It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Twitter founders have decided to build a new publishing platform, after all, Twitter itself is a publishing platform, albeit limited to 140 character posts. Medium, which was announced earlier this week, comes to us courtesy of Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and their company, Obvious.
So why go to the bother of creating a brand new publishing platform when they’ve clearly figured out one publishing formula that just works? In the post announcing the new service, Williams explains:
The Obvious Corporation decided to take on the project of building a new publishing platform from scratch, not just because it’s in our wheelhouse, but because we believe publishing—and media, more broadly—is important. It’s easy to forget this given how much pointless and destructive media is in the world. But there’s also more great stuff than ever before—and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what our smart devices and our networks that connect most of the planet might enable.
Media is still the “connective tissue of society,” as Clay Shirky eloquently put it. And we think it can be better. Better for creators. Better for consumers. Better for the world.
As a result, Medium, according to Williams is going “re-imagine” publishing. They plan to do that by allowing users to “choose the level of contribution they prefer”. What that means is that users will be able to post content, organized in collections. What sets Medium apart, according to the introductory post, is the structure provided by collections, and the ability to crowdsource contributions from just about anyone on the platform. A great example of how this can come together beautifully is a collection entitled, “When I was a kid,” replete with nostalgic childhood photos.
The problem with the concept of collections is that, right now, with a select audience, it works. Open it up to the public, and Medium faces the risk of its collections degenerating into irrelevant content without any context. Medium also cannot rely purely on Twitter’s audience to succeed. We’ve seen Google prove time and time again that having a ready and waiting audience isn’t the only ingredient required for success.
There isn’t too much to go on so far, and it’s unclear how the back end will work, so it’s definitely waiting until the platform is opened up to the public to see how it all comes together, but they could be setting themselves up for a pretty hard fall, pitching the service up as a way in which they are “rethinking publishing”, and are coming at it at an angle of improving how content is shared online. Then again, when Twitter first launched, some didn’t see the service lasting too long. We’ll have to just wait and see how things go with Medium.
At least for now, from what we can see from the preview posts provided, Medium looks like a slick publishing platform which adheres to the increasingly popular minimal look that a lot of private publishing platforms are taking.
Medium is only open to a select few for the time being, you can still sign in using your Twitter account to make sure you reserve your spot once the service opens up to the public, as well as rate existing posts. Ratings will help determine which content is featured on the front page.