Medium's new "evergreen" model for 2023
CEO says Medium has "knowledge base on par with Wikipedia." I'm not sure I agree. For starters, there's no fact-checking.
Last week I wrote about the newest video with Medium’s CEO, in which he said writers need to promote their writing off Medium and drive external traffic because if “we” don’t promote our writing, why should they?
That was only one part of the video.
It gets stranger.
At the end of the video, Sinem asked Tony if there’s anything else he wanted writers to know about. He said yes, he wanted to talk about the merits of “timeless” articles.
49:23: “I think I mentioned in my Boosting the Boost post that we want to organize the back catalog. Like, counting posts on Medium is a little bit interesting because it's like, you want to filter out spam and what not.
I'd say, like, top level we've got 75 million blog posts on Medium and if we were to organize the best of those we’d have a knowledge base on par with Wikipedia, covering different topics.
I think, to my mind, more useful topics—that's a big goal for next year — and that's another way to boost, right? Like, write something timeless.”
Maybe that explains the home page lately?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing a lot of old content. And I don’t just mean posts from last month. I mean post from last year. The other day I even saw a post from 2018 on my homepage.
It’s not just me.
When I checked my notifications one morning, a reader was disgruntled. She said she read some of my Medium tips and it was only when she went to leave a comment that she noticed the comments were a couple of years ago.
So she wanted to know why I’m republishing old content.
I’m not, of course.
I don’t get to choose what appears in anyone’s feed. But after listening to the video, I have to wonder if Medium is trying to resurface some of that “back catalog?” Is that why I’m seeing old content on the home page?
As a reader, it’s frustrating.
Why show me a post someone wrote last year if they just wrote one last week?
The “timeless” comment brings up some questions...
Do we still want to be reading posts about current political events a year from now? Do we want political posts written that were written 10 years ago in our feeds today? Are political posts timeless? I don’t think they are.
Technology isn’t timeless, either. It changes too fast. For how many years do we need to read about whether an AI chatbot thinks it is sentient? Do we need five year old tips for LinkedIn or building a following on Twitter?
I promise you, SEO tips are not timeless either.
Design and UX changes just as fast.
History is pretty timeless, but we already know Medium isn’t big on history, which is why History of Yesterday packed their bags and left.
Then there’s the obvious one. When half the world is living paycheck to paycheck, do we still need to be reading posts about working a little harder, laying off the avocado toast and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?
So what constitutes timeless?
I don’t know. I promise, I’m not being intentionally obtuse. I really just can’t fathom what Medium might consider to be content that stays relevant forever.
Do we really believe Medium is on par with Wikipedia?
Wikipedia isn’t perfect. Far from it. Some schools don’t even allow Wikipedia as a reference. But at least they have fact checkers. Citations are mandatory.
There’s a top writer on Medium who uses a lot of citations in his stories. But if you were to mouse over them, you’d see that most of them link to another of his own stories. lol. Brilliant for SEO but is that really a citation?
Plus, linking to a “source” doesn’t mean a post is accurate or factual.
Fact checking doesn’t exist at Medium.
There’s too much content. How many editors would it take to fact check 75 million stories? And that’s after filtering out “spam and whatnot” as Tony called it.
What’s the value of 75 million articles that are not fact checked? Is that really on par with Wikipedia? Because I don’t think it is.
On one level, I can understand looking at all that content and thinking there’s got to be “some” way to give it value. 75 million articles is a lot of content.
I’m not sure comparing it to Wikipedia is the right comparison.
Where I live, there’s a marvelous used bookstore. It’s been in business since I was a child. It’s the only used bookstore left standing. At the back of the store, there’s a shelf lined with cardboard boxes filled with dusty old newspapers. More boxes with old magazines. Lot of content in those dusty boxes, but it’s not Wikipedia.
That’s maybe a better comparison.
I’m not sure the “back catalog” is comparable to Wikipedia. I suspect a better comparison would be a back catalog of 10 years worth of old print newspapers and magazines filled with op-eds. A lot of content, for sure.
But how much of that old content is still relevant today?
I don’t know.
What do you think?
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Medium should be about having the best quality writing succeed, not the most popular material. Really good, well written material should have legs no matter how old it is. And we should be able to find it more easily.
I hate the fact that the site has always been driven by tech industry imperatives (e.g. the demand to produce new content daily) rather than the thoughtful and gradual processes by which I want to produce and read the content I like. It's very annoying to feel that you have to work on someone else's schedule rather than your own when you are not a formal employee of the company.
I'm seeing now where Substack has an edge in this. You get to produce content on your own schedule and have it directly distributed to you without interference. I'm thinking I may have to take my account paid, as that may the only way I can get decently compensated for my work. Medium doesn't pay me enough for it to be fair that they treat me like a de facto employee.
The word that comes to mind when I think "Tony" is "arrogant." If I am feeling kinder, I might say "delusional." Your point about fact-checking is spot on--it's left to the will of the writer and editors to get it right. Mostly, though, I think Tony needs to take a break and revisit the art of humility. It would buy him a lot more support. I write on Medium in spite of him. I like the community. That's pretty much the start and stop of the value prop for me. Tony? He needs a sabbatical.