This is a story I'd completely ignore if it weren't for the guy backing the project. Evan Williams, co-founder of both Twitter and Blogger, has launched a new communications platform called Medium.
At first glance, Medium looks a lot like Pinterest and a little like Williams's previous projects, Twitter and Blogger. Or maybe it's Reddit for normal people.
Users share content in "collections." Content can be photos, arranged pleasingly in a grid. Or it can be text.
In an introductory post on Medium Williams looks back on the founding of Blogger in 1999:
Ideas that seemed radical at the time -- that anyone, anywhere could and should publish their thoughts to the global Internet audience (for free) -- are now taken for granted.
Still, some things haven't evolved as much as we would have expected. Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there's been less progress toward raising the quality of what's produced. While it's great that you can be a one-person media company, it'd be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience...
He goes on to explain how Medium works:
Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer. We know that most people, most of the time, will simply read and view content, which is fine. If they choose, they can click to indicate whether they think something is good, giving feedback to the creator and increasing the likelihood others will see it.
Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience. All posts are organized into "collections," which are defined by a theme and a template. (For example, this post is in the About Medium collection with a simple article template.)
Medium is backed by Obvious Corp., which launched Twitter. (Note that the link is to a Medium post signed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.)
This is pretty interesting. Medium looks like a natural extension of Twitter and blogging. Like blogging, it allows posts of arbitrary length -- a few words or a long essay -- along with multimedia content.
But it also partakes of Twitter. Twitter started out as a service where you followed individual people or organizations -- @MitchWagner, for example, or @NetEvolution -- but it's been moving away from that. With the evolution of Trending Topics and hashtags on Twitter, individuals can follow particular subjects and discussions. But still, Twitter remains primarily a service where you follow accounts, not subjects.
Medium seems to be designed to turn that on its head. On Medium, the collections appear to be king. Entries are signed by their authors, but clicking on the byline doesn't lead to other Medium entries (which is what you'd expect) -- it leads to that person's Twitter account. Individual entries on Medium float to the top or sink to invisibility based on the number of times users click a button to approve of the entry. That's where Medium looks a bit like Reddit, or Digg.
So it's easy to imagine that on a breaking news story -- the Olympics, for example, or the Mars landing -- people could contribute to collections on the subject, and other people could subscribe to those collections.
The marketing implications are big. Instead of the brand leading the conversation, as it does on a Facebook page or Twitter account, the brand can be just one voice in a conversation with the market. Or companies might participate in collections for product support, market research, or for their industry.
Here's a link to a collection of crazy stories. Here's one of nostalgic photos.
It's an intriguing experiment. And the world must take notice of Williams's work; he partakes a little of that Steve Jobs magic. His projects usually succeed. I'm keeping an eye on Medium, and enterprise IT managers and executive marketers should do the same.
On the other hand, how many social media sites are we supposed to follow? I was just getting settled in to Google+ and Reddit. Now I need to follow this, too?
Let's explore Medium together. Leave your impressions in the comments below.
â€” Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution
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