Media

With Matter relaunch, Medium clarifies its role as a platform-publisher hybrid

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Blogging platform Medium announced today that it’s relaunching Matter, the long-form journalism publication it acquired last year, and also shed new light on how it plans to be both a publisher and a platform.

Matter, which the startup describes as a digital magazine “created from the ground up specifically for the Medium platform,” will be led by Mark Lotto (formerly of GQ and the New York Times), while original Matter founders Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson will remain on as senior editors. Those are the simple details that most publications can answer, but the more challenging question is how the publication will fit into Medium.

Over the last year, Medium has become quite popular among independent bloggers, business leaders, and tech hipsters as the go to place to publish long-form articles. But Medium founder (and Twitter cofounder) Ev Williams said he wants it to be the most attractive digital publishing tool for everyone, which was part of startup’s motivation in buying Matter.

What the startup isn’t planning to do is focus on producing content primarily at Medium. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be both a platform and a publisher, according to a recent blog post by Williams published today.

“The relaunch of Matter is our most ambitious publishing effort to date, but it’s likely not our last,” Williams wrote,  adding “…the more important reason we engage in publishing is because we think there’s no better way to improve the Medium platform for everyone.”

Williams said stories produced under Matter for Medium will likely contain a slew of features other articles don’t have. (What those features might be isn’t clear, as he didn’t go into great detail.) However, it’s not a case of Medium propping up its own content to look better than the rest, he said.

“To be clear, we’re not giving our publications special treatment  — more accurately, we’re making them eat our own dog food,” Williams wrote. “Everything we do for Matter we expect to be available on the platform as a whole (unless it turns out to be a terrible idea) after we work out the kinks.”

I can appreciate what Williams is trying to accomplish with Medium, which is essentially to drive innovation in the digital publishing world. The big difference between this effort and others is that most digital publishing innovation is driven by either publication-first companies, or from outside the traditional publishing world (e.g. social networks).

That said, it’ll be interesting to see how Matter shapes up compared to the other content on Medium.

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