Medium is a platform for writers, not readers

Medium is quickly becoming a go-to for writers who want to share their work on a more collaborative platform than their own blog. Medium’s invite-only service has so far attracted posts from the likes of author and professor Jeff Jarvis and prize-winning playwright David Mamet.

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Unfortunately, the benefits for readers are less pronounced. Perhaps the team at Medium is purposely focusing on writers before improving the reader’s experience, or maybe our existing model for judging the reader’s experience simply doesn’t work with this mold-breaking platform.

Either way, here are the three biggest concerns I have as a reader of Medium right now.

1. Discovery doesn’t work

With so much new work being created by great writers, discovery is something I’d hope to find easy and simple. Apart from a curated selection of “Editor’s Picks” and highlighted posts on the homepage, the reader has to do a lot of digging to find content they want to read.

Medium’s structure assembles content into collections, each one with an over-arching topic like Writers on Writing, Design & Startups and Lessons Learned. These collections, organized alphabetically, house any content that a writer deems appropriate to the topic.

Once you open a collection, you’re presented with yet another long list of choices, this time separate posts ordered by the time they were published or the number of recommendations (Medium’s answer to the ‘like’) they’ve received.

So the process of finding what you want to read is essentially a matter of lots of time spent scrolling through the collections. If you’re reading a post, you’ll find the familiar “recommended posts” links at the bottom of the page, but this is where efforts to aid discovery stop.

2. Quality isn’t always high

If we assume that part of the reason behind Medium’s invite-only system is to keep the quality of work high, it’s certainly failing in some instances. For example, the number of “I just got my Medium invite but I don’t know what to write about” posts filling up the platform in lieu of more useful, interesting, high quality work is frustrating for readers looking for great content.

There are also no limitations to the quality of work you can publish once you have an invite. For writers, this is great—like a personal blog, a writer can take charge of what they publish. For readers, however, Medium comes across as a curated, high-quality publishing platform, but it doesn’t deliver. It feels like a polished magazine without an editor.

3. I can’t follow authors

Although Medium’s account options are based on the user’s Twitter account, there are no options for following authors or collections that you like. For regular readers of Medium, this means starting from scratch on every visit, searching through collections to find posts you enjoy.

While the broad-interest strategy has been proven by publications like The Magazine, the presence of a professional editor and the focus on high-quality content makes it work in that case. Without any barrier to publishing once a writer has an account, Medium’s disparate offerings make it a difficult platform for readers to enjoy.

Sure, it uncovers authors you might not have found elsewhere, but this is only useful if the quality is not an issue (see #2).

Is it just me?

Since it’s launch, the team at Medium has released several updates to the platform, mostly revolving around the editor and the experience for writers. It seems that content creators are the focus, at least for now.

Having said that, perhaps the benefits for content consumers are already there, they just aren’t the ones I’m used to looking for. Have you found benefits for readers that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear what they are, so I can enjoy reading Medium too! Let me know in the comments.