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Why social media isn't all about soundbites

This Digital Life

Published 02/01/2016

New approach: Medium encourages considered articles
New approach: Medium encourages considered articles

In a world of increasingly ephemeral messaging and microblogging, one site is bucking the short and sweet trend. Katie Wright looks at the grand rise of Medium, the platform bringing back longform writing.

Snapchat's "snaps" self-destruct after 10 seconds. Tweets are limited to 140 characters. Periscope videos share the same lifespan as a Mayfly.

Many of the internet's most popular platforms follow the "shorter is better" mantra, but over at Medium.com that's not the case.

Essentially a blogging site, Medium encourages considered discourse rather than hastily written "clickbait" and has become a popular place for journalists, activists and experts to air their views without issuing a Press release or setting up their own blog - but you don't have to be a specialist to contribute.

Falling into the "social journalism" category, anyone can publish on the site, which promises "the web's best writing experience" and upvote other posts which are then aggregated on the Top Stories page.

"Life hack" advice like, "Become a morning person in seven easy steps" commonly makes it into the coveted top five, as does tech industry news and insider opinion.

Since 2012, Medium says it has reached 25 million monthly users and attracted some very high-profile members, too.

US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has been posting regularly since June, including a recent retort aimed at Donald Trump and his desire to stop Muslims from entering the United States.

Author John Green used a Medium missive to defend Cara Delevingne, star of the film adaptation of his novel Paper Towns, when a particularly awkward interview she did on American TV went viral in the summer.

Launched by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams in August 2012, the site originally had more of a visual focus, but now trades predominantly in words rather than pictures.

So how has Medium, while swimming against the prevailing tide of ephemeral everything, managed to stay afloat?

The clean, fuss-free interface has certainly helped, as has a feature which displays approximately how long it will take to read each article, meaning you can decide whether to wade into an 11-minute piece on why social media can exacerbate depression, or save it for later.

A bunch of new features were unveiled in a post by Williams a couple of months ago as well, including the ability to "@" people, Twitter-style, to encourage discussion.

"This is just the beginning," Williams wrote, and given that not long ago he raised £38m in funding, he's probably right: Medium is heading for maximum exposure.

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