“Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder.”
– George Washington
I miss the old Medium.
I began writing on Medium back in 2013 and, in the beginning, I loved it. It was a platform open to all, allowing writers from all backgrounds and levels to use its beautiful and simple layout.
Then, as always happens, the need for revenue invaded utopia.
This fact came into sharp focus this week when Bill Simmons’s new site, The Ringer, launched on Medium.
The Ringer is far from the first site to be hosted on Medium, but it’s almost certainly the largest. While I think Simmons is far past his creative peak and find his rabid fan base troubling, I don’t begrudge he or anyone else getting the best (and most lucrative) situation he can get.
My problem is that Medium is no longer a level playing field. This is not a new phenomenon – I was writing about it nearly two years ago – and perhaps it has always been more fantasy than reality, but the truth is that it was not uncommon to see unknown writers with small followings get on the front page. Hell, I even had the top story on Medium for a day!
My ranking of John Grisham’s books (Pulitzer Prize-worthy stuff, lemme tell ya!) has racked up 80,000 views in the almost two years since I first published it, averaging about 175 views per day. I have others that have also done relatively well – views on each ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 (the latter being the one that reached the top spot) – but that’s all in the past. The last piece of mine to reach over 1,000 was my profile of LL Cool J last November, and a big reason for that was because it was shared on Reddit.
I have 7,200 followers on Medium who, presumably, are exposed to every new piece I write. Since that LL piece, however, I have had exactly two pieces that have been viewed by more than 200 people. While my follower count continues to rise, my views continue to plummet.
Do I suddenly suck? Maybe.
Does no one care about the drivel I’m now producing? Possible.
Or am I now being drowned out by those with stronger names and more powerful platforms?
I just checked and Medium’s front page is littered with pieces from The Ringer and Medium’s other hosted sites. I would call it a conflict of interest, but there is in fact no conflict. Why should Medium promote stories by writers that they have not partnered with when they can flood their main page with stories by those with whom they have?
And that’s fine. That’s their right and it’s my right to not follow The Ringer (which I do) or block it or not use Medium at all. It’s not the only choice on which I have to write. Besides, it’s not like it costs me anything. I have given the site content, but I’ve never given it a penny. It, meanwhile, has given me a much wider platform with which to preach my bullshit.
But that’s no longer the case.
I’m sure The Ringer will be very successful and I hope Medium continues to thrive. I’ll continue to use it, but only as another venue for pieces that originate on this site. More importantly, though, I no longer read most of the stories.
Once upon a time, the front page of Medium introduced me to a wide array of unique and offbeat writers, scribes I would not otherwise have discovered. I read some truly great things on there, items that made me think, made me laugh, and made my change my perspective. It was a fantastic little corner of the internet where writers and fans of writers could congregate and swap stories, regardless of your resume or pedigree.
Those days, sadly, are over.
Christopher Pierznik’s eight books are available in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.