Is the Medium the message?

Medium sits in a no-man's land somewhere between blogging and traditional publishing with emphasis on the content rather than the author. Is it the new wave and will it catch on?

MediumIt's interesting looking at the reactions to Medium, the new publishing platform from Evan Williams and Biz Stone's Obvious Corporation.

On the one hand, we've got those saying it is publishing for the social age - where blogging was all about the individual Medium is moving away from that, letting go of the ego and reducing the emphasis on the personal brand. On the other, we have those who want it to be open so that the content you provide can be re-purposed in order to enhance your personal brand.

So which is it?

For starters, we need to ask "what is it?"

Is Medium just a multi-author blog designed to take the hard work out of running your own site so that you can just focus on content?

Is it yet another content silo designed to profit from the work of others or a platform intended to showcase that hard work?

Is it a kind of wiki where content is generated according to "collections" but without the ability to edit other people's entries?

What is "publishing for the social age" and will it catch on?

Blogging and the social web has revolutionised the way we see ourselves. It may not have altered things to any huge degree but we at least "feel" that we are capable of making a stand, of grabbing an audience and shouting our message to the world.

In reality it may not be that simple as finding our audience can be incredibly difficult. Social networks can help to a degree as it can be easier to build an audience within the confines of a service rather than as a lone voice shouting into the void that is the World Wide Web.

Perhaps this is where Medium comes in. Instead of blogging out on our own trying to grab our slice of the pie we rely on being found within the confines of someone else's service, gaining an audience by proxy as people come just to "read" and stumble across us within the context of the topic. We can rely on the pull of the crowd rather than trying to get our audience to hear that lone voice.

As Joshua Benton writes: "Medium doesn’t want you to read something because of who wrote it; Medium wants you to read something because of what it’s about". Is that context, Medium is a content discovery tool with the advantage of becoming an author discovery tool but the emphasis is firmly on the content and not the individual.

Whether it is liberating to the point we no longer feel the need for our own home and can just stay in "Hotel Medium" or we build on our stay and use it as a springboard out in the real world is very much up to us.

What's in a name?

The concept is different and, potentially, difficult to get your head round in these ego-driven times but the name of the service is actually very clever. It is obviously a publishing "medium" (and I can't believe no one else has one up with it before) but it is also something else? Does it offer us that "happy medium" between the struggle to find an audience for our own blog and the captive audience of the social network?

While the jury is very much out on whether people will want to publish to Medium (or whether it will become just another bastion for the publishing elite) like App.net, it at least forces us to ask questions of the status quo. Has the "easy web" really enabled a level playing field for citizen journalism or is it still dominated by the privileged few? Are we too focused on individuals as brands and, for the individual at least, does that merely serve as a distraction?

The message

The increasing ubiquity of social networks and the enhanced functionality of services such as  Google+ have caused some to question the need for a dedicated blog but are these locations really suitable for effective publishing? By focusing on the content rather than the author perhaps we can genuinely say that the Medium is the message.

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