It’s not often that a digital publisher can potentially change the state of discourse in American politics. In fact, I’d thought all such major changes were in the past. But Politico reports that on-line publisher Medium is reaching out to politicians on both sides of the aisle, promoting themselves as a way to get their message out to the public directly without editorial interference from traditional news publishers. And it seems to be making a go of it.
Medium started out as effectively a clone of the Huffington Post—or at least, that part of the Huffington Post that allowed bloggers to post their works for free, in the name of getting “exposure.” But rather than trying to be a news source that traded on the effort of free bloggers to help promote itself, Medium is strictly an unpaid blogging platform, which helps to encourage conversations by making each “comment” its own separate Medium post. And it seems to be doing a remarkably good job.
Washington players say they’re drawn to Medium’s simplicity. The site, described by Williams as a “beautiful canvas,” has no real advertising to distract from a politician’s message. Also appealing, they say, are social-media features designed to get posts noticed, including a Facebook-like ability to tag other users, and statistics that shed light on who is reading. But Medium has also made a sustained effort around what it calls “influencer outreach,” identifying and training users from the presidential campaigns, Congress, federal agencies and political strategy firms.
“Done right, you get many of the benefits of placing an op-ed without any of the hassles,” says Matt Lira, a digital strategist with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who published an Oct. 22 piece on Medium about El Niño and the California drought. “Medium has done a great job making the platform look incredibly professional for people with zero technical ability.”
The White House has used Medium to host the text of the President’s State of the Union Address, and former White House press secretary and current Amazon exec Jay Carney used it to fire back at the New York Times over its Amazon exposé piece. The way it’s going now, it looks as though Medium could become a sort of soapbox of record for politicians and corporate execs alike. Medium really is becoming the message—or at least the place where people with the message go to broadcast it. It’s an interesting development—but I wonder why it took so long after the Internet and blogs first came about for any company to make it to this point?