It became really hard to add titles (and gasp — subtitles!) to Medium posts.
This is thought-provoking.
- Articles without titles? Can you imagine the front page of The New York Times looking like that? It’s of course a sign of the times, but very notable at the surface level.
- My guess is they do this because if you ask people what’s one of the hardest parts about writing articles, it’s coming up with the title. Classic tech product management: remove the friction, increase the metrics. More posts, less abandoned posts, etc. Surely. I experience this firsthand frequently. It’s either a moment of triumph whereby a witty title just comes to you… or you stare at the screen, coming up with and discarding article titles as fast as a new entrepreneur discarding domain names for their new company.
- But whoa. This is a major change to the fundamental structure of articles.
- Interestingly, in a society of us increasingly just scanning tweets and headlines, how would the absence of titles change behavior?
- Admittedly they just use the content that you do write effortlessly as context to auto generate previews, etc. so it’s not like their isn’t a new substitute, but still — the beginning of an article historically, especially stories rather than press releases, would be markedly different than the title itself. Does that mean this is the death of the title?
- This is also an interesting commentary on the power of technology and interfaces. When an email asks for a subject line, you enter one. When Slack doesn’t have a place for a subject line you don’t enter one. Interfaces matter. The latter examples drives informality and speed of communication — that’s having a tangible effect on work cultures and dynamics. When people have to stop adding titles, maybe more people will write, maybe more content will be published — but also maybe it will be harder to understand what the author’s point was….maybe it will contribute to a degradation in the quality of the structure of writing that has been developed for years because after all, it’s ways easier to compose a 140 character tweet than write a long form article…so do we just keep doing what’s easier?
- This also speaks to the responsibility that tech companies have and how metrics for a company are not necessarily aligned with society. If Medium wants more posts, YouTube wants more views, Facebook wants more MAUs — their product strategies all align behind these metrics. Medium wants you to publish more (even if the work doesn’t, subjectively, deserve to be published — of course, bad content is bad for the platform long term). YouTube wants you to watch more, even if that means being more of a couch potato and not exercising. Facebook wants you to Like more things even if that means contributing to narcissism and Internet addiction.
I did notice that it depends on where you BEGIN to write from. When you go from New Story deeper in the product vs. the compose from the homepage, Medium DOES show you the title field: