On an internet full of hurried, scruffy ballpoints, Medium is the web’s fountain pen.
We’re told our attention spans are short. That we cannot focus on anything beyond 140 characters, or without lists accentuated by quirky reaction gifs.
And yet Medium somehow manages to fend off this trend – encouraging the construction of a coherent argument via, primarily, long-form writing. The site is not built to reward clicks, but reads – and in doing so has fostered a different kind of community. It’s almost… nice.
Almost entirely organically, Medium has become an outlet for people who already have the biggest audiences in the world. Think Bill Gates, Bono and even President Obama, who posted his State of the Union address on Medium, in full, before he delivered it to Congress.
And when a high-flying Amazon exec wanted to reignite a spat with the New York Times, he did so on Medium — despite Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, owning the legendary Washington Post. The Times, incidentally, responded on Medium.
“What we’re trying to do is create the default place to write and publish anything of substance that you want the world to see,” says Evan Williams, Medium’s founder and chief executive.
Williams’ office, just off San Francisco’s Market Street, overlooks a city full of people desperately seeking the next idea that makes it big.
Williams has had three.
First, Blogger – a platform, eventually bought by Google, that was largely responsible for bringing us the verb “to blog”.
Then came Twitter, which he co-founded in 2006 along with with Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. It’s a site that has become synonymous with everything that is good, bad, hilarious and miserable on the web. Its verb: ”to tweet”.
Medium doesn’t have a verb, yet. But it is going places. At the tail-end of 2015, more than two million posts had been published – a feat that’s only impressive when you consider Medium posts, on the whole, are long. Some data digging by the company concluded that a post that takes seven minutes to read gathers the most attention.
On the internet, seven minutes is eons.