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Twitter’s co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone launched their own blogging platform, Medium, about a year ago. When it first launched, we asked ourselves if it would take off or not, and it’s still a bit difficult to answer the question. In its closed beta phase, you can sign up and begin reading content posted on Medium straight away, you can’t start posting until you’re granted access. The roll out for access has been a slow-going process, and in some cases, has taken at least a year for users to get posting privileges.
The founders say that the aim is to “re-imagine” publishing, by allowing users to choose the level of collaboration they prefer. It essentially means users can post their own content, but also share them with everyone else in public collections, as similar ideas shared in such collections help deepen awareness. Think of it as Flickr Groups for blog posts. So does Medium live up to the founder’s hype an year after its launch? We find out.
How to Post
Once you have posting privileges, you’ll find a new green button in the bottom left-hand corner to create new posts on the Medium home page.
When you click on the button, you’ll find a very simplified WYSIWYG backend to create your post. You can choose a title, an optional subtitle, and enter the content for your post. You can also add an optional featured photo which will be included at the top of the post. You can also include an optional photo credit or caption. You can save your posts as drafts and come back to them later, or if you don’t want to publish…delete your posts.
Medium does not have an extensive formatting menu, but it covers all the basic requirements with a simple toolbar and keyboard shortcuts, then gets out of the way.
You can also create a new collection. When creating a new collection, you have the choice of allowing anyone to contribute to the collection (the default setting). Also, instead of making it open for all, you can keep it invite only. One thing to bear in mind when creating collections is that the collection name must be between 8 and 140 characters, should be of at least two words, and you have to upload an image for some visual appeal. Here are some collections to give you an idea.
User profile pages feature the posts you’ve created, collections you’ve created or contributed to, as well as posts you have recommended, but more on that later.
How to Consume Content
If you don’t have access to posting on Medium, you can still consume content, recommend articles to other users, and add them to your reading list. When reading a blog post, you can add the piece to your private reading list by clicking the small bookmark icon that says Add to reading list.
If you want the post to appear on your profile as a recommended read for others to read, you’ll have to hit the Recommend button at the bottom of the post. You can also share the post on Twitter and Facebook. Here, you can also see the collections the piece is posted in, and if you have posting privileges and have created your own collections, you can actually add someone else’s post to your own collections.
A suggested Next Read will be included at the bottom of each post, making it possible to surf from one blog writer to another.
What You Can Use Medium For
Medium focuses entirely on being a content platform for writers. It’s a great platform if what you want to focus on is your writing and nothing more. Featured images on blog posts are optional, but adding one certainly does add a bit of flair to your blog. That said, you can also use Medium to share your photos. You can create a mini portfolio for example, or possibly even use Medium to create a 365 day life log project of your photos, posting one photo a day. Here is an interesting blog post around photography.
Medium takes a different approach to the way that posts are organized on the site. While you can easily share your own profile page where all of your content is posted, a key feature that Medium brings to the table is crowd-sourced collections. Not only can you add your content to any collection that is open to submission without invitation, you can add other users’ content to your own collection without their explicit approval. This ability to create collections with content by other users across the board is one that stands out from other blogging platforms. The feature makes it possible to ensure that your content goes far beyond your own profile page, and ensures extra exposure.
When it comes to consuming content, the ‘suggested next read’ makes Medium a great way to discover new content, simply by surfing from one article to the next.
Overall, the Medium experience is solid. It doesn’t bring extra bells and whistles found in other blogging platforms — there are no plugins, no comments and no analytics. While these may be dealbreakers for some bloggers, Medium brings a refreshing change to how content can be shared in an uncluttered reading environment. For now in the beta phase, you might not get instant access to write your own posts, but Medium has quite a storehouse of quality articles.
Then again, if you don’t have posting privileges just yet on Medium but want a minimal blogging platform as a stop-gap, be sure to check out the equally minimalist blogging platform called Roon which I reviewed a month back .
What do you think of Medium? Do you prefer the no-hassle minimalism which many blogging platforms are bringing to the writing scene? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit: jdhancockt