January 27, 2017

Ringing True

Permalink: ringingtrue Tags: Writing, Blog, Thoughts Date: January 27, 2017 07:30

✖︎ Ringing True

Writing about writing, or writing about Medium as a place to write has become a bit of a cliche in itself, but with the recent news that Medium laid off one-third of their staff in an effort to find a new model, the topic of Medium as a platform has roared back. I touched on it myself back when Bill Simmons announced that the Ringer would be hosted on Medium. That was also around the same time that the Awl, and a few other web publications made the switch.

Since, I wrote that, some of the issues I had with Medium were solved in terms of discoverability and actually reading different publications through their site, and more importantly, their app. Along with improving those aspects, what Medium has done best is a build a user base and a community of people that use it to write, and just as importantly, if not more, to read.

It’s hard to argue with someone like Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, when he talks about moving his companies blog to Medium. There is a user base on Medium that just won’t stumble upon an individuals or companies blog like they would on Medium. And that’s a bid deal, without a doubt. Part of me even wonders what would happen if someone like John Gruber moved Daring Fireball to Medium1.

Design is left a bit lacking with Medium. The one thing that I took away last time sitting down and thinking about Medium was mostly centered around the design. Medium is without a doubt one of the nicer looking sites where text lives today. But if your goal is to bring all the best writers on the web to one place, you need to be able to do more than just add a logo and change the color. Since my own move from Squarespace to Blot, the design of the site has been the one thing that has been extremely lacking because I barely know any CSS.

If I were still using Squarespace, Medium would have no leg to stand on in terms of design for me. Stock Squarespace is just as nice looking as Medium with an infinite amount more customization at your fingertips, even if you don’t know any CSS. Squarespace also comes with a much higher cost, $99/year vs. free. This still isn’t enough for me to think that all sites that contain writing should look the same. It is the antithesis of Apple’s 1984 commercial and that’s just not a world I want to be in.

The control of the design is one thing, but the control over the actual written word is a completely different thing. I struggle with this a little bit because there is nothing stopping you from writing in something like the iOS app Drafts before posting to Medium, Twitter, etc. Save everything as a .txt file for all I care. You can still post to various places without losing every word you have ever written if that is actually your worry. However, I do still see the other side that says leaving that control to other services is problematic. I don’t know if I can put it in words very well, but it’s a combination of everything that is being talked about, both on the positive and negative sides of Medium. This is one of the reasons I find Manton Reece’s Mirco.blog project so appealing and also while I currently keep the home base of my writing here, through Blot, which is all based on .txt files that I manage through Dropbox and Ulysses.

In the end, I’m honestly just curious if Bill Simmons would consider The Ringer a success at this point. They still have their ad network across the publication from Miller Lite to State Farm but I’m curious if the metrics have gotten to a place that warrants large advertisers to want to keep coming back. Based on the recommendation and response numbers it seems a little lackluster but I also realize that is only the tip of the iceberg. On top of that, I’d say the podcast network they have put together does seem to be doing pretty well. This is all based on what I see from afar as someone who thoroughly enjoys both the written words and podcasts that The Ringer has been churning out. In the end, I still wish they would have done something more innovative with their site a la The Outline.

  1. It would never happen because of his obsessive control over things like fonts but it is still worth pondering.

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