Medium, the online writing platform launched by former Twitter CEO Evan Williams, has come under some criticism in the past for not really knowing what it wants to be when it grows up. But one thing Williams has made clear is that he wants it to be a place where beautiful long-form writing can find a home, and the site has just rolled out an upgrade to make that even more possible — along with some interesting tweaks to its editorial curation model.
The new design makes it easier to include images of various kinds, and particularly large ones at the top of stories, which Medium calls “cover” images. In his blog post describing the changes, Williams said: “We’ve made innumerable refinements to the typography, spacing, and responsiveness of the design, so stories look better on all devices. And we’ve made it possible to create stories with much more visual power.”
Some of the benefits of the new design are obvious in the collection of posts that Medium calls Beautiful Stories, which is kind of a showcase of what is possible.
Another interesting feature of the redesign is that Medium has changed the way “collections” or groups of stories work. In the past, collections could either be invitation-only or open to anyone, but now the service is making all collections the property of their creator — a change that Medium is making even more explicit by calling these people “editors.”
More power for collection editors
So while writers can submit their post to a group for consideration, the editor who created the collection has the ultimate say over which posts are included. This makes a Medium collection a much stronger indicator of an editorial voice, for better or worse. In his blog post, Williams said:
“For readers, this means when you follow a collection, only stories approved by the editor will be published to the collection. For collection editors, it gives you a chance to build a following by being a great curator or solicitor of content. We think these changes will provide a powerful ecosystem that helps all those who want to discover and share stories and ideas.”
In many ways, the new collections feel very much like the custom magazines that users of Flipboard have been able to create ever since the company launched that feature earlier this year. Users (and even advertisers) with a specific interest in a topic or a theme can curate articles on that topic and theoretically gain a following from others who value their editorial choices.
To some extent, Medium’s growing pains have been a result of trying to be both an editorial product and an open platform. In a speech about the company and its aspirations following some of the criticism, Williams said he hoped to find a way of filtering the high quality posts from the noise or “crap,” and it looks like improved curation is one of the ways he is hoping to get there.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Pinar Ozger