It sure looks like the next stage of the model
Facebook is losing users. Instagram is picking up older users. LinkedIn is just as kludgy and sort of necessary as ever. Twitter is the POTUS channel. Is Medium a social network? I’d argue that it definitely is, and it is a better one.
Stories are the glue of social interaction
Medium’s focus on stories about virtually anything is a brilliant strategy for growth. Everything we learn, we learn from either hearing stories or creating them. In fact, once our language skills evolved enough to convey more complex ideas and more abstract notions like myths and time-shifting, we as homo sapiens made a leap forward evolution-wise, and we have not stopped since. The ability to share made-up stories as examples and guides for behavior gave us a huge collective boost and helped us work together on longer term projects.
Dialog is the essence of the Medium style
After a couple of months of regularly writing and commenting on Medium I’ve realized that thoughtful comments are the glue that connects on the site, just as they are on all the other social platforms. But Medium is doing a better job curating what we see, in part because that curation is still done by humans. Algorithmic curation is still pretty primitive, as any Facebook user will tell you. In fact, in their quest to magically automate the story selection on Facebook, they have killed much of its humanity. Medium feels much more like a community, a community brought together not by our history of connections but by shared interests.
Somehow politics has not infiltrated Medium
My Facebook feed has essentially been destroyed by political dialog and I can’t help but think that Facebook encourages this. It is driven by ads of course. Medium’s decision to not use an ad-based model means they do not have any internal pressure to curate for certain subjects over other less profitable ones. They can curate for quality and by popular demand for a subject. And it is much harder to ‘game’ the way other social networks are being gamed (it may be that it is imply not on the radar of fake news or the $5/month charge effectively blocks scammers).
Clapping and the Partner Program offer measurable incentive
Likes have become meaningless on most networks because their value as currency is close to zero. The clap model, which literally rewards the writers and commenters based on the quality of their contribution is much more powerful. We’re a capitalist economy, not just here in the US, but as an inherent aspect of our human culture. We like rewards and Medium has found a way to use them.
People want to share substantive content
When I share my Medium stories on Facebook, my friends actually read them. Judging by the kinds of stories and the confrontational responses most Facebook content attracts, I’m guessing that people are starved for a meaningful dialog and experience instead of getting caught between people slinging mud at each other. I know I am.
There is a certain respectful decorum that is lacking on other social sites
Medium seems pretty competent about enforcing its minimal rules for posting and commenting on content and people seem to be respecting those rules. The rules themselves are really about creating a respectful environment: no pitching, no hate, etc. The other social sites pay lip service to this but the venom you see in comment threads isn’t policed unless someone makes a specific violent threat. If they don’t deal with this, I would hope more people choose to leave until they do.
This is less about people you know and more about finding kindred spirits, regardless of where they are
LinkedIn aside, it is previous personal connections that bring people to FB. Most of us have learned not to accept friend requests from people we don’t know at all. It’s simply not safe, an indicator of a serious problem with the network as a whole. Following someone on Medium has not devolved into that level, possibly because the writers and the content are self-policing- if pieces are not read or claps bestowed, the content quickly disappears into the archives, saved but not promoted.
Some social ties, such as contacts with old schoolmates you haven’t seen in years, may make sense, however I personally have found that many of those ‘friends’ have little in common with the person I am today. Because Medium is not based on mutual friend relationships, we are more likely to connect based on shared experience and interests. For me, this make Medium look like the future model for online social interaction.