Book with computer and coffee on a desk.

Is Medium at risk of becoming a tabloid magazine?

I know, I know. I’m writing an article that throws a negative quote at the very platform it’s written on. 

The problem is, I feel like Medium has become educated clickbait. It’s almost like it is now a mature Millenials feeding ground of emotional and motivational drama. 

Headlines full of emotive magnetism line every single page of posts. ‘How he should make you feel’, ‘How I overcame my fear of writing’, ’11 ways to do this’, ‘5 ways to do that’, ‘I did this and here is what happened’.

Here are three headlines I’ve just seen together on the home page:

  • I’m 17 And I Deleted All My Social Media. Here’s What Happened.
  • How I Quit My Job, Moved To Bali, And Doubled My Income In The Space Of A Year
  • Confessions Of A Bikini Waxer: The Dirty Truth

It seems the formula headline structure is ‘Statement describing post + something really to make you click’. 

Maybe I could have titled this post better for clicks. Something like:

“Medium is just a dirty tabloid. The reasons you can’t stop reading it revealed.”

I know when Medium started it was to create a platform for publishers to publish articles of a higher quality. To stand out and above the crowd of click-bait and low-quality marketing that was rife during it’s inception.

The problem is, Medium has just created a new, slightly elevated form of clickbait. It’s clickbait for the middle class. 

When you monetise any platform you turn it into a place where people test tactics to get the most clicks for their posts. They write and write until they know what titles get the most clicks and what content will be most likely to be approved by Medium publishers. 

Then what happens is everyone becomes an expert on how to make money writing on Medium and so they all start writing about writing on Medium

Suddenly a race to the top ensues which really results in a race to the bottom.

Needing to feed the machine, Medium editors approve masses of articles to ensure the content is fresh and regular. The editors themselves are under pressure to approve and promote stories that will have the highest click-throughs and the longest read times.

Misery loves company. Empathy is a strategy. Feel their pain with them and they will read. 

So, the stories that break our hearts are promoted. The stories of relationship anguish and struggle surface at the top. The side hustle success stories of making money writing and quitting the 9-to-5 appear in the top spots. The XX lists of ‘stuff’ appear on the front page.

Yes, there are many positives to Medium. Many true stories of triumph and learning. Things that motivate us and make our minds and hearts soar with hope and potential. It’s essentially an amazing place to be.

But what I fear may have already happened is that Medium has created a formula, a formula they know works, a formula that attracts and plucks at the hearts of their readers (and writers), whom I would guess are mostly under 35, potentially single (it’s not a judgement, just a guess) who love a good ‘Top XX list’ or ‘How to tell if he’s into you’ post.

I think to survive, Medium needs to be prepared to reduce the clickbait lists and emotive posts and focus on balancing this with truly unique stories that don’t write for money, don’t write titles for clicks but still bring unique views of the world and truths beyond the focus popularity.

Just my thoughts but I wonder if there are others that feel similar?

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