Ev Williams says Medium aims to flip content publishing upside down

Sep 02, 2012

Like many in the tech startup space, I was anxious to see what Medium was all about. It debuted mysteriously with a very simple home page containing only a full screen background image and an email sign up box.  Now, you can read more on its lofty goals as a new publishing platform.

Many originally speculated that it would be an enhanced image service complementing Twitter.  No surprise given Medium is developed by the same team that brought us Twitter – Obvious Corporation, including Ev Williams and Biz Stone.

Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to hear Ev Williams speak about Medium at a ZURB event. This is the most insight to-date that has been shared about the platform’s re-imagined publishing goals.

Here are a few of Williams’ key points about the current state of content publishing:

  • It’s great that everyone has a voice, but people can’t listen to everything – how do we help them listen to the right thing?
  • Social media has made everyone have to be clever and encourages quantity over quality
  • We’re getting shallower content because we are focused on the wrong metrics such as page views

Williams said that it was “the right time to re-apply what we [the content publishing industry] have learned about content creation: technology, infrastructure and distribution”.  He then shared thoughts on how Medium hopes to challenge the status quo:

  • We provide thematic context; people that arrive at a Collection on Medium will likely be more focused and engaged; (eventually), some Collections will be open to all contributors
  • Simplified process – both for writers and readers; clean interface  = focused experience
  • Emphasize quality over most everything else; feedback loops are good, but it’s important to let good quality really shine
  • De-emphasize authorship – help readers focus less on the “celebrity-ness” of an author and more on the quality of the content
  • Medium could be a good place for the casual writer or a current blogger who wants to share something that doesn’t quite fit on their professional blog

Medium has undergone what could arguably be misplaced criticism – that it’s among a crop of new platforms that cater to or are only open to the technology or pop culture elite.  In this case, it is because publishing on Medium is still closed to a network of “invited friends and family”.  However, anyone can log in with their Twitter credentials, browse and even vote on posts.

Medium does have a user rating system that’s slightly less generic than “like”.  They hope users will click based on the quality or relevance and that it will help the best content rise to the top.

On the topic of when the publishing tools will be rolled out to the full public, Williams says that Medium is still finding its way, growing slowly and reacting to how people are using it.  They don’t want to have too many users [content creators] that may be jostled if Medium makes any big changes. He also recently expanded upon this on a Branch thread (Branch is now dead).

I, for one, will be excitedly keeping up with how Medium evolves.  We’ll see something soon, I suspect – given more feature hints can be found on the simple Profile Settings screen…

If you are interested in learning more about Medium, I suggest that you read the Welcome to Medium post or listen to the Ev Williams lecture from the ZURBsoapbox.

Thanks again to ZURB for their ZURBsoapbox series, where they bring amazing industry speakers down to the non-San Francisco end of Silicon Valley!