The 7 ways Medium got membership launch wrong
Jessica Semaan

To me, the new model does not solve some of the fundamental problems that Medium has. It has the same issue as seen on sites like the old and the current Reddit as well as Facebook: a snowball positive feedback loop and a complete absence of a negative feedback loop.

70% of my homepage as well as my tag feeds are full of articles that lack any substance. These authors have managed to win the game of building an audience very well. Through click-bait, recommend-begging, shameless empty recommends (returning the favor) and other sleezy techniques, they have gained exposure. Once they have it, the effect strengthens itself, as more people will see it, which will lead to more comments and recommends, rinse and repeat. Once past this treshold, it does not matter what they write, exposure is a given, and can only further grow.

It’s a winner takes-it-all mechanism that is common across almost every social network. An extremely uneven distribution of exposure, which is not justified by actual value or quality, only by gaming the system.

To make matters worse, not only is the positive loop too strong and can be gamed, there’s zero negative feedback options to indicate that an article is flawed. Although negative feedback has its own problems, not having any at all is a worse problem.

To put this in simpler terms: take two articles of equal value and quality. One has 100K views, the other 3. This is a regular occurrence on Medium, not an exception. It shows that the link between quality writing and exposure does not exist. It’s a fantasy. The difference is entirely explained by one author being skilled in building an audience (in fair or unfair ways), and the other author isn’t. That simply proves the point it’s not about the writing.

So the wrong kind of writing is promoted and rewarded excessively, leaving all the rest of the quality writers behind.

Mind you, this is an extremely difficult problem to solve. But to me the new model does not even attempt to solve it. I’m assuming publishers becoming partners will be paid by the amount of exposure. So you’ll get the exact same problem: it creates the incentives to do all the wrong things to maximize exposure. Worse than before, where before exposure was an indirect benefit, now it will be a hard monetary benefit.

All of that said, I do believe Medium is doing relatively in terms of quality content compared to other social networks. It’s just that you see the same problems creeping in that plagues other networks.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.