Here's a take on some recent changes to the lovely-to-use Medium and why, for writers and content curators, it has shifted from being a puesdo-social network to just another blogging platform. This is about the almighty Distribution Challenge, social interaction as well as Social CX.
To highlight the context, I've recently been writing a range of articles; when the exclusivity runs out, I collate and distribute them through Medium. They were getting a new life, which was fantastic to see. It was working nicely and I was a card-carrying advocate for a number of reasons.
Right, with that said, onwards with the story:
Distribution is always the hardest thing. How do you reach an audience with whatever it is that you want them to see? For writers it's about eyeballs, and importantly, different eyeballs. Back in June, Medium was a social network - it provided reach as well as the potential for delightful, random engagement with people, pivoted around a piece of content.
The beauty of it was you could submit an article to collection owners and if it was deemed appropriate (and good enough) for their audience it would be accepted. There are a plethora of Collections on the platform that have overlapping interests, and therefore audiences, with the articles I had been writing.
You could submit to a range of collections, thereby increasing the chance that your article would find readers. Each collection was likely to be a different audience as they had different owners, and likely had different people online at the time when an article was accepted.
An additional benefit was that this also facilitated ad-hoc discussions with collection owners on Twitter - mainly when they tweeted about an accepted article. This created a nice interaction as well as a new and unexpected social connection. Medium had people discussing it outside of their platform - "the holy grail," I hear you say!
It was win-win-win. We all got something out of it. Plus articles extended their reach and potential readership.
Disappointingly, under the new model you can only submit to one collection, which drastically reduces the distribution of any article and potential social interactions.
Here we take a side-step, as intertwined in this is a social CX story. When I noticed this significant change I tweeted the team. Here's how it went:
I felt for the team over there at this point, but sadly received no response. It didn't really feel like I was being heard, so I wrote on the announcement page they pointed me to later that day:
No response. Actually, this still hasn't been approved. Errrm, did anyone say dialogic?
After giving it more thought I decided to tweet them:
I waited and I waited, oh how I waited...three days (which is about a year in social media terms).
Finally, they got back to me:
Oh, so under the new structure you can only submit to one collection and have to do so by contacting the curator through a third party service, rather than directly on the platform itself (honestly, it was so beautifully simple before).
So I did...
(sequence shortened for fear of reader boredom)
I didn't feel comfortable with the above approach at all.
I then tweeted Ev Williams - Twitter and Medium Founder - to see if a relevant post might be approved for his collection:
Not a single response (and nope, I didn't expect a response from Ev - H/T to you on all your stuff, chap). Yes, I could have tried other approaches or tweet structures, but this was their new model, and it didn't work.
Somewhat frustrated, I updated them:
No response. Ah well, this Social CX thing is overrated, right?
It doesn't seem to work for curators of collections, either:
So, perhaps you'd like to know what impact this has on the distribution of articles. Here's the stats of four articles under the old system, from submitting to appropriate collections (and getting accepted into a bunch):
Not too bad considering it was solely using the platform plus a few tweets, right? I was pretty happy with it and knew that if I wanted more it was up to me.
Here's what the last two, submitted in the new model, have stumbled to achieve so far:
One of the above is in a single collection (not its ideal home), and the other isn't in one as I haven't had anyone respond through third party services. People can't see them, so they can't decide for themselves whether to read it or not. They're ostensibly invisible.
Products often evolve - that's a given - however this process should only make them better. Consideration should be made to the impact on all core user types. I was going to discuss WHY this feature was killed but it doesn't matter. All that matters is the outcome: it's now really hard to discover, distribute and interact through Medium.
Well, that's the story of how removing a killer feature turned Medium from an awesome, interest based Social Network of motivated people interacting around content and turned it into just another blogging platform.
I'm not a crazy lone wolf on this: check out the - reasoned and rational mostly- comments on this page explaining the new rules (plus here & here). They've tried to explain the decision, although all three posts don't address that this change devalues their other good features. It now places the focus on an individual's own social graph, which isn't very egalitarian for anyone without massive external networks, or those looking to reach new people.
As they say: no PR is bad PR. Hopefully this love letter to the old (and very social) model won't be considered anything other than what it is at face value. It's still a nice online writing tool, even though they've dispensed with the killer feature for writers. With a little irony, I actually used it to structure this article...
So, if it's a blogging site you're after, Medium has one you should look at, but - just so you know - it used to be a lot better. If you would like eyeballs or to reach a new audience, you're on your own at this moment in time.
Short of a standalone blog, do you use anything exciting to extend the reach of your articles, or a place that you collate your writing that is inherently social?
I wrote a couple other things about social media recently - one is a Twitter experiment on engagement and the other an analysis of how that article performed out in the big wide world. It would be incredibly nice of you to check them out.