Medium: In Search Of A Medium for Self-Publishers

Since Twitter first launched in 2006, the 140-character limit quickly surpassed its initial small cult following to become part of our global zeitgeist and a major disruptor in the social networking space.  Historically positioned as the ‘anti-Facebook,’  its microblogging platform was its core differentiator, attracting everyday users as well as celebrities, sports figures, national leaders… [Read More]

Medium in Search of a Medium for Self-Publishers

Since Twitter first launched in 2006, the 140-character limit quickly surpassed its initial small cult following to become part of our global zeitgeist and a major disruptor in the social networking space.  Historically positioned as the ‘anti-Facebook,’  its microblogging platform was its core differentiator, attracting everyday users as well as celebrities, sports figures, national leaders and even presidential candidates like Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016.

Twitter Founders in Search of the Longer Tweet?

Medium In Search Of A Medium for Self-PublishersHowever, as much as simplicity distinguished it from others, it also prompted pushback within and outside its ranks—which suggests, perhaps after a decade, Twitter had lost some of its appeal.  To address that possibility internally, I blogged back in February that Jack Dorsey, one of Twitter’s founders and newly reinstated CEO was contemplating expanding the tweet limit to 10,000 characters—a whopping 71-times increase.

But, one month after that announcement, Dorsey quashed the idea altogether.  It seems that moving from 140 to 10,000 was a move that lacked wide support from the Twittersphere, who still believed the platform’s core component of “brevity” was part and parcel of its Shakespearian soul.

[Since this post was published, Twitter did up its character count to 280 in November of 2017.]

However, in a similar vein, Dorsey’s co-founder Evan Williams was also in the hunt for the longer tweet.  With lesser fanfare, he actually founded and launched a new software platform to address the issue in August 2012, named Medium.

This was also Williams’ attempt to address a self-publishing need he felt was lacking in the space. So over the course of the last four years he has worked diligently to fill that void. The result is somewhat of a hybrid of non-professional and professional contributions focused on social journalism.

In its simplest format, Williams created Medium from the ground up with the intent of encouraging users to create original content longer than Twitter’s 140-character limit.

Medium is a Potpourri

The network is a blend of aspects one will recognize from other networks. Once a user uploads a post to Medium, others can reissue it, similar to retweeting it on Twitter. Posts can also beMedium In Search Of A Medium for Self-Publishers upvoted like Reddit, and content can be assigned a specific theme, in the same vein as Tumblr. The platform also uses the system of recommendations, similar to "likes" on Facebook.

A specific difference from Williams' earlier publishing platform Blogger —Medium’s posts are sorted by topic rather than writer. Then its ‘tag’ system divides the stories into different categories, so the platform’s readers can select their preferences.

Publishers of All Kinds

Considered by some critics as somewhat of a conundrum, Matthew Ingram at Gigaom described Medium as an online network in need of figuring out “what it wants to be when it grows up.”

Defining it as “publishing site” pits Medium with the stalwarts in the industry such as Kindle, iBooks, and Smashwords. Yet in an AdAge interview, Williams was adamant about describing Medium as a “content-agnostic hosting service for publishers of all kinds.”  So it sounds like it includes self-publishing authors.


Medium In Search Of A Medium for Self-PublishersSo how would an indie author make money on this site?  Well, in early March, Williams told the BBC: “We’re building monetization into the product right now,” adding that some of these features should be out by the end of this quarter [which basically means within a month or so.]

But more than just slapping on some banner ads, Williams says the site favors ‘sponsored content’ similar to the BuzzFeed’s monetization model.  “We’re not limiting ourselves to advertising There’s a lot of potential for premium subscriptions or even user-paid content, with some sort of paywall or membership,” says Williams.

Presently, it has already introduced a new publishing API, a WordPress plugin, in addition to striking deals with content partners, such as NameCheap, Ulysses, and iWriter.

At an event in San Francisco, William also said there would be additional opportunities for publishers to monetize their work on Medium, though he stopped short of specifics as to what form they would actually take.

Opportunities for Self-Publishers?

