Recognizing that people are increasingly on their mobile devices, Medium yesterday launched a slew of new features and major updates to its iOS and Android apps that make it easier for people to write, edit, comment, and share on the open publishing platform.
Speaking at an event in San Francisco, Medium founder and CEO (and Twitter and Blogger cofounder) Evan Williams spoke about the power of the personal expression platforms he’s built over the years, culminating with Medium.
“It’s easy to trivialize,” Williams said, “but the fact that billions of people have the power of the printing press at their fingertips is not a trivial idea. It’s a huge idea…a huge advance in the world.”
To that end, Medium is hoping it can become the publishing platform of choice for everyone from casual writers to celebrities to professionals, and even big-time content-producing companies.
With the 2.0 version of its iOS and Android apps, Medium is now enabling readers to find classic top stories and bookmarks, as well as top responses–what Medium calls comments–and other stories it thinks will be most engaging.
At the same time, Medium now makes it possible to write and edit seamlessly across multiple devices. Start writing on one device, and pick up right where you left off on another. This feature is meant to work on users’ computers, phones, or tablets.
While Medium is happy to have large numbers of individuals using its tools to create content, it also wants big-time publishers using the platform.
Already, pointed out product and engineering manager Katie Zhu, the White House, the Gates Foundation, and Foursquare have been publishing on Medium. To date, she explained, there are more than 1,500 publications using Medium, a number of which have audiences on the site of hundreds of thousands of readers.
Now, Medium is making it possible for anyone publishing on the platform to use a custom domain name for their content.
The company also announced a new publishing API that it says will make it easier for publications to post content to Medium, and a plug-in for WordPress sites.
And because it wants to work with major publishers, Medium has now opened up its network to “anyone who publishes anywhere,” according to Saul Carlin, the company’s business and content development manager.
Now, sites like The Awl, Discovery Channel, Fusion, MSNBC, Travel + Leisure, and others are using Medium to post content. As well, Medium has come up with new ways for advertisers like Marriott and Microsoft to post native advertising and paid content to the site.
Medium knows that its readers and writers like to give and receive feedback. Now, it has launched a new feature known as Highlights. With this, anyone can select a passage of text, which then appears green to anyone else who encounters it. By clicking on the section, you can see who left the highlight. As well, writers are automatically notified whenever someone highlights their writing.
“It’s such a powerful way to get feedback on something you’ve written,” Williams said.
Anyone can also respond to or comment on a highlight. But rather than comments being short thoughts, Medium is hoping people will leave full-blown new posts as responses. Each stands on their own, with an individual URL, and can be highlighted and shared.
“It’s a new experience for in-context responses,” said Brian Ellin, a Medium product manager, “allowing you to respond to any quote or part of a story. All you have to do is select text, tap Response, and there it is for you.”
Another new tool is the asterisk, which readers may now encounter as they make their way through posts. When someone leaves a response to a passage in a story, an asterisk appears by it. Clicking on the symbol reveals the response.
Williams argued that when someone knows that their comment will show up in the proper context of a story–within the body of a post, rather than at the end–“it’s a lot easier to write” one.
Medium also unveiled a new way to, as it calls it, “explore” content, making it possible to fall into “rabbit holes” of topic tags, top stories, debut authors, and even posts, responses to responses, that are considered “conversation starters.”