Interesting article, thanks for sharing and thanks for reading!
I’m not sure if it’s broken or still a work in progress. They have an enormous number of deficiencies and opportunities to improve (their publisher analytics are frustratingly primitive) but they’re also a very new company.
I will say that their algorithms are probably obfuscated by design. If we knew exactly what we had to do to get promoted it would inevitably be abused. It does appear to be true (from my observations) that the recommendations of Medium curators are very influential, because they haven’t yet developed the complex algorithms that Google has.
So, for now, having a well-coordinated launch plan for the content (or already being famous, as you said) are probably your best bets. You’re absolutely right that just being great writing doesn’t guarantee that anyone will see it, since Medium still relies on user inputs to determine what is good writing. If there aren’t enough user inputs, their system can’t do anything.
I’d say it’s definitely their goal deliver the best content, how well they execute on it is something we’ll see long term. Until someone invents a computer application that can objectively judge the quality of writing at scale without user inputs, it’s unlikely they’ll solve the problem entirely.
I’ll also say that, as a publisher or brand trying to get traffic, even if you don’t get promoted you’re just in the same place you were if you had published on WordPress or another CMS.