Medium: Read all those TED talks you have no time to listen to (Medium Part 1)

Evan Williams is ready to take the Internet by storm with his third web publishing idea. Photo by Joi Ito.

Evan Williams is ready to take the Internet by storm with his third web publishing idea. (Photo by Joi Ito.)

A State of the Union address, a spat between a media giant and an online retailer and a detailed complaint to a successful San Francisco start-up. What do these three things have in common? They were all published on Medium, a social media platform launched by two of Twitter’s cofounders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone.

For social media, where images are king and attention spans limited to 140 characters, Medium, according to Williams, is “the default place to write and publish anything of substance that you want the world to see.” But what is Medium, exactly? And should your company be using it to reach consumers?

What’s a Medium?

One of the most interesting things about Medium is that most people find it difficult to describe. One writer called it “an unholy amalgam of LiveJournal, Slashdot, The Magazine and the features section of Rolling Stone.” Alexis Madrigal, writing for the Atlantic, called it another blogging platform, like WordPress or Blogger, but also seemed wary of what it could do to the Internet. Personally, after spending a few weeks reading articles, I like to call it “the place to read all the TED talks you don’t have time to listen to and to write the TED talks you never have time to give.” At its core, Medium is another place for writers to write and readers to read.

This isn’t the first time Williams has tried to define the blogosphere. In fact, he helped create it. His first success story was Blogger, which he sold to Google in 2003. Now, with Medium, Williams hopes to bring substance to viral content. That doesn’t mean that every post on Medium is beautifully crafted and written, however. “People are going to publish crap on Medium,” said Williams in an interview with Tech Crunch. That fact doesn’t seem to bother him at all. “I think more people would be in a better place if more people shared their ideas,” he said. The point of Medium is to give anyone an opportunity to find an audience for his or her thoughts.

From 140 characters to seven minutes

The average post on Medium takes seven minutes to read. Rather than measuring the amount of clicks an article gets, Medium tracks readers. Medium’s algorithm focuses on how much time you spend on an article and analyzes that content to give you more of what you like. Medium also offers several “publications” for readers. These are simply online magazines hosted on Medium, such as The Nib and Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron.

You can find an article on just about anything on Medium. (Screenshot by Jacob Gibb)

You can find an article on just about anything on Medium. (Screenshot by Jacob Gibb)

When you log into Medium for the first time, you are asked to select some of your interests. These topics become tags you can easily follow on Medium to get the kind of content you want to read. The first time I logged in, I selected topics such as Design, Creativity and Science. I then spent several hours taking in the content that Medium had to offer. In a space of three or four hours, I read an article about an app shut down by Instagram, one about what it’s like being a fat person on a plane and another entitled “Mr. Fart’s favorite colors.”

So what does this mean for your organization? If your publics are on Medium, you should be too. If you want your posts to go viral, most of the same principles of blogging apply to using Medium. Aim for 400-500 words, find a compelling image and write a SEO-worthy headline. End your posts with an invitation to discuss. Medium allows users to highlight portions of your articles and add a comment. Asking for highlights will allow your post to become a starting point for conversations and could bring your company more insights about your key publics.

Ultimately, the best way to get your content out there is to just get started. Get on Medium and add your voice to the conversations that are going on right now. To learn more about what makes an effective post and how your posts can go viral, look out for out my analysis of notable Medium posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *