Evan Williams and Medium

Twitter-CEO-Evan-Williams-002It’s always tough to follow up a great success, and that is certainly true for technology visionaries.  Evan Williams, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, is currently working on  a new web project, called Medium. Recently, he spoke to NPR about the site, which will be a new publishing platform. Describing it, Williams said: “Medium is very simple. It’s a website that lets people read and write things.” Specifically, Williams is interested in providing a forum for ideas that get more in depth than the quick, 140 character thoughts that define Twitter.

It’s not a bad notion, but at this point it’s hard to guess if Medium will be a success, let alone the have the culture re-defining impact of Twitter. (To be fair, I am certainly no expert about what will and won’t work in terms of new ventures. And Twitter certainly didn’t seem like that great an idea when it was first introduced, but it has become an integral part of modern culture in a number of ways.) Aside from informing readers of an article’s length next to its title (in terms how many minutes it will take to read), and from the admittedly good idea of grouping articles by topic instead of by author (as most blogging services do), its hard to see why Williams thinks Medium will have any real impact. (One more note: Medium is still in its beta phase. So what you see if you glance at the site now is probably not exactly how Medium will be.)

Skepticism aside, Williams’ belief that Medium can be the next big thing suggests that there is an interest in answering the question of what the future of reading and communicating will be. We in the publishing industry know full well that things are changing, and printed books are quickly being left behind as the dominant medium for expressing thought. (Speaking of which, check out our ebooks!) And sites like Medium and Longreads suggest that there is a desire for written ideas on the internet beyond the quick, pithy comments found on social media (though those can certainly be fun, and in some cases, valuable).

But will sites like these ever fully replace books? We certainly hope not, nor we do think so. But there is no question that right now more is being written than ever before, and more importantly, there are more than ways than ever to get that writing to an audience. How that fact will change how we approach writing and reading, and how we define good and bad, remains to be seen. Medium may not end up a world changer like Twitter, but it may well end up helping some new ideas and authors reach receptive audiences. And maybe, for today, that’s enough.

– Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

To learn more about Evan Williams and the founding of Twitter, please check out Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams (ISBN# 978-1-59935179-7) by Chris Smith & Marci McGrath from your local library, or order it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing.

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Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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