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The State of Medium in Late 2017

Achievements to date, remaining challenges, and potential solutions for the online publishing platform as we move towards 2018.


Ev Williams and his team at Medium have made bold moves that solved many problems that plagued legacy services including:

  1. Creating a platform for blogging and online publishing that is beautiful and usable.
  2. Testing monetization strategies including branded/sponsored content.
  3. Rejecting advertising in favor of reader membership subscriptions.
  4. Launching a partner program designed to reward writers for creating quality content.

Furthermore, they have introduced a broad range of elegantly implemented features for both their website and mobile app, while continually optimizing both.

While the various pivots and changes over the years have upended careers, publications, and left some feeling betrayed, overall Medium made significant inroads towards further democratizing online media and opened doors to new possibilities for both writers and publishers.

Remaining Challenges

Quality & Discovery

  • Problem: The downside to Medium being free and easy-to-use is that there is almost no barrier to entry. This has led to a flood of low-quality content.
  • Solution: Expanding the human curation team will help, but there are obviously physical limits to what they can cover. Their capabilities need to be augmented by automation and AI. Also, the recommendation algorithm needs to penalize low-quality content somehow.

Bias

  • Problem: Brands and writers with large followings get a lot of engagement, which pushes their work further into more people’s feeds. For content expressing political and ideological views, those who lean left tend to be favored. Pieces in the tech and life-hacking genres seem to be emphasized.
  • Solution: There needs to be more diversity in genres, opinions, political stance, geographic focus, and ideologies. As long as a writer is producing quality content that abides by Medium’s terms of use and community guidelines, it should be given a fair level of exposure. Again, this will have to be implemented via an editorial/curation team aided by intelligent tools.

Publications

  • Problem: This year has seen an exodus of publications. As a CMS, Medium failed to provide them with the critical functionality required to grow, monetize, and control their branding. Those who had the resources moved (returned) to WordPress or other CMS to meet their needs.
  • Solution: Medium needs to be more than just another distribution channel for publishers. While as a CMS, it should retain its relative simplicity, there are several features regarded by publishers as must-haves which are not yet available and should be implemented. Publications also need to have a workable approach to the Medium Partner Program that includes ways to work with contributing writers.

Moving Forward

Medium has brought us much value, but is clearly a work in progress. I look forward to seeing it continue to evolve. If any Medium Staff read this, thank you for your consideration.

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