Dear Medium

I don’t like your affair with journalism

Do you know what I don’t like about the news?

None of it matters.

And I don’t want to spend my time reading about things that don’t matter.

It’s probably a gripe with most journalists. I don’t respect people who talk to a few “experts” and think they’ve got the entire field figured out. Although, I do love people who are able to do this — most of them aren’t journalists.

If I want to read op-eds or the news, I’d head over to the National Enquirer. Or Washington Post. or New York Times.

I don’t want to come to Medium and see this.

screenshot by the author

Or this.

screenshot by the author

I don’t mean every feature piece. That piece above by Kate Willsky is great. It’s not clickbait. It has something important to share.

The features signal who you like, who you want and who you are.

Do you know what I loved about Medium?

It’s where the good ideas were.

Maybe they are still here. I can’t reach them though.

It was an organised fringe. Separate from the journalism-haven. Rough. The sweet spot between the world of Reddit and mainstream news.

Instead of hunting for amazing people — like I would on Reddit — I had a useful feed curated to my interests with new people I’d find interesting.

It was a discovery platform. Not mainstream, where you need credentials to write. Neither an insignificant hole on the internet. If you had something interesting to say, people would listen.

That’s what made Medium so great.

A culmination of self-experimenters, hackers working on interesting things — and the single mom writing about how she sorted her life out — all coming together on a single platform to share their ideas.

I discovered experienced people writing about their life — how they found success, how they failed, how they’ve built their dream life.

Copying the newspapers changed this.

Now I see journalists presenting research, quoting scientists, presenting the single mom — only if her story had some drama, though. I see more lines suffixed with “he says”, “she says” or “they say” than not.
Superficial? Interpretative? Narrow? Of course.

There’s nothing wrong with becoming yet another online journal. You’d start making money, which is important. You’d start attracting more of the crowd.

Or you could continue down the hard path. Embrace the “for the people, by the people” adage you began with.

Do you know whats your unfair advantage?

Bring back the self experimenters. Let me discover that artist who has honed his craft for a decade — and yet to make it big. Feature them. The unique voices on Medium who have something to add to the conversation.

I don’t want to read what a journalist heard about this artist from a friend. I want to hear the artist. The artist who is writing about his art. Sure — his writing may be rough. But you know what? I love that. Because he spent his time learning something other than how to write well. And I want to learn from him (or her, or them).

Of course, it’s not all bad. I love the feature collection for How to build a brand by Felicia C. Sullivan. It’s specific, written by someone who went through it — not just heard someone do it. It adds value.

Figure out a sustainable business model. Experiment. The most obvious choice is taking a percentage of membership fees. The worse choice is ads. The best of both worlds is having a promotions section. Let writers promote their work for a fee in this section. Nothing as blatant as the featured stories though. Another option is starting a writing course for Medium by Medium. That’s a powerful feedback loop.

Do you know whats your unfair advantage?

A diverse set of writers, hackers and futurists — already writing on your platform.

And you have data about what they’ve been writing about. What they want to write about. What is their niche. You know what’s clicked in the past — and you can help them grow.

It’s a sword with no hilt though. Anyone can write means anyone will write. Some of it will be crap, some of it will be great and most of it will be somewhere in the middle.

Maybe you’re afraid.

Afraid that the readers and then writers will leave. Afraid you’ll become like Quora. Afraid you’ll be overwhelmed by the crapfulness. At such a time, isn’t it even more important to find the great voices and hold on to them? Groom them? Make them want to continue writing on Medium?

Or you could bring in journalists whose job is to write — who’d go where they get paid.

Who is easier to sustain?