The Product Lesson Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Medium? Soul Matters

Product Management

The Product Lesson Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Medium? Soul Matters

Twitter cofounders,  Evan Williams and Biz Stone’s new gig, Medium is a success.

Why do I say so?

Because of the sheer amount of great content* that’s being found on the site.medium

After Wikipedia and Quora, if there is a platform that is contributing to the amazing reads (often lost in the world of pageviews), Medium surely is right at the top of that list.

I am not talking about pageviews, but the number of amazing reads that the site has managed in such a short span of time.

Medium : What is it?

For those who just came back from the cave, Medium is a publishing platform for sharing content that, I’d say, defines the ‘slow web’ movement.

It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world. It’s used by everyone from professional journalists to amateur cooks. It’s simple, beautiful, collaborative, and it helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say. [Medium’s official About page]

TL;DR:  great, insightful pieces that make for a good read.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

So why is Medium slowly becoming a platform for doers/thinkers to share content, which they could have otherwise shared on their personal blog or Quora’s blogging platform instead? Medium surely doesn’t offer any mega distribution! Importantly, how did Medium pull this off, when other media houses were even ready to pay for such content?

Is it a function of product attribute? For example, the neatly thought WYSIWYG editor tool?


“ I see the page I’m going to publish, which looks just like the version you’re reading. In fact, it is the version you’re reading. There’s no layer of abstraction. This is a simple (and old) concept, but I haven’t seen it in any other publishing tool—unless you count Google Docs and the like, where you’re basically always in editing mode (versus always in viewing mode). And it makes a big difference. Having to go back and forth between your creation tool and your creation is like sculpting by talking.” [Ev Williams]

Or, maybe it’s a function of Medium’s great typography?

Of course, you have to give it to the GTM (Go-to Market) strategy of Medium – they produced great content and set the standards for others, plus strictly controlled rollout with limited access.

And every week, the bar keeps moving. Upwards.

So.. Why Medium?

We often tend to respect products that surprise us .. consistently.

Look around and you will notice that some of the most awesome products that you treasure are the ones who have delivered consistently. And more so, consistency in the world of ‘alpha/beta/MVP’ release cycle is super amazing!!

“Sometimes, we’re so focused on being consistent that we also lower the bar on amazing. After all, the thinking goes, if we can’t be amazing all the time, better to reset the expectation to merely good. Which robs us of the ability to (sometimes) be amazing.

But amazing is what spreads.” [Seth Godin]

Like Quora, Medium consistently manages to bubble up amazing content, ensuring that the brand attributes remain intact.

Product attributes are derived from that one thing that drives product definition (and pretty much everything surrounding it) – The Soul.

What is a product’s soul?

Definition #1 : The non-negotiable part of your product (Read Entrepreneurs : Define What’s Non-Negotiable. Define a Soul.).

Definition #2 : That moment when you mask the logo/brand all the products in front of your customers (or users) and they are still able to identify your brand (among the 100 clones).

The definition #2 is derived from definition #1, but if you think deep enough – you will note that it’s much more than what meets the eye.

SOUL is?

It’s the founder’s vision (which is often not documented). The vision that doesn’t talks of $$s, but what the product will stand for irrespective of whether it’s a success or failure.

It’s the team’s boundary limits which is often not documented, but is known to each team members (i.e. when to stop and not mess with the experience).

Note that Medium doesn’t have a search box! A content site that doesn’t have a search box? How cool is that?

Well, you read what you see. Makes editorial team’s job super tough – but is it worth it? Yes, if you believe in slow web!

Soul is much more than what shows up on the surface.

It’s the ability to say NO when everybody around you is saying YES and milking the immediate benefits of the easier path.

It’s that thing which the product will always be known for. Attributes that you will be identified with.

When you write on Medium, chances are that you are thinking positive, thinking awesome. You don’t want to do a cheap job of marketing your gig, but you somehow want to spread something amazing.

That’s what great products are all about! The ability to influence user behavior by the sheer virtue of a great soul.

That’s what Medium teaches us about a product – i.e. Have a soul. A great soul will show up in all aspects of the product.

*Some of my fav Medium pieces:

Formula for Entrepreneurial Success

Raising Entrepreneurs

Creative People Say No

The Zen of Usability Testing

McDonald’s Theory

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