Or: Why The Hipster Blogging Site is Worth Your Time
It took me maybe two hours to go from Medium skeptic to rabid Medium evangelist.
Could anyone blame me? Medium’s giant images and vast expanses of white space are designed to entrance. At the moment, the blogging platform is also home to some of the consistently best content I’ve found on the web.
Combine the two, and you have a witch’s brew potent enough to reel in just about any avid web surfer. But there’s more to Medium than that.
It may be passé to say this in 2015, nearly two years after many sites deservedly called it the next big thing, but I couldn’t be more excited to dive into these relatively uncharted waters. If you’re new to the site, or if you left it after being winded by an initial burst of 2014 enthusiasm, there are some incredible reasons to visit, and some lessons to learn for use in your own endeavors.
Medium is a Content Marketer’s Playground
The first and best thing about Medium for marketers is the chance it offers to amplify content. Medium’s readership is massive. It still lags behind powerhouses like Tumblr, but a cursory Alexa search shows that the gap is narrowing. Major blogging sites are losing users; Tumblr, Squarespace, and Wordpress are all well off their peaks of popularity. Medium? Still rising, and soundly whipping closer competitors Ghost and Svbtle.
That user base makes Medium a sound time investment now and that upward trend indicates that it’s likely to be a sound one in the future as well. Particularly because of the possibility of what I like to call “perma-greening”.
Digital marketers are obsessed with the concept of evergreening – taking past content and putting it to traffic-driving work once more.
A major Medium differentiator is its treatment of older material. The algorithmic half of the site doesn’t lay the same emphasis on recency that most other content platforms do. Instead, it scores quality over freshness.
Medium’s decision to part ways with the rest of the web and de-prioritize the importance of publication date may make it the ultimate evergreening site, but only if you’re writing good content.
This changed focus means an article you’ve written that has done well will just…stick around. Medium undoubtedly has some means to prevent this from happening ad infinitum, but its model still allows one piece to hold headlines for a long, long time. Just checking in the “startups” category immediately surfaces a piece written over a year ago.
That’s the definition of perma-greening.
And yes, brands can hold this kind of real estate. While publications (more on them in the next section) are a little leery of allowing corporate writers in, companies can and do show up in the top results for individual categories.
But republishing content is just scratching the surface of what brands can do on Medium. One of the most interesting cases I’ve seen on the site is that of The Fader, a well-known music journal. They do a couple of different things with their content. First, they’ll provide snippets that link to full versions on their own site, essentially using Medium as a low-effort means to drive personal traffic.
Second, and even more intriguing, they use Medium to host their weekly newsletters (called #BeatWeek). This gets them out of naturally overflowing email inboxes and in front of users in a quick, non-intrusive, and non-crowded way.
The way that Medium organizes content also allows for some marketing-friendly shuffling. First, companies can create their own publications to collect content from both internal and external writers, something that I’ve seen one local CEO do to celebrate their company’s 10-year anniversary. The page didn’t take off, but the idea remains excellent, and provides an tantalizing opportunity for extensive engagement.
Second, it’s also possible to create a publication only for internal authors. Buffer does this, and it works beautifully. Their employees get to keep their identities, are suddenly much more eligible for acceptance to publications, and are still clearly affiliated with Buffer, something that benefits both company and writers.
Let's also pay hasty tribute to the way that Medium plays with Twitter. There's no need to fuss about adding extra social icons to your articles. Write, promote, and if all goes well you'll see both views and follows flow in.
Medium Makes Writing Easy
Publications are also fascinating. Publications are digital collections begun and curated by human owners. They range from tiny to massive, and large ones can easily nail down daily appearances on high-profile Medium category pages.
What marketer could look at that kind of exposure without salivating a bit?
And let’s talk about how Medium handles comments. The pop-out comments and in-line highlighting that you’ll see on popular Medium articles are democratic, easy to moderate, and don’t impinge on the visual grace of an article. That’s a hard balance to achieve, but the result is lovely, and immediately appealing to anyone who’s both longed after and feared feedback from the grand internet collective.
All told, Medium looks like a meritocracy, where quality writing trumps paid ads, fan followings (granted, celebrity names carry a little more weight than I’d like), and technical know-how. Heady stuff for any ambitious content creator.
Medium Makes Your Content Look Amazing
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a site nail the concept of readers’ delight quite like Medium does. Previous blogging platforms have been made with an eye towards flexibility (Wordpress) or community (Tumblr); Medium is a comparative one-trick pony, built only for purpose of facilitating the production and consumption of content.
There’s little pretense about this. Medium allows for little customization; it holds no real advertising opportunities, and doesn’t offer anything to recommend it over other sites in terms of share-ability.
There’s no way for opportunistic companies to pay to boost posts to the front page. SEOs have yet to publically crack the algorithm that surfaces posts – I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make is that this is a relatively simple, content-centric platform.
And it makes that content look gorgeous. There’s no clutter, nothing to distract from the large, centered text that, along with images, makes up each Medium post. It’s a design that smart, custom blogs have echoed for years – and one that previous platforms (looking at you Wordpress) have ignored in favor of endless toolbars. And that white space? It’s something designers will rhapsodize about at length if given the chance.
Of course, none of this would matter if it was just dressing on thin content.
Medium does not have thin content. There are two reasons for this. First, whatever algorithm they use to pick articles works exceedingly well. Second, Medium doesn’t stint on human talent. A decent amount of content on the site comes courtesy of handpicked pro writers. Not guest writers, not paid placement. Professionals, and it shows.
Medium has also become a bastion of long-form content. The internet is awash with sound bites, but over at Medium, the online novella dominates. I love this. As a whole, Medium is a quiet corner in a noisy room. Someplace that you can sit down, ignore the hubbub, and just read dammit. It makes those 20 minute time stamps so, so welcome.
All of this means that just existing on Medium is enough to make your work look a little more professional. Start climbing the category ranks enough to benefit from Medium’s built-in promotion, and you’ve got something truly special.
I’m very, very ready to start LookFar’s Medium maiden voyage. Our first experiment will likely see us following in Buffer's tracks and reposting some old content to see if we can start building up a presence on the new site. The piece you're reading now should reach its new home in about a month.
Time will tell exactly how well this platform works as an adjunct to our blog, and I’ll be more than ready to pull the plug should we see a drop in traffic but…
I’m pretty excited. I’ll write an update when I can.