Toward a more relational Medium

Ev Williams
9 min readAug 28, 2020

Last week we announced Medium’s new mobile app and started rolling out the beta more widely. (If you have the current Medium app, look for a prompt to opt in.)

This app is the result of months of work from a stellar team and represents some dramatic rethinking of our mobile reading experience — and, in fact, Medium in general. It’s also unlike any other mobile reading experience I know of. Personally speaking, I already read a lot of Medium (hazard of the job), but with this app, I read even more — and, most importantly, I read more from the people I’m most interested in. I’m pretty sure that will get better and better as the feedback loop kicks in.

Why are we making this change? To be clear, our old app was fine. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Medium subscribers (and millions of users) use it regularly, and it drives a large part of our business. But we think there’s something much more interesting to do. (And don’t worry — if you’re a lover of the old app, this new experience will be opt-in until we are hearing from users that we’ve gotten it right. We’re still tweaking.)

So what’s different? As Russ wrote, instead of starting with an algorithmic feed of stories, the new app is “reoriented around following — so that readers can be sure they’re not missing anything from writers they love, and those writers and publications can more actively engage and grow their audience.” That doesn’t sound revolutionary, but there’s a bit more to it.

I want to write here about some of the ideas behind the app, which will also give you some idea of where Medium is heading more generally. (Separately, over on the Medium blog, I offer some more concrete upcoming stuff.)

XKCD comic

Relational media

Among other ways, the internet has changed media consumption along a spectrum that you might call relational to transactional. Think of (or imagine, if you’re not old enough) when you got your morning newspaper or your favorite magazine and read articles because they were in that newspaper or magazine. Sure, you didn’t read all of them, but what you read was very heavily influenced by where it came from. You picked the source first and then you picked the articles. You built affinity and trust for the sources (publications) you liked best, which read to repeat…

Ev Williams

Curious human, chairman @ Medium, partner @ Obvious Ventures