I discovered Medium a few years ago. Like a precious accident, I stumbled across a site that was doing things very differently. There it was, a place with all the characteristics that defined the internet we once fell in love with. In the early days, the web was a very anachronistic, weird, free environment. It had a certain feeling of anarchism that reigned though. This meant whatever content was created and spread was free of the systematic filter used widely by the mainstream media we all hate. The internet is a place for a variety of views, opinion, and ideas, and when Ev Williams developed and launched Medium.com, a spark of hope was released and rekindled.
He had in mind, just like us, to bring back that wonderful, chaotic place we all rejoiced in once, but was corrupted by the click-bait frenzy. An ad-driven place monopolized by the same monotonous voices and stories every day. The internet was indeed very broken. In the beginning, it wasn’t a perfect business model, but with time it was honed well-enough to be both profitable and enjoyable.
Suddenly, we found ourselves within an incredibly cohesive, open platform where our ideas could freely be published in a collaborative matter with no gatekeepers. The subscription-based model was implemented and millions joined in; the Medium Partner Program rolled out and we writers became members. Medium then, became a community where we could thrive, learn and be paid for our efforts. Originality was embraced, remixes were welcomed too. It was ideal, unfortunately also imperfect.
It seems though, Medium is in jeopardy of over publishing the same type of content again and again. Recently I’ve noticed that the articles focused on blockchain have staggeringly increased — just as the Steve Jobs’ advice ones did a couple of years ago. Before it was a couple articles thrown in your feed here and there. Now it is a couple hundred per week and a lot more per month. It is impossible not to see it, blockchain stories dominate categories beyond their category— and even when the algorithm behind the ‘recommendation’ part was revamped last February — they would still appear aggressively whether you previously clicked on them or not.
Blockchain is a fantastic technology, its revolutionary use is undeniable. I believe in a future dominated by its endless power and the benefits of cryptocurrencies. I have nothing against it. I even wrote an article about it and fell into the trap of its attractiveness. But, can we move on, and foster other type of content please?
And, why does it seem like Blockchain content has monopolized the Technology section?
Readers and lurkers come to Medium for one reason: to read fresh and high-quality perspectives from creators from all over the world. And yet, why is Medium prioritizing on repetitive content like blockchain? How this has happened?
As a journalist, I understand the proclivity to trendy topics. They offer a series of advantages: draw big audiences, make tons of media impressions and produce thousands of responses. Notwithstanding, it is crucial to have an editorial balance though. I believe human curators do the best they can to feature the most diverse, groundbreaking, awesome content they can find. On top of that I also recognize that much remains to be done and that Medium is not, in any way, fully developed product. The site is still growing and constantly renewing itself.
However, there are still a lot of improvements to do in order to have such balance. It’s not only stories related to blockchain. But it’s also the same pieces about productivity, self-improvement, entrepreneurship, etc., that are published every day, and somehow, get a ton of engagement.
Ev, once said “Words matter.” He is still right, we connect through them. Words have the incommensurable, infinite power to shake the world, shift society, unify thinkers and touch our hearts and minds. Like Ev, I’m also a big believer in content that is not entirely new and, I strongly advocate for remixes of unoriginal material too — yes to recycled, refreshed and updated pieces. But, I think it is possible to have a healthy balance in content publishing. There are plenty of topics like poetry and fiction with low visibility. Readers can come and be entertained and informed at the same time. Topics shouldn’t be restrained within a niche. They could easily be available on the same platform. They do not undermine each other. There’s a certain beauty in that combination, that sadly, is not present enough on Medium. A vast array of diverse topics complement each other. Short fiction topics, for example, should be celebrated instead of being kept in the shadows. In my opinion, that’s a great loss of audience and writers.
It is imperative for Medium to analyze objectively the current publishing climate and pay close attention to their users’ and writers’ needs. So, it can continue its sustainable growth without compromising engagement and business optimization. By providing readers dynamic and diverse perspectives and voices, the platform will strengthen its motto — “a platform built for the people.” And then it will be a place where “words matter.” I agree with Ev, is it time to ‘rationalize publishing’. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment.