Some Medium Questions, Answered

On beta deficiencies, bundle economics, and blogging

Last week, I posted a call for questions. I got many! Thank you for writing. There’s no way I will keep up with answering them all, but here’s a start.

Many of them were about recent Medium updates, which is not surprising. I’ll batch some of those answers here. Next time, I’ll do some non-Medium questions.

‘A concerned Medium fanatic’ writes:

Why did anyone at Medium think removing basic navigation and the existing layout options for publications was a good idea in the Beta rollout?

Our new version of publications — which are now available to everyone (if you have a publication, look for “beta” in your pub settings)— have a bunch of new functionality. Most visibly, the ability to change the look of your publication — colors, fonts, etc. They also don’t have all the old functionality (specifically, more layout options and navigation). As the word “beta” implies, this new product is not done (not that software ever is done — unless it’s dead).

Some of the things we removed in order to simplify, but some we just haven’t gotten to yet. This is because, in addition to adding functionality, we actually rebuilt these pages on a new front-end stack.

The good news I can tell you is that we are bringing back the option to add navigation to the top of your pages — to both on-Medium and off-Medium pages. Look for that soon.

As for layout, we will eventually have some new things to consider there, as well. I think the single-column design is going to promote more reading, especially for frequent visitors. But if it’s not what you’re going for, feel free to not opt into the beta yet.

Anthony Lawrence writes:

Are you going to fix all the deficiencies and missing functionality of the mobile app(s) soon?

I don’t know if we will fix all the deficiencies, but, again, if you’re talking about the beta, the team is making it better every day. I love it, personally. If you haven’t tried it out yet, please do. You might see the beta option in your settings. (If it’s not there yet, it should be soon.)

One thing to know, though: As I wrote about here, this app is really oriented around following. If you follow lots of writers you like, it’s great. If you don’t (yet), there’s lots of opportunities to find them. But don’t forget to follow.

A “Medium enthusiast” who “love[s] to read and write here” writes [here]:

For the same number of subscribers, the more writers there are, the less everyone would get paid. Do you think this subscription model can sustain long-term and attract great thinkers of they want to get paid for their ideas worth?

Your statement is true. However, the number of subscribers is not static—it is growing as fast (or faster) than the number of writers. In other words, the pie is growing, as every writer who shows up contributes some ingredients. So, in one sense, Medium writers are competitive (those who opt into the Partner Program). But in another, they are all joining forces to create a more valuable and competitive subscription bundle. Most readers in the world are not going to be able to justify (or want to deal with) dozens of individuals subscriptions, so a mainstream bundle is likely to generate more money in aggregate that gets transferred to writers.

Eventually, as the bundle gets more valuable and readers spend more time, we may create separate tiers or raise the price, as other subscription bundles have successfully done, which will mean more money to go around.

Justin Cox, co-founder of The Writing Cooperative writes:

Is the future of Medium a return to blogging?

Was it ever not about blogging? Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that cannot be answered simply, because there’s a question within the question: What does one mean by “blogging”?

I do not mean to be coy. I love blogging and believe it is due for a resurgence. Much of what I wrote about in Toward a More Relational Medium is about this:

Another form of relational media on the web is blogging — especially in the early days. One of the things I loved about blogging back then — and that people enjoy about writing newsletters today — is the feeling that you’re publishing to a relatively consistent group of people who care what you have to say. Even if it’s a small group. This lets you write with more freedom and confidence. You build context and trust over time.

Unambiguously, we want to make Medium a great place to blog in this way. That’s what much of these new updates are about — more of which are coming soon. However, that doesn’t mean that’s all Medium is for. I believe blogging is a broad term and can apply to the personal as well as the commercial, the casual as well as the journalistic. I also think it’s an art form that will continue to evolve (even if it got relegated to the corner of the web for a brief while).

But whether one considers what they do on Medium to be “blogging” or not is up to them. Medium is a conduit for connecting ideas and knowledge between minds. Those ideas don’t have to fit a particular rhythm or style — they just need to be useful to someone and fit on the page. And these pages can get quite long.

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