We live to tell stories. I believe the most effective way to communicate is through stories. Medium didn’t change or innovate storytelling but improved the experience of sharing stories. What most people didn’t realize was that discovering a story is as rewarding as hearing or reading it (and in some cases even more satisfying). The stories range from travel experiences to life lessons to entrepreneurship to love. They are real and allow us to feel connected and relate to someone across the country or world.
As a result of an increasingly mobile and web dominated world, consumer products have reduced storytelling to pictures, short videos and limited texts. Medium, in contrast, embraces the written story and has simplified its design to be consistent across all stories (some may even say there is absence of design). That such a platform has been able to attract over 13 million unique monthly users in less than 2 years is truly incredible. Additionally, users are increasingly encouraged to write their stories on Medium knowing that there is a growing reader base actively searching for stories. As a blogger, I understand the importance of where to share my writing as I value a platform that would increase the number of my readers.
Content is king. Medium must host genuine stories and maintain a non-exclusive environment while also manage the quality of the writing. This sounds like a catch-22! Medium acquired MATTER last year to support high-quality journalism and already has a number of paid editors contributing content. The costs of bringing on writers to produce quality content will naturally require the company to explore monetization options. And investors will want to see eventual revenue streams as well. Much like Facebook, it risks losing users by charging them for content (the difficulty of starting as a free service). However, with bitcoin, it is possible for micro-transactions and therefore there is potential for a profitable pay-per-article structure for stories written by paid celebrity writers.
There are also other revenue options such as charging brands or professional outlets to create their own collections (e.g. Refinery 29’s collection on medium) and additional charges to promote its collection/content. Companies and organizations can also utilize medium to launch story campaigns or create collections that are comprised of content generated by its customers/members, where individuals’ experiences with using a product/service or involvement with an organization are shared (The ESPN stories campaign on Medium is a good example of how user-generated story submissions can be done). So companies like lyft or bevel or non-profit organizations could allow its users/members to write about their experience meeting their lyft driver or how a gift from bevel helped a boy realize he was growing up or maybe a girl’s recent trip to Asia with a medical group to provide small villages access to healthcare.
In my opinion, these collections of stories are more powerful than any ad/marketing campaign and are difficult to collect without something like medium (e.g. the idea of user submissions via email is yucky) – Medium makes it easy for the user to write directly on Medium and submit to a collection. Embedded in these stories for companies are also feedbacks on the products/services, and inspiration for readers to use the product or service. And for organizations, it helps reveal the impact of its programs at the individual level and encourages others to join the cause. We’ve already seen this being done with pictures as companies utilize Instagram to share their customers’ experience (check out lyft’s Instagram or lululemon’s #thesweatlife gallery); individuals are able to upload a photo and tag the brand and companies are able to collect them and share them with the larger community, and this is all being done in one place.
Medium is still very young but it’s already proven its ability to influence the act and consumption of storytelling.