at first glance, medium is nothing special; just another platform to post content. nothing particularly fancy or flashy. nothing patentable (as if that matters). nothing that in itself you would tell someone they have to see.
yet, medium is brilliant in a few key areas and simple in most others that in total make it amazing... what you will tell your friends is simply go check it out. or perhaps you find one post from someone you follow on twitter, for example, and quickly go down the rabbit hole of medium’s content.
since launching last fall, medium has slowly been bringing on more contributors (both curated and organic) and consistently building up the feature set. it’s been cool to hear from the founder himself, unconstrained by money and time, on how he set deadlines and has managed the process.
medium is ev william’s third company, the first being blogger. people usually remember blogger being bought by google, but it was a tough road. following the dot com bust, ev laid off the entire workforce and continued to work solo on keeping blogger up and running. slowly it grew and later sold to google for a rumored $20 million. nothing fancy, but life changing money nonetheless.
then ev went on to co-found twitter, which was last valued at a bit under $10 billion. not much needed to say on this. chances are you’re reading this because of twitter.
so why is medium, a site with low traffic and of course no revenues (that would be silly) worth a billion? in the words of sumner redstone, "content is king!" technology has brought all of us together, but it’s content that keeps your attention. marissa mayer, ceo of $yhoo, illustrated this in their $1.1 billion acquisition of tumblr. matt mullenweg, founder of automattic (best known for wordpress), recently wrote about a $50 million secondary transaction rumored to be at valuations north of $1.1 billion.
medium has a way to go, but it’s on a solid path... given these comps, it’s hard to argue against $1 billion valuation. i'm dumb money, but i'd put in at that valuation -- if they let me.
fred wilson, who was an early twitter investor and knows ev well, recently wrote about the best path for startup companies. the last step is business model, and something that medium will have ample opportunity to develop. the middle step is figuring out strategy. medium is doing that, and in the post fred talks about ev’s vision for what twitter should become. the first step is with product, and getting that right. medium has done that *exceptionally* well.
earlier i laid out ev’s history as a three time entrepreneur, but the way he describes it is far better...
“I make systems that encourage typing and thinking (Blogger, Twitter, Medium)”
howard lindzon often talks about the need for domain expertise, and ev is by the far the best example of this. for over a decade, he’s been living this space and designing for how it continues to evolve.
so what are a few things that medium does really well?
1) design... huge pictures. clean interface. subtle font and design consistency. in short, if you’re reading a piece on medium, it’s going to look good. this tweet from the sometimes funny, always sarcastic @bentlegen tells it all.
2) collaboration... before you publish your content, you have the ability to invite people to view, comment, and collaborate on your work. think google docs for tumblr. very cool to get feedback right within the platform.
3) distribution... the first piece i published on medium -- what gets measured, gets done -- received about 3x more traffic on medium than it did on my own blog. it’s not just the aggregate page view data, but also the deeper analytics that medium provides. my favorite being the “read” stat. medium measures views and reads, which together result in a read % (which i’m clocking in at 87%) that is handy to analyze how well you’re writing and keeping the reader’s attention.
4) serendipity... medium is a platform of connected topics; collections. when posting, you’re asked which area your subject fits, or you can start your own collection. the most powerful part of this is the new thoughts and connections that result. for example, i put my post in the i.m.h.o. collection, but another medium user added it to the “on reputation” collection. this not only put my content in another vertical, but also gave me the opportunity to connect with someone with whom before i had zero contact.
this last point on serendipity addresses the question of why would someone publish on another platform versus their own. granted a lot of people, myself included, are cross posting on both, but the value of posting on medium is clear. especially for those of us who are not well known or lacking a huge following, medium provides a beautiful place to create and connect; to discover and be discovered.
on medium, content connects and collides, with the potential for collaboration. this is something that svbtle (another cool, perhaps too cool, content platform) is missing. but most of these platforms are often missing things; often to their avail.