Can Medium bring Authenticity to the Web?

The internet is changing how we communicate. Our attention span is gone in 6 seconds, if we are not engaged. Maybe digital evolution has evolved past the stand-alone blog, the tweet, the Facebook update. So, what’s next?

Roots of Storytelling

Human history is permitted with narrative, storytelling, the chance to tell our story and share our experience in an authentic and contemporary manner. This, by its very nature, cannot be a 500 word blog.

To blog, to tweet, to medi!

The Nature of Attention

You’ve been there, I’m doing this 800 times a day, I scan, I don’t read. Unless you can captivate my heart and mind, and maybe even my spirit! Is what you write of value to me to become if you will, a better person?

I don’t require more news, more RSS feeds to follow, more stuff and crap to keep up with. Shoot me a list that’s actionable, tips that matter to my world, to my daily reality! Through in a short video, a podcast, a live streaming sessions you recorded. Entertain, inspire and educate me. That’s what blogging today requires.

Beyond Gimmick Metrics

But in 2016, it requires something else. The crucial element to any content online, actual social discourse, comments. Nobody cares about how many impressions or likes we get anymore, that’s what Facebook & LinkedIn and legacy social media taught us was important, basically a lie. We implose on the vanity and social comparisons with less than stellar emotional responses.

The only thing that matters in content is social discourse, the feedback loops of value that circulate that makes a brand have life and the power to influence.

Silicon Valley Clout

In a world where San Francisco and Silicon valley steer the future of digital, there’s one person who is instrumental in transforming the evolution of digital media. Evan Williams is the founder of Medium, he’s been intimately involved in this for years. First Blogger, then Twitter — the verb “to blog” and “to tweet” derive in part from his life’s work.

The beauty of Medium is that it is seamlessly integrated with Twitter, for example you can highlight parts of stories and tweet them for further discussion with your network.

Evolution of the Real-Time Meme

Medium is not just blogging, it’s the ability to combine memes with arguments and points of view — for contemporary offering of frames of reference. Posts on medium fall into many popular categories:

Many of which are the domain of techie Millennials, those digital natives taking over the world in San Francisco and other startup hubs and entrepreneurial urban centers.

If the average person gets bored after reading 140 characters, the internet needed a new kind of content that will not just be readable, but something to argue about, something where social discourse and social entrepreneurhood could actually talk place. While “to Medi” is still relatively new, it’s gaining mainstream momentum in 2016. What do we mean by this?

A Platform with Momentum

Obama posted his State of the Union address on Medium, before he delivered it to Congress. Since Medium allows the creation of “publications”, mainstream companies, brands, news outlets and the best bloggers in the world are being attracted to Medium as a place to build an audience and burst a voice out, start a scene and debate real issues of substance and memes of the day.

On the best of days, Medium encourages not just exposition, but interaction. It amplifies not just a brand, but a value-system. It facilities not just a monologue, but a voice that has a personal quality to it and is close to the ambiguous “authenticity” users are seeking online, that is desperately missing from legacy social media. While Instagram feels more authentic because it can be more personal and visual, it’s more of a postcard than a person.

Authentic User Generated Journalism

Like following someone on Twitter who uses it for actually social discourse, someone’s persona on Medium, may be closer to their true self. That is, in 2016 it’s the advent of the personal brand not just the business brand or influencer that matters. People are becoming influencers in their own right, and that is an important digital trend where Medium is riding the wave.

The best Medium stories (they are not called articles or posts), take 7 minutes to read. As such, they foster a more educational point of view that sifted by the experience of the author and tailored to a younger audience that’s more interested in self-improvement, innovation and doing more with software and data.

The Newest Digital Verb on the Block

“To Medi”, may just be the way Millennials (the defining verb) will end up expressing themselves. I see this with a number of more controversial articles on Medium, you would never see trending on other more legacy platforms that cater to a different audience. Also because Medium was born in San Francisco, it will be monetized in a way that is user-friendly. That’s the guarantee, though it may take a few more months to experience this reality. This is the time, the medium is exploding. Or maybe it’s still a great community, before it goes mainstream. (A more likely scenario from our experience of social platforms).

What’s intriguing about Medium is its social network blended into mobile content platform. While its direly lacking video content in 2015, now that we are in 2016 this will hopefully change. New startups are popping up like Rabbut, around the idea of helping authors build the audiences better.

Digital in Transformation — Mobile Blogging

If 2016 is when SMS marketing begins to disrupt Email marketing, it’s also the year blogging goes from a bubble, to the streets of San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Montreal, Sydney, London, Melbourne and on.

Evan Williams said:

“What we’re trying to do is create the default place to write and publish anything of substance that you want the world to see,”

While people like the visual clean format, I would say that Medium still has a ways to go. Too many of the same hollow articles end up being featured on the top stories page. A popular article it turns out, is not always a quality piece of authentic social construction.

