What’s Going On With Medium?

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I don’t know what’s going on with Medium. It has become a weird echo chamber of whatever article you happen to click on. The tuning of its recommendation engine seems off. It is like someone turned a dial somewhere all the way to eleven and the results are strange to say the least.

I pay an annual subscription to read the articles on Medium, mainly because I’d encounter a reference to one that seems interesting to me frequently enough to be worthwhile. When I did this, I also adjusted my settings for some of the topics that I am interested in. These include: remote work, leadership, outdoors, product management, nonfiction, creativity, writing, design, sports, history, productivity, books, data science, mindfulness, technology and science.

With these interests, I’d expected a wide range or articles, but what I get seems highly based on what I just read. I clicked on an article about Vim, the text editor, not too long ago, and suddenly, it seemed every article suggested at that point was about Vim, and none of my other interests were considered. Not only that, but there is a weird pattern to the suggestions. Medium seems to prefer articles on the extremes. Thus, I was presented with an article titled, “Why Everyone Should Use Vim,” which was followed immediately by an article titled, “Why Vim is Highly Overrated.” There didn’t seem to be much in between. Medium can’t seem to make up its mind about VIm.

I’ve read or skimmed Medium articles enough to have discerned certain patterns that stand out. Titles with numbers in them are big on Medium. I pulled up my feed just now and here are the first article titles listed in order as I see them:

  • Why I “Cheated” to Get to the 100 Follower Mark
  • 4 Ways to Trick Yourself to Write Better Content
  • Do You Want to Write for the Orange Journal?
  • 5 Monthly Subscriptions I Will Never Pay For
  • Now You Can Earn $1000 as a New Writer Without Curation and Major Publications
  • Did You Know You Could Make 17K a Month Writing Short Weather Forecasts?

Medium articles are frequently are self-reflexive or recursive pieces. All six of those pieces above, for instance, are related to writing on Medium itself. When it comes to the topic of writing I find Medium almost useless. All of the articles are about writing articles for Medium.

Gaming the system seems to be another pillar of the Medium establishment. “Cheating” to get to the 100 follower mark. Rules are another pillar: 20 Rules for Writing Your First Book. “Absolutes” are yet another pillar. Article titles contains words like “must”, “never”, “always” abound. Here is one about 3 Things People Who Are Good With Money Never Buy.

More than anything else, Medium has become a place to write about Medium. How to be successful there, how to fail there, how to earn $2,000 a month there, how to gain 10K followers in overnight. Rarely, since subscribing, have I come across an article with any real substance. That’s too bad, really, because in principle, I like the overall concept behind Medium. It just seems to have taken a weird turn.

Since I’ve already paid for my subscription, I’ll keep it until its renewal date, at which point, it is very likely that I won’t renew it. Substack has Medium beat in terms of both the quality of the writing and its usefulness. As I have written before, I think Substack’s subscription model is not sustainable for more than a handful of subscriptions per person (I subscribe to three Substack newsletters, at roughly $60/each per year). But, by giving up my subscription to Medium next year, I can add a fourth newsletter at Substack.

Written on April 3, 2022.

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  1. «Medium seems to prefer articles on the extremes.» You nailed it. Medium is embracing the Facebook model of «engagement», which is serving society so well—cough. They’ve also recently removed full-sized images (retroactively), made the iPad and iPhone apps read-only, and added suggestion sidebars when reading posts. Or maybe they’ve since removed them? I don’t even know at this point.

    I’ve been cross posting blog posts there for a few months, as an experiment. I also tried subscribing again, only to be faced with everything you just described. They’ve totally lost their way I think.


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