What’s Wrong With Medium?

Why you shouldn’t leave Medium: an open (love) letter from one community member to another

I think it’s absolutely imperative that a community be skeptical, cautious, and speak up openly and often in order to ensure the continued success and future of itself and its platform. Thoughts like yours are signs of a healthy and growing community — and even if Medium is (in the grand scheme of things) a smaller one and definitely in its infancy, it’s crucial that posts like yours be made. We need to push Medium. We need to point out what they are doing right and, perhaps more importantly, what isn’t working, what we don’t like, and what we need and want in the future.

Where I think you might be off the mark is around Medium’s goals and what they do or do not care about. Does a fledgling company in early stages of existence need to exhibit massive growth in order to continue to receive funding and find its way to profitability? You bet your bottom dollar it does. Does a company eventually have to find a way to monetize, be it through ads, subscriptions, or something else? Yep. And it’s our responsibility as the early adopters and the most engaged community of the platform to keep Medium honest.

That means not leaving.

Yes, Medium is hiring Influencers. That makes sense to me (perhaps because this is what I do for a living so this is a bit of inside baseball — apologies there.) This platform needs to grow in order to gain the momentum, the user base, the writers, the reach, the notoriety — everything that it takes in order to be a lasting platform that people want to come to, share, and eventually help with the monetization strategy. That’s business. However, Medium does already invest in community, both in support and in outreach functions. On their jobs page, you can see a slew of Influencer listings alongside tons of engineers, analysts, designers, communications folks, and, yes, a community position. Heck, they’re hiring for an employee experience manager: all the listings are hallmarks of a company going through its next round of hiring after they received some funding. They need to build more technology. They need to get good data to figure out what they are doing. They need to make things prettier, shout it from the rooftops, bring in amazing tentpole folks, and keep nurturing the community in a deeper, more meaningful way (also their own employees — because retention is important for everyone!) Remember: it’s way cheaper to keep a user than to bring them in or win them back.

On a personal note, I know that community outreach does exist on Medium. When I started writing here at the beginning of the year, I had a couple hundred followers. In a very small corner of the internet, maybe some folks know me, but I’m certainly not someone that would be self-described as an influencer: I have no delusions of grandeur that Bono and I are going to co-write an article anytime soon. Yet, within weeks, I was not only seeing interaction with Medium on their Twitter and on the site itself, I was invited to be part of a user study to give community feedback. Later, when I wrote an article about being a woman on the internet (something that received some pretty hateful comments) I was contacted by another team who offered help, asked for feedback, and pointed out ways to make my experience safer and more positive because they had seen the negativity. It’s clear that these teams and functions are in their infancy, but speaking frankly, I’ve run community teams for giant companies that are well-established and I’ve yet to helm one that exists without complaints such as yours. A vibrant community will always be larger and more active and have more ideas than any internal community team can adequately service — and building an ecosystem where the community feels heard and respected on a global scale is a giant feat and one that takes a very long time to cultivate.

In the year I’ve spent with Medium I’ve had some fairly “big” articles: that article about being a woman was #1 for a day on the Top Stories (probably one of my prouder writing moments in pretty much ever. Seriously.) I’ve met editors and been part of a bunch of community publications and learned so much from it. I’ve seen user studies and user outreach and support happen that I thought was pretty damned first class, particularly given how scrappy this site seems to be (and since that’s kind of my forte, I’m not too proud to admit at times I was jealous because I thought some of their tactics were so well polished.) I’ve been invited to speak at two conferences because of what I’ve written here. I write every single week now — something I haven’t done since college.

Is this place perfect? Nope. Does it need you to keep pushing it to be better? Yes. Does Medium have a really long way to go? Totally.

Don’t leave. And don’t do it for Medium, or Ev, or anything like that. Do it for people like me, who appreciate what you do. We are the community. Without us, the future you want won’t exist.