Just over a year after it entered the world, publishing platform Medium has updated its design in a way that founder Ev Williams says will make stories published there have a greater impact. Medium 1.0 offers writers the chance to publish a full-bleed cover image, giving stories an appearance similar to articles on Flipboard. And for the first time, writers can export their posts to HTML and more easily take their work elsewhere.
The update also revamps Medium's "collections" feature, which lets users curate and follow groups of related stories. Previously, anyone could add a story to an open collection, requiring editors to remove bad submissions later. As of today, editors can approve or reject individual submissions. "We think these changes will provide a powerful ecosystem that helps all those who want to discover and share stories and ideas," wrote Williams, who previously co-founded Twitter and Blogger. If it succeeds, Medium could become a next-generation magazine, personalized to the individual user and featuring contributions from a global pool of writers.
Questions remain about what Medium really is
Since its launch, there have been questions about what Medium really is. Its content management system is more sophisticated than Blogger's ever became, but their missions appear similar. Williams has said he wants to create a more relaxed, contemplative atmosphere on the web than can be found on social media sites like Twitter. Unlike Blogger, Medium has a small editorial staff, with paid writers and editors producing high-quality stories for the site. And Medium uses algorithms to identify stories that users are likely to enjoy based on their reading history, suggesting a few of them to you every time you visit.
It's unclear how fast Medium is growing; the company has yet to reveal any user numbers. It was only in October that publishing on Medium became available to anyone. At its best, the site offers stories to rival those found in the best print magazines. At its worst, it offers ill-considered journal entries from people who will spend the rest of their days apologizing for them. And while it's easy to imagine Medium adding advertising at some point, the site isn't yet making any money — nor are most writers making money from their work there.
Medium 1.0 doesn't offer any clues on how the company will do that. But by continuing to emphasize design and publishing tools, Medium positions itself as one of the more sophisticated blogging platforms on the web. Now it needs a large audience to justify all the technology it has built — and eventually, the income that will make the whole enterprise sustainable.