Medium: the new publishing platform from Twitter's co-founder

Momentum builds for site where algorithm suggests stories based on how long users spend reading certain articles

As Twitter prepares for an initial public offering of its stock, its founders hope to change our media consumption habits again through new website Medium.

The website has been around for just over a year and some of the controversial user-created content has made front-page headlines. For example, the infamous post “10 Things I Hate About You: San Francisco Edition,” in which a Silicon Valley entrepreneur vented his frustration about the city, sparked wide criticism.

Some of the more positive posts have also garnered the public’s attention, with one post on a supermarket trip achieving over one million views. Despite this, the invite-only site is not yet universally known.

The platform was launched by Evan Williams and Biz Stone, two of Twitter’s founders. Williams called it "a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends." So, in the most basic terms, ‘Twitter with more words’. More words and thus more depth, is the idea.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Williams outlined his hopes for his site, the internet and the future of media in general. “News in general doesn’t matter most of the time, and most people would be far better off if they spent their time consuming less news and more ideas that have more lasting import,” he said.

With this Williams seems to be taking the opposite approach to the idea behind his brainchild Twitter.

In theory, the simplicity and aesthetic of the site will attract the most interesting ideas and stories from anyone and everyone. However, Williams and his team have also invested an unknown sum to appoint professional editors and pay a small circle of writers to generate prime content. There is no way of telling which contributions are the result of this investment, and which are user posts, but the quality of the funded content is designed to bolster the reputation of the site and attract advertisers.

Possibly the most innovative characteristic of the site is that it uses an intelligent algorithm to suggest stories to readers. This algorithm prioritises the time spent reading an article over the commonly used criterion of simple page views. “Time spent is not actually a value in itself, but in a world where people have infinite choices, it’s a pretty good measure if people are getting value,” Williams explained.

Medium is not open to everybody just yet. The website states: “We are still working hard on the code and designing the product. We want to scale our user base gradually to make sure everything is ship shape.” However, they are inviting more people to join each week, so soon we could all be ‘Mediating’.

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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