidly-cooling cup of coffee, I clicked on a post which has given me a sense of doubt, not only for my chances of success but also doubt in some of the values that Medium claims to pride itself on.

Has anybody seen my (rose-coloured) glasses? I can’t find them anywhere!

I stumbled upon this post by Gregory Alan, which I’d highly recommend. The article focuses on the kind of writer Medium has a tendency to promote on the homepage.

Ah, the homepage. A magical place, full of wonder and mystery, where every writer hopes to go one day.

Sounds a lot like Narnia, don’t you think?

Some of Gregory’s comments piqued my interest, so I also had a quick look at the profiles of the writers who were being featured.

At the time of writing, there were five articles featured on the homepage. The names of the writers and their articles are irrelevant, so I don’t feel the need to share them. After all, ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’, right? If I’m perfectly honest with you, I’d never heard of any of the writers anyway. Which is part of the problem.

After looking at the profiles of the author’s featured on the Homepage this morning, I noticed several things:

  • The average number of articles that each has published on Medium is three. One of the writers has published just one article, which was featured on the Homepage.
  • None of them writes on Medium regularly. Their combined number of articles published? 15. Since joining Medium three months ago, I’ve published 24 articles. In three months. I know I haven’t earned my place on the homepage yet. But what about the writers that have been busting their asses for years, who have published hundreds of times? Where’s the love for them?
  • Several of them are award-winning authors, who have published books, been featured in newspapers, magazines, or online publications. That’s great, I applaud their success. But have they earned the right to be on the Medium homepage? Absolutely not.
  • Every single one of them has more Twitter followers than they do Medium followers. One of the writers has over 150,000 Twitter followers, compared to around 400 on Medium. “Now hold up a minute Jon, Twitter is a much larger platform, it’s not surprising they have more followers there,” I hear you say. Maybe so, but our list of Medium celebrities I mentioned earlier? Every one of them has only a fraction of the number of Twitter followers than they do Medium followers.

Phew. That was a lot of words. Well done if you made it this far. I don’t know about you, but I could do with a cup of tea after writing all that. Here’s one for you too:

https://dogs.lovetoknow.com

You’re welcome.

A Bitter Pill To Swallow?

I haven’t written this article because I’m unhappy with writing on Medium. As I said earlier, I love writing here. I’m fortunate that a lot of my work seems to have resonated well with the community and my curation rate is at 58%, which from what I’ve read, is above average.

This article isn’t my way of saying ‘But I should be on the homepage, I’ve been busting a gut for three months!’ Don’t worry, I have no delusions of grandeur, I haven’t earned my place on the homepage. I know I’m still a nobody around here.

But I don’t want to be a nobody. I want to follow in the footsteps of other writers, who have built-up huge followings with their work and have been able to become full-time writers. That’s my dream, just like it is for many of you reading this.

But as Medium shifts its focus to promoting its own publications, preferring to feature already established writers, doesn’t that go against the core values that Medium was built upon? Wasn’t this platform designed to enable the likes of you and me to have our voices heard, instead of being for those who can already be heard loud and clear above the noise of the internet?

Medium describes itself as a place where ‘words matter.’ I truly believe that they do.

But right now? I’m just unsure whether it’s words or Twitter followers that matter more.


Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK. If you made it this far, then thank you very much, it is much appreciated. You must have enjoyed the article at least a tiny bit to have made it this far, after all. And you’re in luck. Because you can click right here to get to my profile super quickly. Nobody else. Just you. You’re special. Thanks for reading.

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Jon Peters

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Father. Coffee Aficionado. Scrabble King. I also write words that fit together nicely. Find a random fact about me at the end of every article.

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By Medium Partner Program Friends — a publication about what unites us all.

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