The Medium is exactly what its title says. It is a new medium that has its backbone in the blogging world, but over time evolved into a publishing platform. It was made by the company that brought us Blogger and it was made by the co-founders of Twitter, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Launched in 2012, it is trying to take the best out of many platforms that are subscribe and follow heavy, like Twitter, Pinterest or Foursquare, and find a balance between individual publishing and publishing by organisations. Visually, it’s clean, attractive, and modern.
If you want to create a profile and you don’t have a profile on at least one of the most popular social networks, Twitter or Facebook, you are out of luck. In any case, you will need to pick a social network of your choice to sign up and you can start a blog with few clicks. After confirming that you allow Medium access your info, you will have to confirm your e-mail address, name, and profile address. Like any other “app” it will automatically pull all of the information from your social network and you are done with the setup process.
Maintenance and the dashboard
Although primarily known as a blogging platform, it is a hybrid between a blog, sites like Reddit, and social network-like timeline feeds like Twitter but forgets about the reverse chronological order of posts. Although it sounds strange, it is kind of elegant solution. Perhaps it could be considered as a sort of publication, which is probably a reason why it is called Medium. In the end, its homepage is a mixture of in-house and user publications so when it comes to the mixture of topics, all bases are covered.
When you decide to write your post things get simple. A bit too simple. In the post editor, you will have a line for title and text. If you want to format your text, you will have to highlight the text you want to format, and a popup menu will appear. It will list a few simple tools for making your text bold, italic, header 1, 2 or 3, align text to the centre, quote, or add links and notes. If you click on your avatar in the upper right corner, you will also be able to access several important options that include importing stories, viewing all of your stories, publications and some stats.
However, if you want to publish a post, you will have to submit it to a publication. There are no open submissions, so you will have to be approved after you submit your draft to a publication. To get your story in a publication, you will either have to be the publication owner, editor or invited writer. Only editor or owner can publish the draft, which means as a writer, you can’t publish directly. Luckily, it is easy to create a publication so you can have a full control over what is published. All you need is to go to the Publications page, click on a “New publication” button in the upper right corner and have the name of the publication, description and avatar. There are slightly more options than in the post editor, so this is the place that Medium shines the brightest.
The most engaging options are – recommend, bookmark and share. If you recommend a post, you will not only share it with your readers, but you will also let the author know that you liked the post. Even more so, you can leave a personalised note to express precisely why you liked it. Bookmark is self-explanatory and the difference between recommend and share is that share is for external linking on Twitter and Facebook. You can write a response on the whole text or just the part of it, which is similar to the previously mentioned personalised note feature. However, it is a bit confusing what exactly that response is because it will show up in your profile. Whether it’s meant to be a comment or a full post is somewhat confusing.
The whole buzz around Medium is publications and collections. While collections are from people you know, like, or follow, and want to read what they are recommending. Publications are trying to take the platform to the next level. This is relatively new take on the subject matter, but it isn’t something that we haven’t already seen. There are a lot of specialised communities and community blogs doing that. However, Medium is a blank slate that will allow you to easily shape your publications with the content, in a less visual way.
Themes and tools
You are stuck with the default Medium design since it is a publishing platform and not an individual blogging platform. It is elegant and pleasant, but the only design element that you can include to your writing is pictures. They will be a huge part of your identity on Medium and they are the crucial to separating you from the other authors, besides your writing. Is it a good thing? Maybe yes, maybe not. You don’t need any skills, except the knowledge of how to upload the pictures, so the time you need to spend on the design elements is close to zero. Depending on what you need, this is either a tragedy or a blessing.
Storage, reliability and uptime
There are no limitations to the storage room. Granted, that is because you are not allowed to upload anything besides pictures, so by default, you won’t be able to take a big amount of space like you would video or audio files. There are no serious issues with reliability or uptime, so, all in all, Medium is a solid platform that will be available just like any other respectable platform.
Help and support
It may seem odd, but you probably won’t need any help with Medium. Everything is pretty much “what you see is what you get”, but in case you get lost or confused, there is a help centre. With FAQ, sections devoted to writing, images, reading, publications and profile and settings, you are pretty much covered.
Hosting and pricing options
Pricing and hosting should not concern you at all. The Medium is free and there are no hosting packages since everything is taken care of by Medium servers. However, in cases like this, there is a lack of customised domain names and you can’t connect it to your own domain, although they announced a limited beta launch in March 2015.
The previously mentioned collections and publishings are all there is when it comes to content management. The only extra tool that will help you and others to find a certain text are tags. Properly assigned, those can do a lot, but sometimes you can get lost in the sea of tags, not to mention if posts that are wrongly tagged, or not tagged at all.
HTML and CSS knowledge
Any newbie can use Medium because there is no need of HTML and CSS knowledge. Even if you have the knowledge and want to use it, you don’t have a place to do so. So relax and let Medium do the work for you.
Promotion and monetization
When it comes to monetizing, your only option is to become a paid writer for the publication. That is a tricky job, so do this only if you know what are you doing. When it comes to promotion, although there is no SEO, Medium’s options allow seamless sharing of the content, making it very attractive for promotion. It works the best within the Medium itself because it has a voting system that will push up posts that have more likes. Editorial judgement where everybody is editor can be great for quality, but there is always a dispute when it comes to the balance between what’s new and what’s good. There are also limitations for social networks since it integrates nicely only with Facebook and Twitter. It could be enough, but there are plenty of other players that could contribute to Medium’s agenda.
- a hybrid platform with the blog/discover/share options
- easy setup and use
- excellent for a group of authors or individuals
- elegant design
- has to prove if it is here to stay
- contradictory when it comes to author identity
- should do more for promotion
- lack of HTML and CSS options
- lack of customizing your own visual identity
The Medium is a blog and a social network. Although it’s difficult to tell what Medium exactly is, it’s very attractive. There are many positive and negative aspects, especially when it comes to individual author vs. publication. There is a lot of potential, but some things could be further expanded, like the inclusion of more social networks. In the end, this is a shiny new toy that will be interesting and usable to everybody, from tech experts to casual internet users that are looking for some space for quality reading and writing.