The Message About Medium

by Emily Loose

I met recently with Kate Lee, Director of Content at the open web publishing platform Medium, founded by Twitter cofounder Evan Williams. Medium has been much in the news of late, in part due to Walter Isaacson’s announcement that he posted a draft chapter from his forthcoming book The Innovators on the site and found the comments he received helpful. Forbes reported that his post was read by “about 18,000 people and inspired about 125 comments, plus dozens of e-mails and a few full articles exploring some aspect of Isaacson’s subject matter.” Other prominent writers who have posted excerpts, work in progress, or posts related to their work include David Mamet, Michael Pollan, Robert North Patterson, Emily Gould, and Danah Boyd. Some companies are also using Medium as their blog-hosting site, such as electric car innovator Tesla Motors, whose founder, Elon Musk, blogs there. Medium is doing some interesting analysis of reading habits on the site, including tracking Total Time Reading for every post, and authors are told how many people who started to read their posts kept reading all the way through. A particularly appealing feature of the site for authors who want to get feedback about a work in progress is that, by default, reader comments are made visible only to the author of the post, though the author can elect to make them public and allow other readers to weigh in. Another nice feature is that comments appear alongside the specific piece of text commented on, as in Word’s track changes function, rather than in a string at the bottom of the post. Kate shared some impressive statistics with me about the number of reads authors have garnered for book excerpts, as well as about discoveries its data-mining maestros are making:

  • Emily Gould’s excerpt from her new book MFA vs. NYC was viewed by 130,000 people.
  • Danah Boyd’s posting of a chapter from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens was viewed by 100,000.
  • Time invested in writing a story pays off: stories that take twice as long to write perform nearly twice as well.
  • The optimal post takes seven minutes to read (1500 words).
  • 50 percent of traffic is outside the U.S., but 85 percent is in English; Canada, the UK, and Australia are the largest referring countries outside the U.S.

I recommend that writers give the platform a try, especially for workshopping manuscripts in progress. You just might also build a reader following and even attract the attention of an agent or publisher. Kate also reported that two book deals have come from Medium posts, one for Refa Tuma, author of a post titled “Dinovember,” with Little, Brown and the other for Ethan Brown, author of a post titled “Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8?” about the investigation of a killing spree, to Scribner. Click here to go to the site:

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