Medium 1.0

In Medium 1.0, the newest version of the year-old blogging platform, visual elements are front and center with new features like support for full-bleed images.

"Latest" and "Trending" tabs for collections

New tabs show both the latest and trending stories within a given Collection.

Medium on mobile

Upon signing in, new "Reading List," "Bookmarks," and "Top 100" tabs categorize content based on what Medium thinks you'll like, what you've saved for later, and what others are reading and recommending on the platform.

A more personalized homepage

Upon signing in, new "Reading List," "Bookmarks," and "Top 100" tabs categorize content based on what Medium thinks you'll like, what you've saved for later, and what others are reading and recommending on the platform.

Immersive collections

Responsive design creates an immersive experience for users as they interact with Collections.

Search options for Collections

A new "Collections" tab in Medium's left-hand pullout menu lets you type in keywords like "food" or "photography" to discover new collections to follow.

A new submission process for Medium stories

Moving forward, any Medium author interested in contributing a post to a Collection will need to submit it to that Collection's owner for approval.

With Medium 1.0, Ev Williams Tackles The Platform's Identity Crisis

Ev Williams talks about designing the newly launched Medium 1.0.

“What is Medium?”

I'm far from the first to ask Ev Williams this question. Since he launched the blogging site with fellow Twitter cofounder Biz Stone a little more than a year ago, many others have wondered about Williams's aspirations for Medium, which only recently made authorship privileges available to anyone with a Twitter account.

After a measured pause, he replies: “It’s a platform for publishing stories and ideas.”

Ev WilliamsImage: Flickr user Joi Ito

The question for many has been how Williams wants to define the startup he refers to at one point in our conversation as "a big pile of stuff." Does he want to turn Medium into something akin to a magazine that carefully curates the stories it features? A new kind of social network around longform writing?

Central to the idea of today's Medium 1.0 release are the platform's user-created "Collections," which is what Medium calls groups of stories organized around a certain topic, such as photography, or food, or what's trending now. In a sense, user-created Collections hosted on the platform are a bit like stand-alone publications. Williams's plan is for the platform's identity to be defined by the people who write for its most prominent and popular Collections--and who will continue to use Medium to build followings and brands of their own.

There are some very smart changes in today's release, including a new layout for stories that more prominently highlights visual elements like photos or illustrations; more personalized home pages that include full-bleed cover photos like the ones you'd normally find on Medium's story pages; and more options for authors to easily add visuals to the traditionally text-heavy posts found on the platform. Upon signing in, users are now greeted by a "Reading List" tab with a feed of suggested stories that Medium's algorithms organize based on how much the platform thinks you'll enjoy each piece (rather than chronologically). A "Bookmarks" tab lets you easily keep track of reads for later, and a "Top 100" tab is an easy way to see what other Medium users are reading and recommending.

In addition, a new "Collections" tab in the pull-out menu lets users type in keywords like "creativity" or "food" to find interesting Collections. Anyone on Medium can create a private or public Collection, but, to date, the majority of Collection owners have chosen to keep them open and free for anyone to contribute. The dilemma with this lax approach to curation, Williams says, is “you never really knew what you were going to get in a Collection.” That made it difficult to ensure a reader would consistently find relevant and high-quality stories within any given Collection.

So Williams and his team have designed the new version of Collections to be closed by default, with their original creators as the sole owners and curators. Now, anyone who wants to contribute a piece to a particular Collection will have to submit their story for review by the owner, who can be as choosy or lax about which stories to accept--much like how a magazine editor controls what ends up in her publication.

Redesign of Medium, left; before, inset

"People can compete to create the best Collections about fashion or tech or whatever their particular niche is, just like they do on blogging platforms," Williams says. Unlike other blogging platforms, posts on Medium can be included in multiple collections, giving them more avenues to reach more audiences. For example, a post on Egypt can be included in both a travel-themed collection and a politics-themed collection. With a little help from Medium's algorithm and a group of editors, an interesting story "proliferates within the system, just like a tweet gets retweeted out and reaches a very wide network," Williams says. "That's really the core concept here."

An earlier version of this story quoted Williams out of context. He considers Medium to be a platform, and not a publication.

[Image via Unsplash | Thanun Buranapong]

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3 Comments

  • Anthony Reardon

    I don't know, it doesn't seem that bad. I've been an active blogger for a good five years, and a lot of my subject matter has been about "blogging" itself. I've explored the issue at depth, and some of the points raised in Medium's self-description lean toward addressing some real needs.

    I always say you've got to go back to the notion that anyone could publish. It was a pretty exciting idea at the time because virtually all content was in control of the media and companies that could afford it. However, and I've studied tens of thousands of blogs, most people found themselves grossly disappointed. Yeah you can publish, but by no means does that make you an instant superstar.

    So I think the issue of "discovery" is a valid value proposition. This idea that what you write can be the primary determinant of the exposure you get implies that if you've got something you feel is worthwhile, it could possibly find its way to the right audience. Not that I believe it just because they say it, nor am I excited about the prospect of what their algorithms can do, nor do I believe that anything any platform developer does today will ever actually live up to the outcomes they imply. However, to set your sites on that kind of target and go for it, that is kind of commendable.

    This article poses the wrong questions IMHO. I mean the self-description of Medium could not be much clearer. To dig for how it fits as a magazine or social network seems kind of awkward to me. Magazines want to be a destination of choice and are going to go for the numbers to attract advertisers. Social networks are going to shoot for an interactive experience that makes them destinations of choice too, and probably look to sell advertising or sell out to a speculator later. Neither of those sound like what I am looking at with Medium. The message I'm getting is discovery for the end-user's writing, simple and minimal, without anything else.

    If only that were believable. Measured pause followed by "It's a platform for publishing stories and ideas" - does sound like the same kind of altruistic BS you always hear though. I don't care what it is in the grander scheme of things, I only care what it does for me. I guess I would also like to know where it is going if they could actually assure they know and if they could be transparent enough to say if I could secure a long-term home there, or if down the road there would be a bunch of silly games as they try to make the transition to a grown up business. Even if you've got the right idea at the onset, there's nothing to say they won't half-ass their way through the ultimate outcome for end-users.

    I'd need more than just "winging it" at this point, and the whole "future is uncertain" argument is a load of crap. If you have a real clear vision and a commitment to that outcome no matter what, then maybe. Christina nails it with "identity crisis" and maybe that's a point of pride platform developers maybe ought not brag about.

    Best, Anthony

  • TheCoverSystem

    Can't say I'm much of a fan either.

    The redesign is decent and all, but it still doesn’t solve all of Medium’s riddles — especially when it comes to getting writers on board without offering custom domains.

    When it comes to building one’s own brand or identity, I think there’s far better alternatives out there. Not trying to pimp my own blog or anything, but I recently wrote an article about some of the better modern blogging platforms out there. Give it a read if you’re interested to see what else is out there. (Hint: this isn’t one of those shady friggin’ Empower Network testimonials).

    http://medium.com/p/d62682d9b0...

  • Stephen Abbott

    Me no likey. The site adopts massive graphic covers just as Google+ has abandoned them, and for good reason: they are a waste of space. And they expand one's avatar image into pixilated nonsense (and there is apparently no way to change it.) Silliness all around. (NOTE: Fast Company's facebook post about this article mysteriously vanished. Why?)