Did I Single Handedly Bring Down All The Medium Publications?

The two year Penguin Campaign from start to finish

Argumentative Penguin
Mar 25 · 5 min read
Photo by elCarito on Unsplash

Most of my writing gets thrown into Lucid Nightmare. A publication I created and now run with all the diligence of a cocker-spaniel. Other publications are available, you should read widely, there are some great ones to engage with.

I never counted the Medium run publications among them.

I’ve also never submitted my work to Medium Publications. It’s very likely I never will. When they arrived with huge fanfare in 2019 I was sceptical about the new model. My scepticism turned out to be well-founded after the latest announcement from Ev Williams.

Sound the ‘All Change’ Klaxon, a la the Mad Hatter. We have a brand new Medium pivot.

<SARCASM>Everyone loves this aspect of Medium </SARCASM>. This one has turned out to be an elegant two-year-long pirouette. We’ve come full circle thanks to Ev, and Medium has resolved the problem they created.

When they created their own publications Medium created a Paradox. Something I first wrote about 2019.

You can’t run a left-leaning platform under a right-wing model. Even the most virtuous editor will do what all humans do when power is centralised and they’re in charge.

They curated around their confirmation bias and the publications descended into nepotism.

Jobs for the boys. Or girls. Or whatever gender flies in the post-gender utopia we live in. As long as they produced the sort of work that the editors liked to read they’d keep getting paid.

As journalism tends to attract a certain economic class into its ranks; a liberal and middle-class homogeny developed. Liberal, left and very very inclusive. If you weren’t in this club, your work stood little chance. That’s the beautiful irony of an inclusive agenda run under a non-inclusive structure.

Or left by right as I’m going to call it.

Initially, the publications were hugely successful. That’s because when you control the means of production and distribution you have to work very hard not to succeed.

Newly minted writers on the platform began tailoring work to the publications. The homogeny became an echo chamber.

And after a time, it became obvious this was driving the quality of the work downwards. There’s only so many times people can be subjected to ‘White Men are the Root of all Evil’ and ‘Isn’t Donald Trump a bellend?’ without feeling like they’re in the Medium equivalent of Groundhog Day.

After being recommended numerous articles from publications I’d unsubscribe from, I had a temper tantrum. The result was this article written in June last year.

It was one of the few stories I wrote in 2020, a largely silent year for me. I disengaged with Medium as a writer and cracked on with plays, screenplays and the day job.

I became a reader and prolific commenter instead, testing to see if these authors had the intellectual heft to defend or debate their views.

If they did, they rarely bothered. This was a one-way system. Broadcast only. They wrote. They published. They took their money and moved on to the next piece. I get it. If you’re a self-employed journalist with a family to feed, you don’t have the luxury of stopping for chats with penguins.

But, like many Medium readers, I came here for the chats.

I came here to read what real people think about the complexities of society. I didn’t come here to read what small groups of journalists presume people want to read.

I came here because I was bored with newspapers, bored with twitter, bored with echo chambers and bored with the super-woke and the alt-right in equal measure.

Medium was built upon the myriad voices of all its members. It became a place where the only metric of success was how interesting you were. When I began here, if your pieces were good, they were ‘elevated’. At that point you’d get editorial support from the paid staff. These editors were wonderful, courteous and not pushy in the slightest. You were working WITH Medium, not writing FOR them.

I joined this place in 2018 and I loved it. I earned $800 for one of my first pieces of writing. This was a place for people like me. Medium editors approached me, I never approached them, I never pitched. I wrote, they amplified. A brilliant system and a great platform for voices outside of conventional journalism.

The arrival of Medium publications made me fall out of love with Medium. The focus was now on pitching. Putting yourself forward for piece of the pie. Waiting for responses from editors.

After their initial success, Medium publications hit a plateau and it was only a matter of time before they became economically unviable. That’s what this pivot is about.

I wish a lot of the professional journalists well, I’m sure they’ll find work elsewhere or continue to write on Medium without the guarantee of a wage. That brings them in line with the rest of us. A level playing field. A meritocracy.

If nothing else, they’ve built an extensive resume of the sort of journalistic pieces that people like to read. That might be enough to keep the wolf from the door.

They had a good run on this platform, but to quote my favourite Disney villain, ‘a shining new era is tiptoeing nearer’.

It seems the Medium demos want to read lots of less-polished amateur writers saying different things — rather than a small group of professional writers saying the same things ad-infintum.

What does this mean for us between now and the next inevitable pivot? I don’t know what it means for you but I’m excited about what it means for me. This morning I cracked my knuckles and prepared to exit my self imposed retirement. My more controversial work is being distributed and curated once again. I’ve pissed off people from all political persuasions before but am longer condemned to the ideological wilderness.

I didn’t single-handedly bring down the Medium Publications but I feel vindicated and glad I didn’t endorse this particular two-year long experiment.

Medium has pivoted the way I wanted — this time. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t, the longer you stay with Medium the more you realise this is true. The relational aspect of the platform is now taking priority once again, rewarding writers who engage with their readership in the comments.

As a result the last few weeks has seen my stats climbing, work that would’ve been DOA a few months ago has found an audience once more. Cheers Ev.

I am argumentative. I am Penguin. I am back.

Lucid Nightmare

A publication dedicated to centre ground nuance and the end…

Argumentative Penguin

Written by

Playwright. Screenwriter. Penguin. Big fan of rational argument and polite discourse. Find me causing chaos in the comments section. Leave a DM to get in touch.

Lucid Nightmare

A publication dedicated to centre ground nuance and the end of the world as we know it. The political and dystopic ramblings of a mad English playwright.

Argumentative Penguin

Written by

Playwright. Screenwriter. Penguin. Big fan of rational argument and polite discourse. Find me causing chaos in the comments section. Leave a DM to get in touch.

Lucid Nightmare

A publication dedicated to centre ground nuance and the end of the world as we know it. The political and dystopic ramblings of a mad English playwright.

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