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What If Medium Got Rid Of All Publications In 2024

The Past, Present, and Future of Publications on Medium

I genuinely enjoy publishing my work in publications on Medium.

In my first few months on the platform, publications were critical to my success. Many of my most popular and viral articles were published by prestigious publications like Startup, Better Marketing, Better Humans, and Curious.

Without the privilege of publishing in those publications, I doubt my stories would have reached such a wide audience and gained me thousands of new followers.

The majority of my big hits those early days came directly from stories I had published within major publications. Getting that stamp of approval and access to built-in audiences gave my writing the boost it needed to take off.

For any new Medium writer trying to gain a following, publishing in well-known publications can provide some credibility.

But publications aren’t everything

Here’s the interesting thing though — some of my other well-received articles were NOT published in major publications.

Rather, they were either self-published or released in small, unknown pubs.

Despite the lack of a big name behind them, these stories performed just as well as my top articles, if not better. They gained just as many views, responses, and new followers.

For me, this was an eye-opening realization back then: I did not necessarily need the prestige of a coveted publication to get my work noticed.

Even without jumping through the sometimes rigorous acceptance process, my writing could thrive when self-published.

My experience as an editor

In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of being an editor for two different publications on Medium. I was an editor for Thoughts and The Shortform. I also ran my own independent publication.

Naturally, I published a good portion of my articles within my own publications, especially The Shortform. In fact, some of my most viral and viewed stories to date live on The Shortform.

Overall, I’ve had an positive experience working with publications as both a writer and editor. Given all of that, it sounds like publications have been a major boon for my success on Medium, correct?

Yes and no.

Therein lies the central issue…

Lack of editor pay

Publication editors on Medium do not get paid for their work.

In the past, some editors received payment, but Medium removed that funding. The loss of income resulted in the shutdown of several large, beloved publications such as P.S. I Love You and The Ascent.

Meanwhile, editors who worked directly for Medium’s own branded publications receive compensation (I assume).

This inherent imbalance did not provide a level playing field for independent publications.

There were signs that Medium wanted to move away from supporting community publications in favor of their own in-house platforms.

I think all this has shifted in recent times. Most Medium owned pubs aren’t active anymore.

So, what if they got rid of them all?

Potential benefits of removing publications altogether

Here are some possible advantages of removing publications from Medium’s model:

  • Creates an equal opportunity platform — no more advantages or gatekeeping for certain writers
  • Writers can simply publish their work without waiting for approval
  • Eliminates the expectation of unpaid editorial labor
  • Allows writers to choose when to schedule stories for maximum viewership
  • Ends perceptions of bias or prestige around certain publications

Drawbacks of losing publications

Of course, removing publications would also come with downsides:

  • Readers could no longer follow specific publications that match their interests
  • The algorithm would have an even greater burden to connect readers with relevant content (which does not always work perfectly)
  • Writers would lose the ability to tap into ready-made niche audiences
  • New writers would have a harder time building credibility and followers from scratch

Other ways writers could build their niche

If publications disappeared from Medium, writers who want to establish themselves around a specific niche or audience would need to find new ways to create that community.

A few options include:

  • Building content around niche tags and keywords
  • Creating lists that function similarly to publications (you can follow them and share them)
  • Using recognizable “kicker” headlines to signal a theme
  • Curating and grouping stories on your profile page (via pinned posts for example)

The future of publications

I appreciate the role quality publications have played in my growth on Medium. But the lack of fair compensation for publication editors is concerning.

I’m not outright advocating for the removal of all independent publications.

However, if Medium has already internally decided to move away from supporting most of their own publications and some of those they had funded in the past, then perhaps fully eliminating them in favor of self-publishing may lead to a more equitable platform.

The bottom line

The future of publications on Medium is totally unclear to me.

As Medium continues to evolve and change, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Medium entirely revamp the publication experience. Or completely scratch it.

What do you think? Publications, good or bad?

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