Medium vs. Quora
The rise of Medium in 2013 reminds me of Quora in late 2010
Earlier today on Twitter, I struck up a conversation with the social marketing genius that is Gary Vaynerchuck. He had an idea for me, and when Gary speaks, it’s wise to listen: He suggested the following:
Well, OK then…I have a lot of respect for Gary’s creativity and knowledge of new social mediums, and though I’ve written a few posts here (non-tech, mostly culture and politics), I’ll give it a try. Here’s something I’d normally write on my blog as it’s tech-related, but let’s see how it does here: The increasing popularity of Medium in 2013 reminds me of Quora back in mid-late 2010. During that time, new content, information, and knowledge was created on Quora and distributed widely. Lately, though I still use Quora daily, I see less fewer links in my Twitter feed. As for Medium, on the other hand, it feels as if someone in my Twitter feed is sharing a link to a Medium post every hour, if not more.
How did this come to be?
I’ll start with Quora. Back in early-mid 2010, the beta invite to Quora was one of the hottest tickets around Silicon Valley. As they slowly let people into the system, new questions were being asked and all sorts of people were providing outstanding answers. To this day, I still feel as if Quora is the best destination for someone to go and begin to learn about Silicon Valley and all things related to technology startups. The big thing about Quora is that it was a destination. People would go there, move there attention away from Twitter, and then do all sorts of things inside the Quora garden, such as searching for information, writing answers to questions that others followed, vote up answers (or vote them down), send private messages, and follow different newsfeeds.
Today, Medium is winning the race for “platform which sends the most links to my Twitter feed.” While it’s much less of a destination, Medium’s tight integration with users’ Twitter accounts combined with the fact that a former Twitter co-founder and Blogger co-founder is behind this site makes for a very interesting property. Medium also slowly rolled out invites to write on the site and hired editorial staff to help keep quality high and curate posts. (Recall that Quora’s approach was through crowdsourcing wisdom and signal through ranking people and weighting votes.) So, Medium began slowly, as well, with high quality, and had a controlled invite system, but there’s less pressure or expectation to stay on Medium after reading. Therefore, Medium is less of a destination and more of a network of writers and content.
[As a brief aside, I will say that as someone who writes a lot online and has used Wordpress and Tumblr for years, as well as every other publishing platform, the ease and joy of writing on Medium surpasses every other platform. From all the little details like sharing notes, feedback, and nesting comments, to the big details like making the web page feel like a clean white sheet of paper (like IA writer).]
So, what happened such that Quora links ended up in my Twitter feed less, and Medium links ended up in my Twitter feed a lot?
One, Twitter only grew in importance, rendering content sites with news and information (like Quora) to be less of a destination and more a place that Twitter and other social networks would funnel into.
Two, Quora’s product seemed to mutate away from pure “Question and Answer” with the addition of “boards,” “blogs,” and a flood of new users who were not close social connections of the initial core user base. While I still visit Quora daily, I know many people who once used it now feel overwhelmed by how dense the site is. (On Medium, one could say the opposite — it’s clean, dead-simple, easy to navigate.)
Three, the intersection of online reputation and personal branding shifted. During Quora’s rise, there was an incentive to contribute answers to questions that the crowd had posed as a means to earn respect from one’s peers. Today, there’s more pressure on people to market and brand themselves online, and Twitter takes care of the short-form of that need, and Medium is placed as an easy way to start writing long-form and building a reputation in a deeper way on the back of Twitter.
Overall, I suspect a time will come soon where Medium posts lose their luster a bit (the Eternal September of the Internet rules supreme) and the platform will go through a quieter period, like Quora did. Only time will tell if the product changes or whether people will want to write more, especially for another site and not their own blog. There’s also an opportunity for Medium to collect and organize content (like Quora does) and make it searchable, backed by an author’s relevance and reputation on Twitter.
For now, Quora is chugging along, and I’m long on Quora, though today, the momentum is with Medium. (Hat tip to Gary for motivating me to write this. Thanks!)