What Newspapers Can Learn from ‘Medium’

I’ve harped on it before and I’m nowhere close to being done: news design and consumption experiences are completely broken. Medium, a new platform from Twitter founder Ev Williams, takes a new approach to (among other things) content design — and there’s a lot the news industry can learn from them.

So when I say news design, I’m not talking about fonts and colors, though that’s certainly part of it. I’m talking consumer design. I’m talking how it functions and how the various parts connect. The folks at Medium are talking about that, too. From their about page (emphasis added by me):

Still, some things haven’t evolved as much as we would have expected. Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced. While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others. And in many ways, the web is still mimicking print concepts, while not even catching up to it in terms of layout, design, and clarity of experience.

We (i.e. most legacy media) throw all content into the same template no matter the quality or quantity of journalism. And the only way we surface the best of the content is through editorial curation on the homepage or Twitter stream. We have “most read” lists and “most emailed” lists, but no user experience built completely around upvotes, like Reddit or like Medium’s awesome collections feature (see an example here and here). And design? Forget design. Forget the beautiful, laborious hours we put into making print design tailored and perfect and worth experiencing — let’s throw it all on a template with a sidebar and little photo carousel. Medium’s approach to the design-content relationship:

We believe that good design supports the purpose (not just the appeal) of content, so Medium is diverse in look and feel—ranging from different types of articles to images to, eventually, much more.

Newspapers know that, but they sometimes forget once their journalism gets anywhere outside of a printed page.  Maybe once places like Medium start raising the bar for online experiences, newspapers will be forced to catch up or get lost in a wave of irrelevancy. It’s just too bad that we couldn’t have been the ones to start the revolution — maybe it’s not too late to help be a part of that revolution.