But Williams’ still has a glamorous view, just off San Francisco’s Market Street, overlooks a city full of people desperately seeking the next idea that makes it big. Medium is an exploit, and the “best that’s currently available” platform. It has new pros and new cons, and a variety of voices that’s unprecedented, and a personal tone that was previously inaccessible.

That’s important, that everyone can have a voice, no matter how buried it is.

Is it as Organic & Personal as it Claims?

Williams’ also contributed to Twitter which he co-founded in 2006 along with with Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. It’s a site that has become synonymous the organic, grass roots and memes that are more socially and commented engaged. “To Tweet” is not something, we will soon forget. It entertained us for nearly a decade, an eternity now in digital time.

Medium doesn’t have a verb, yet. But it does, “to Medi”, and we think it is going places. As of the end of 2015, more than two million posts had been published — considering the long-form nature of the content, that’s a lot of words. Because it’s seamlessly integrated to Twitter, personal brands can ‘graduate’ from Twitter seamlessly to Medium and start a publication and drive an audience. It’s first come first serve, a bit like the amateur influencers on Linkedin pulse who got in not by virtue of their skill, but by being an early adopter.

The world of algorithms delivering you content is not a perfect world. We often get stories on Medium that don’t really interest us. But there’s some hope and glimmer at the end of the green light.

That’s the user generated content that blossomed in 2015 and is the future of all content.

Medium does curate the memes of the day, not unlike any other social network. But how people react to the News, that’s what most people want to read. That’s the user generated content that blossomed in 2015 and is the future of all content. You have to be a bit out of touch with digital trends, not to realize this.

User Generated Reactions in Real-Time

So Presidential candidates have a presence on Medium and a trending, well, I’ll just bite my tongue and realize America still has a powerful influence upon them old and own the internet, for now. While LinkedIn is pushing India, the obvious country full of Millennials that will drive its future, Medium is still a bit of an elitist crowd of tech entrepreneurs, angry Millennials and self-proclaimed Gurus.

Here is why we think Medium has an edge over other content platforms:

  • The substantive thought and exposition of value centric content and emotional points of views has a unique proposition online (when so much of the content out there is rehashing).
  • An environment where the personal voice driven user generated content has a place in equal footing to branded voices.
  • The neat features like highlighting, creating publications, scheduling stories to go live shows promise in the reader and writer experience (RWE). The Medi customers are just readers and writers, that’s it.
  • In 2016, branding is going more towards the emotional customer-centric experience, and Medium’s “stories” have more emotional substance being more personal and ideally more authentic points of view (not just advertising, sales or pitches).
Business is 90% emotions, 10% logistics. If you can’t even put a smile on a customer’s face, what makes you think they’re going to buy from you? — Rabbut

How Different is it Really

Medium helps this happen: as well as a personal profile, Medium offers the creation of Publications — curated spaces that resemble homepages rather than blogs. But can the ordinary blogger find an audience here in a sea of subjective content?

We don’t think so, unless you have a great following on Twitter, know how to play this audience or have significant clout behind your brand that the ecosystem takes you seriously by default.

Where’s the ROI in long-form content that takes a while to create on such a platform? It’s not clear, especially when Medium monetizes and how will this change the community and the voice? To get a feel for Medium, check out their top 100 stories in February. Can you compete? Probably not. Because in its current state this is a platform already with its amateur influencers who were early adopters and found a niche. If you’re late to the game already, good luck to you.

While news business is finding a captive and enthusiastic audience on Medium. Even the way Journalism is read and how it is interactive has changed. Reading the comments on a major Newsfeed on Facebook is quite illuminating.

We’re moving towards an open-source era of content that is accessible, social, interactive and immediate. Sound familiar?

Just How Far Can User Generated Content Go?

We’re moving towards an open-source era of content. Somewhat oddly, companies usually extremely guarded about their own editorial product are simply giving it away to Medium, though this could change easily.

  • Williams is also thinking about expanding into other online content — such as video and podcasts. Medium has to move with the times, even it is “out of date” with digital reality as it seeks to build an interactive content platform.

In an age when UGC is often how we are getting news, journalists going going freelance on the side and everyone, you, your sister and your neighbour are now wanna be influencers.

Can Medium become a new kind of group-think? A new form of collective-intelligence where ideas are transformed into new realities and the status-quo is no longer good enough? Could this be a revolution of content where the audience becomes the message?

Is Medium the Future of a the Flavour of the Day?

In 2016, Medium seems to be getting a lot more press. I think that’s a good thing, for what it’s worth. If you are a writer, you can still change the world. And, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Can Medium have its day in the sun, and be as Twitter once was, a vital internet utility, but without becoming a place too distressing for many to visit on a daily basis? Medium, is an example today of how free speech can get your fired and Millennials seek to bend the digital world to their will.

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