So should writers invest their time in Medium at this point in time? If you’re a blogger, it’s a no-brainer because it’s another distribution channel for exposure, [particularly for new writers looking to make a mark.] But, for indie authors, the jury is still out.

Graham Moore, the 2015 Oscar-winning screenwriter is an avid contributor, which provided Medium with early positive publicity. But he came to the platform as a celebrity. What about us average hard-working authors seeking additional opportunities with the greatest returns?

Here are five suggestions from Medium:

1] Convene a book group, and conduct regular convos with your readers directly.

2] Publish an op-ed column.

3] Use Medium to get feedback from your social media followers.

4] Engage with your audience between books.

5] Publish an excerpt or your entire eBook

Publish Your Entire eBook on Medium?

Publish an entire book? That’s right. The site is suggesting you put your entire book out there for people to read in its totality to generate feedback and reviews.

While point five sounds like a major opportunity—I would have to say—in advance of Medium putting a concrete monetization model into play, it’s a bit of a risk. In essence, you would be giving your book away for free.  A way around that approach is just upload the first chapter as a teaser, with links to where readers can purchase your eBooks from Kindle, iBooks, Smashwords, or your personal website.

We will be watching the success of Medium over the course of the next year and look forward to your comments and feedback about your submissions and experiences with the platform, should you decide to try Medium yourself.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books.

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8 thoughts on “Medium: In Search Of A Medium for Self-Publishers”

  1. I really like Medium, and everyone I’ve introduced to the platform loves it. The fact that it will start a monihtazation aspect I think is a huge plus, especially for self publishing. Thanks for this review and fact finding information!

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Gabriella, monetization will be a big plus, but without it at this juncture, IMHO, I’m thinking a lot of indie authors might be better served investing their time and effort in platforms that afford them an ROI. However, others might perceive value in the exposure or self-promotion aspect, particularly newbies seeking feedback, constructive criticisms and reviews.

  2. Uttoran Sen says:

    Hey Ron,

    I have tested out Medium a few years back with a really good article to check its response. I promoted the article heavily on the social media – but the response was pretty much the same that one would get, if you publish an article on a new blog.

    If I have to compare it with Linkedin’s Pulse, then I would rather post my content to Pulse than to Medium.

    I like the idea about publishing the whole book as a giveaway or perhaps just a few chapters as a teaser – but not sure how much it will be worth in terms of results. Like any platform, it is all down to investing our time into it and building up a following. There are many competitors out there – sites like GoodReads, so why would someone invest time on Medium instead of building up a following on GoodReads and other similar sites?

    Perhaps in time when Medium grows further, it will bring in more value – and I can certainly see the value of being an early adopter. That goes true for almost any platform.

    Uttoran Sen,

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Uttoran, have to agree with you – especially at this juncture. But I do think when monetization is added, it will be a whole new ballgame whether or not indie writers will reap the kind of return that will motivate them to do more on this platform.

  3. Honestly, the only way a writer will make a significant income from his writing is by being paid for it. Sharing in ad revenue will only be worthwhile when you have so many fans that you generate enough traffic that you don’t need someone else’s platform. If you have a client base on medium, write there – not for ad revenue, but for impressing your target market.

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Agree on both points David — at least at this juncture. Thanks.

  4. I created an account on Medium, but have never been able to leverage it much. I have read that it is a good platform for building a community, but how one actually goes about doing that is a mystery to me. According to Rand Fishkin, it’s a good idea to syndicate content to Medium or use it to publish content that targets prospects early in the sales funnel. I would love to see a really good, comprehensive guide on using it. If you know of one, I’d be happy to check it out.

    1. Profile photo of Ron Callari Ron Callari says:

      Priya, there are a couple of tutorials and tip guides for Medium online – but to be honest with you, this is a platform that continues to evolve and is one of the reasons I wrote this blog. Because for self-publishing authors, I don’t think it is quite the right fit. At this stage of its evolution, it seems more suitable for bloggers — but without a monetization yet in place, don’t know if that’s the right fit either, particularly for those bloggers who are seeking paying assignments. Interesting that Fishkin notes syndication – might be a route to explore down the road as well.

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