Is Medium What Comes After Blogs?

Marco Arment on slowing blog traffic:

Everyone’s spending increasingly more consumption time dicking around in apps and snacking on bite-sized social content instead of browsing websites and searching Google.
Publishers are relying more on social traffic not because Google’s squeezing them out, but because that’s where everyone went. The dominance of mobile usage, social networks, and YouTube, plus attention-competition from apps, are the real problems for web publishers and blog writers.

Seth Godin, in a piece titled “Is Google making the web stupid?,” provides Marco his jumping off point:

And even more germane to my headline, it means that content publishers are moving toward social and viral traffic, because they can no longer count on search to work for them. It’s this addiction to social that makes the web dumber.

Peddlers of garbage content tend to hide behind the fact that the cards are stacked against them. They have to do the Upworthy shuffle to survive. That’s why BuzzFeed wants to be known for serious journalism while leaning on fuckboy quizzes: the one subsidizes the other.

Marco’s closing is something that I think will stick with me:

If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.

Blogging is changing. The web has gotten so big (and so gamified) that it seems daunting to start putting your thoughts out into the ether. Where to begin? And what’s the point?

Which brings me to Medium.

I’ve spent the last few weeks writing mostly on Medium instead of on my own site. I have my reasons, but I won’t go into them fully here.

If there’s anything that’s truly exciting about Medium as a publishing platform, it’s the way that it melds social with publishing. Today, Medium can accurately be called the following three things:

  • A publisher
  • A publishing platform
  • A social network

There’s an ongoing struggle for those of us on the outside to understand which one is Medium’s primary function, but that’s part of the fun of it. It’s an evolving experiment.

The social aspects of Medium are impressive. By following a writer and recommending his or her work, it’s possible to come here solely as a reader who spreads good writing. In my short experience, it has been my longer, more in-depth work that gets noticed.

While I don’t particularly find the writing on Medium any better per article than elsewhere on the web, it’s clear there is a commitment to quality that drives the whole project. Nowhere is this clearer than in the site’s own writing advice: “How to Get Read on Medium.” It’s a calm and measured approach to the dark magic of spreading content socially. On writing a compelling title:

Use “how” or “why.” This can veer dangerously close to the black magic of the internet — tricks that help bad content go viral — but, used in moderation, it can also be helpful.

That Medium advises against letting “bad content go viral” says a lot about the kind of writing they want to make a home for on the web. As both a writer and a reader, that’s heartening.

Still, the main problem with Medium for upstart publishers is that monetization remains a mystery. While it’s hard to make a living off a blog, it is possible (though, as Marco points out, those salad days may be ending). On Medium, right now, it’s not.

There are people who write on Medium as their full-time job, but to my knowledge they are all employed by Medium at in-house publications. We’re in early days, so it’s still unclear how to sustain a publication here. That won’t always be true, though.

So maybe Medium is what comes after blogs. The social reach and commitment to quality that are part of the project’s DNA bode well for writing on the web.

Now if only I could pay rent (or at least buy a six-pack) with my writing here. That’d really be something.

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