Don't get me wrong. I think Medium.com does (or did?) a great job. I enjoyed Medium.com even so much that I became an early paid subscriber when they announced their new plans.

As someone who studied media and worked in media companies, I do think we - as people - need to support great journalism. No matter if it's on a personal level of supporting journalists (look at their wage levels), or media companies who want to build the future of publishing content.

Stating that, I always enjoyed reading articles on medium.com, and on their apps. I think they did a lot of things right. I still believe so, ever after they announced some restructuring activities.

However, some things changed.

The way Medium tries to onboard new users is quite an aggressive one. And even for me, as a regular user, I find those overlays and pop ups quite annoying.

medium.com overlays Non-Medium.com users have a hard time finding the real article

I get it. The more call-to-action elements someone sees, the likelier that person is going to sign up. I totally get that, as I think a lot about conversion optimization in my day job.

But don't you think this is a small balancing act?

I think showing an overlay of sign up elements even before the visitor sees the content for which she came, is definitely too much.

How should I know if it's really worth to sign up if I can't see any content?

Ok ok, but you can dismiss the overlay anyway, so what's your point, Thomas?

Well, my point is that...

  • publishers will have a hard time attracting (new) readers to their articles if Medium.com is showing them sign up elements to a site which the reader might not know.
  • people want to engage with the writer's content, not with the platform itself. Imagine a WordPress overlay on every single WordPress blog. The publishing world would go nuts.

Just by looking at those elements and strategies, I feel like Medium.com is heading in a facebook-like direction of gated content.

From a company perspective, this might make absolute sense. From my personal perspective, this feels like a dangerous path, leading to a closed system of people, making it hard for other people to join.

And in the worst case scenario, it will be a lose-lose situation for Medium, publishers, and readers.

As John Gruber wrote a while ago about his thoughts on linking to Facebook content, the same might be applied to Medium.com pretty soon:

I will go out of my way to avoid linking to websites that are hostile to users with pop-overs.

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