The first time I heard about Medium it was 2015 and I was in Las Vegas, dead of summer. I had chanced into the quasi-journalistic social media fray without looking and wound up with 500,000 reads on threads started, as well as a fair few haters and the realization that this was no way to jumpstart a nascent literary career. I noticed at that time that all the journalistic cool kids, instead of paying attention to the live tournament action, were glued to Twitter console feeds that made Star Trek sets look like Teletubbies.
I was looking for a haven, as well as a way to settle back, monetize a little, afford the room with a view I felt I had earned. I have been a professional writer/gunslinger of one sort or another, most of my life.
I read about some big name DJ promoter getting picked up by Medium for a rock star salary, which seemed odd––the platform––which I briefly explored––was based on the then novel proposition that longform content and the feed could coexist.
I slapped a few stories from my blog up on Medium and promoted them through hyperlinks in the forum that was getting mucho action (and the aforementioned troll-like haters, a disquieting preview of the 2016 Presidential elections) and got 200–300 views on each. Nothing earth shattering, but then again, I get a few thousand hits a week on a blog site I stopped adding content to a year ago.*
Fast forward to more honest and heartfelt articles, for example a recollection of listening to Nick Drake for the first time on the Oregon coast at the height of the grunge era. Impressionistic, literary A couple dozen views.
Other articles. No views. Rinse, repeat. Continue to the present. Ok let’s try something timely and underreported––a piece on what I believe is the real reason North Korea came to the table. Nada. Add a cool original high resolution artwork to that, as suggested. Nada.
Try out the cloud novel concept that has been knocking around in my head for a few years. It was a serious manuscript that garned the reluctant participation of a heavyweight agent. Time for a deep revision, let’s add the recommended original artwork. Keep searching for that driver’s manual.
Have one of the very few personal friends who has actually heard of Medium (still!) tell me go Amazon, the Medium platform is strictly for “number in the title” self help articles.
Only issue––I have not purchased from Amazon for more than a decade, why would I publish on a platform that has hollowed out the publishing industry and failed to launch a household-name author since dragon tattoos were a thing.
Why can’t I crack the Medium nut and get double digit reads on articles?
The platform is simple and elegant, I love seeing my work up the moment I compose it. The problem must be under the hood.
I read a lot and there are a lot of terrible writers on Medium… there are also some pretty good ones. After clicking on about 2–3 articles randomly in my feed I tend to realize I am feeling intellectually underwhelmed and search Google for more in-depth, well researched takes on various topics.
And yet I have not stopped wanting to see Medium fulfill a greater promise than it does.
I visited the well hidden Ess Eff headquarters and found out that there is no human interface for this company, no one to ask questions of in a lobby or have a conversation with. And yet the company seems to promote the idea of community, as any next generation company should.
Have we all become tongue tied and snow-blind, unwilling to let go our algorithm obsession? That views clicks and likes mean anything other than what they are… the not very meaningful actions of the bored and easily distracted––as well as those in well established cliques, supporting each others virtues and vices.
At best, writers are social media agnostic. (Thank God)
Writers do not exist in vacuums, but the best ones are often on the peripheries, observing. Just as introverts find parties and social situations draining, many serious writers find the energy that goes into building a readership stable to be a serious drag on their ability to create.
When it comes to writing they want to rest assured that a system is in place such that the cream rises to the top. Unfortunately, with a feed––no matter how unobtrusive––defining what readily reaches the eyeballs and with in-house produced (or sanctioned) content heavily favored, the ultimate result is sameness and lack of ability to navigate to authors I enjoy.
The lack of driver’s manual on how to be heard on Medium, other than to perhaps follow a style and format not your own and get one viral piece sitting next to one with no views, is what is particularly confounding. This on a platform that touts the ability to self-publish and to be heard, and which (like Apple) I have relatively positive feelings about.
The silver lining is that because Medium has given me nothing, there is nothing to lose.
Just as a group no one but a few hardy members** can find on Facebook has become my de facto news and meme scrapbook, Medium is my handy resume and calling card. I can at least point people to what I have put up and the workaround hyperlinks I have designed (below) to provide a handy and quick-to-load way of navigating my writing. This could pay off, if I get serious about convincing someone who needs to be sold on a project.
And if it comes to ultimately drawing eyeballs, readers, viewers, or aficionados, I can easily choose the platform on which I am able to monetize it best. Never mind the emergent monopsony in tech, I am an uncompensated author who I can take down the content tomorrow––no one legally owns it but me.
This ultimately is the power that can drive change. Imagine a young Stephen King toiling for a decade, amassing a legacy which he left on Medium up until the moment it generated serious studio and book publisher interest.
The hundreds of millions of dollars of value taken off the table, simply because Medium was too lazy to curate, foster, and secure talent that that it attracted through its simple to use interface, would be collected elsewhere. Now one author, even one representing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, is not going to shatter any venture capitalist’s reality.
But add a half dozen other writers: the Millennials’ version of Dan Brown, JK Rowling, etc. who have wide reach and are attuned to what owning their own content in a digital era really means, and you could…. start a new platform that would capture significant revenue.
Because people would be reading authors they love, not following a feed that makes it difficult to get an eyeball on, much less get attached to, any specific writer they enjoy. I could attract such a stable simply by trawling the site as the company does not and finding those undiscovered gems, those writers who published a couple dozen times and garnered 35 views before giving up.
Medium is just that, an attractive husk without a driver’s manual. If someone develops a way of compensating writing based on quality, and giving authors weight on that platform, I will be there yesterday.***
As a reader, I want a simplified digital life that enriches and provides quality stories, in a way that I have more control over. As a writer, I want––more than simple, elegant user experience––intuitive, not socially adverse, reach.
Next — WIP
Ghostwriter by day, Damon Arvid is a musician, composer, traveler, and cloud novel author by night. On the music front, he is currently arranging (and burying) the Fabric albums Summon These Days, Slowly Learning, Station to Station, Sunnyside, Namida, and Chasing Sun — WIP is Great Pacific Garbage Patch film soundtrack. All new tunes ledgered, graded, and verified as too legit to quit.
What follows is a key to the Damon Arvid ecosystem (Medium is designed to pull you out of one writer’s work and onto the next). Each hyperlink under Medium series takes you to a representative example from the series. The series-specific Contents drills down to navigate articles or episodes within a specific series. Think of what follows as a blog site key, organized within Medium through the hyperlinks below.
- Arisugawa Park (late-stage cloud novel)
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP — film synopsis)
- Fabric, the Platform
- Fabric, the Music Project
- EVEN (Environmental and Engineering Neutrality Pact — early-stage cloud novel)
- What I Learned on the Internet (WILOTI)
- Medium and the Missing…. (little rants against the machine)
The Weebly blog endurancewriter has been discontinued for the mome, but is still, still perusable. A new site with exclusive content is in the works.
Medium and the Missing…
(1) Author’s Header
(2) Rating System
(4) Driver’s Manual
*A Weebly rep looks up the site and tells me that 12k views for a literary type blog that was discontinued a year ago is substantial. Sales pitch? well….
**Half of whom still don’t understand the difference between a group, page, feed, meme, or piece of original content.
***Could just poach talent and not worry about mortally offending new media gatekeepers, by launching Fabric.
Copyright © Damon Arvid 2018
Medium is simply a ledgered host for the material, my last month’s earnings were .02 cents — ultimately this material will be exported to a platform that values original content in a curated and rationally compensated way.