October brings a momentous change to Medium – one I’m happy to see
Change is the only constant we’re told, nonetheless, we writers hate change. A noticeable reminder of this was the arrival of the new homepage to the Medium website. Its appearance teased in a recent article by the CEO of the platform. Gone is the traditional header bar with links to the primary publications, heckling traffic away from the universe of us underlings grasping for attention below the fold.
The strategy of Medium is another constant of change, moving from platform to publisher, and now from publisher to platform. It offers yet another reason for writers to moan and complain about how unfair the world is.
The emphasis from the new app and the website is on the writers you follow because the platform wants to be the home of the blogger. Yes, it favours publications, it must; to keep some structure for the vast numbers of new articles published every day.
It’s changing; an innovative approach, a fresh clean reading page in the app, more relational content on the homepage, and yet the groans echo around the Facebook groups. Writers hate change, they hate the fact the reader is the priority.
Writers want to be king, so the platform should focus on them.
Before these recent changes, the platform demanded appeasement to their rules. For me, this meant I had resentfully stopped writing for me, focusing instead on gleaming the perfect headline, scrolling the endless images of Unsplash, and devoting my attention to the requirements of the publication.
I couldn’t write with abandon; to conform to the rigours of perfection the platform desired to put its best foot forward. I tried to play by the rules, but the never-ending quest for the perfect article was a hindrance to my goal to write and express myself.
A visit to the vast atrium of twitter led me to a previously unseen corner. The corner was full of intellect, wisdom, and hope of a brighter future. As I read – and learnt, so I came to see my old writing platform as a prison.
In a world where most writers just want to write and be free, Medium was inducing a fog of confusion. Writers critically want their work seen, consumed, and hopefully enjoyed. To achieve this, writing meant appeasement of the rules, of baying to the ideals of others. Firstly, publications; the commanders of the audience with their own rules of topic, format, and curation.
Opting to self-publish brought other horrors. Articles overflowed from the cradle of articles pending curation. Days, and sometimes even weeks would past. Each day the candle of hope which would see an article find an audience through curation slowly dimmed. Curation was the last hope, but too much time had slipped by.
The prison I was writing in had all the control. I had none. I could keep battling, but with ever-diminishing returns and little or no views, the game was up.
My frustration grew to the point my blog via WordPress appeared. I mirrored the blog with my publication on Medium, revelling in the delight of writing what I wanted, when I wanted, and most importantly, publishing it when I wanted to.
It was changing, but one where I was in control.
Medium’s Biggest Change
October’s Medium newsletter brings news of a huge change. Not the cosmetic changes of a new app and website, but one which will change the game for writers.
Curation is no longer a blocker to distribution.
I don’t know if I’m right, but it is my view every article published without curation was red-flagged. The red flag limited the distribution of the article to just your followers. Now the system is open, and curation is no longer the pass or fail it once was.
For sure, Medium will still be looking and reading, categorising the best to achieve greater visibility, but no longer will we be playing the checkbox game of curation to achieve views.
“This is the conversation I want to have.”
As a writer, I hate change, but I hate rules more. I don’t want my writing to conform, I want it to expressive and delightful, like the chirping birds as they sing to welcome the orange hues which greet a new day.
I’m the selfish one. The one who writes for me, to vent my anger, to grow my passions, and occasionally to figure stuff out. I don’t want to be framed in a prison, where someone dictates the pen I use, the words I craft, and all the other rules, most of all though, I don’t want someone else’s opinion as to whether a larger audience should read it or not. If readers follow me, its because they like what I write. As Tyler Cowan says, “This is the conversation I want to have.”
Removing the wall of curation enables me to do that again.
Writers Hate Change, but they might grow to like this one
For sure, many will moan. We crave certainty, not a mystery. The lines of confusion and fear were palpable as writers questioned the clear removal of curation. The gamification of Medium is over, and many writers will hate this change.
Don’t get me wrong, this won’t open the door for bad writers to make hay. Instead, like reading time, the audience will confirm great writing when they find it.
Writers on the platform have lost sight of what writing is. It is our creativity, our expression, our imagination, and our knowledge time stamped in pixels. Why should this art need rules?
I write this piece with a growing sense of excitement.
The platform I thought I had found to express the storm of thoughts spinning around in my head is now before me. The rules have diminished, shrunk by a realization that what writers want is freedom, not restrictions.
Welcome to a Medium without curation.