From Medium’s Top Tech Writer to not even being a member

A Case Study on the Flaws — and Potential- of Medium

Any Medium user knows things have changed a lot in the past few months. The first change was my company publication being invited into a beta program as a top publication in web design. I interfaced with the folks at Medium but I have to admit their plan was never too clear. Having a hard time understanding it myself, it was even harder to explain to my CEO so we decided to ignore it.

As a Top Tech Writer on Medium I received an invitation as a top tech writer to join some other program that was vague and didn’t make much sense. From what I gathered, they wanted me to become a full time writer for Medium and get paid which quite honestly sounded way too good to be true. You know why? Because it is. Once users are accustomed to consuming content on Medium for free, it’s nearly impossible to flip the switch this far down the road and start charging. I ignored this invitation as well.

And then I was no longer a top tech writer on Medium. Perhaps a way of punishing me but more likely involved with writing less on Medium since the new changes or perhaps some new way they rank writers. Who knows? The worst part is I used to love Medium, the content was strong, the community was close, and the vibe was positive.

Jon Westenberg, the first writer to be paid full time to write for Medium, came along when Medium decided to test things. No matter what you do, his posts will float to the top of your digest. The noise shaped air that emerges from his posts are beyond frustration but is the epitome of Medium’s flaw.

“Pay random people to write for Medium full time and you’ll get Jon Westenberg quality.”

Sure he has a lot of followers and favorites but so would your grandmother if Medium put her on the front page every day. So enough about some guy in Australia who sits at home all day and vomits whatever comes to his mind. Let’s do what we all came on Medium to do, share our real life experiences, not tell people how to live their lives or become a millionaire overnight.

Medium is biased. I’ve been a user for two years and I find it impossible to discern what content is considered quality by the Medium community and which content is forced down the Medium community’s throat by the company. I say this because I’ve read and written posts that were tremendously successful elsewhere, or simply read an amazing post on Medium that definitely had mass appeal, yet were basically ignored on Medium.

On the other side of things, Medium seems to pick articles with buzz words and put them front and center, getting you thousands of reads or more. But then sometimes they ignore buzz words and what would normally be a hugely successful post would be read by 2 or 3 people. So I decided to test Medium and wrote the exact same article on two different accounts. One article got over 10,000 reads and hundreds of recommendations and the other got 17 reads and 2 recommendations. That’s when I got suspicious.

So here’s my peace. Medium, no one is going to pay. If that was your end game, you should’ve started with that out of the gate. The reason Medium has been so awesome is because people weren’t being paid to write and weren’t paying to read, creating the perfect creative storm for people to share compelling stories, experiences, and insight that is curated and not filled with the typical “Out with my boys eatin’ a Sandwich #Winning” Twitter or Facebook post.

But Evan’s gotta pay the bills. So here’s a new idea… Go back to the old model and get a designer to create an advertising platform with extremely strict regulations. Like CarbonAds which only serves up tech related ads, only display ads to readers who consume content with certain categories. If they’re into tech, show them tech ads, if they’re into cooking, show them cooking ads. No popups. No display banners. Keep it on the homepage, keep it simple, and sell your user base with ads that actually help them. For example, no Mountain Dew ads, no Budweiser Ads, nothing that doesn’t directly help the user seeing it. If you need a hand devising such a system, I’d be more than happy to salvage Medium, arguable the greatest writing platform online.

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