Content Strategy Example: How Does Medium Really Do Content?

I’ve seen my share of content out there. The good. The not good. The not bad. But more than anything, I’ve seen a heaping portion of “meh”.

Every once in a while, I stumble upon a content strategy example that I feel compelled to share with the readers of The Hydrant, to steer you clear of the blogging cliches, egregious blogging sins, and most importantly, give you a model for what a successful blog looks and sounds like. (Spoiler: That can take a variety of forms, depending on your industry, audience, and writing capacity.) In the past, I’ve covered Buzzfeed’s Tasty and the brilliant “Wait But Why“.

Highlighted this time is Medium, the company and writing platform. We’ve covered Medium a bit in our blog (and upkeep a Verblio (formerly BlogMutt) Medium), as it’s one of the better places to search out and dig into some of the most consistently excellent content on the internet, not to mention a unique promotional channel to further socialize your posts with a wider audience.

What is Medium, exactly?

Started as a decluttered network to promote great content, Medium has only skyrocketed in popularity from since its inception in 2012. And as you’d probably expect to come with any degree of success in the content realm, Medium has had to show up and bring some killer content. Uniquely, for them, once they established Medium as THE place for writers and those seeking sharp content to congregate, their active users and readership both grew as users began to post their own work and pitch into this social content powerhouse.

Why is Medium a model content strategy example?

As you’d probably also expect, this house of content has more than a few prongs to their content marketing strategy, namely through what they call “publications,” which face and engage the casual Medium content consumer. Developed in-house and each upkept by some dozens of staff writers, two prime examples of these publications are called Backchannel and Bright. Pretty smart, right?

backchannel-medium.png(via Backchannel)

bright-medium-what's-new-in-education.png(via Bright)

While publications like these comprise the bulk of the content strategy, they still do notably upkeep a “blog” in the truest sense, which lives on a subdomain of Medium, at their blog. Initially, when I started researching for this post several days ago, the Medium blog was called The Story, whereas now it appears to have pivoted to now be named 3 Min Read.


(via 3 Min Read)

So what do the publications do right?

  • Understand the audience and stay narrowly focused. As with all the content examples I highlight, the marker of a truly valuable blog or piece of content is its inherent understanding of its target audience. Backchannel publishes “lively and meaningful tales and analysis” from the world of tech, staying on the pulse in a fast-moving industry for the savvy tech consumer, while Bright‘s primary topics concern innovation in education.
  • Strive to consistently engage readers. This is a big one that many business blogs let fall by the wayside. While you should always try to keep your content as digestible as possible with shorter paragraphs and headers/bullet points to break up the monotony of walls of text, the spark of interest in the content itself is tough to maintain. How do Backchannel and Bright do it? Through stunning designed visuals, which go a looooong way, the ability for readers to highlight excerpts of text (a perk of Medium), and a lively, responsive comment section on every post.
  • Deliver bomb content. With a full staff of specialists in content, you’d expect you’ll get the good stuff coming straight from the spout at a content thought leader like Medium. And dag gummit, you do. That’s why it’s the 372nd most-visited site on the internet (and rising!).

Some of my recommendations to get you started:

So what does Medium’s own blog do right?

As I mentioned earlier, Medium upkeeps their own blog, too, called 3 Min Read, which narrows in on the logistical concerns of a Medium user and bringing company-centric posts to the forefront.

Posting only once every few weeks, it’s clear that Medium’s own blog is not the highest priority, nor is it held to the same high content standards as the publications, yet they do make a point to maintain it to primarily answer FAQs and showcase the uniqueness of Medium’s company and culture.

I mention this because the majority of blogs have a tough time balancing marketing goals (getting people in the door) with providing information for current customers, and developing content for these split audiences. Medium addresses this classic dilemma flawlessly with 3 Min Read.

For those businesses still struggling with that balance of content for prospectives vs. current customers, perhaps take a play from Medium’s book and aim to send current customers somewhere other than your blog, somewhere else entirely—whether that’s a series of help pages, a robust social media page answering FAQs, or a siloed subdomain like Medium so customers have one reliable place to get all their nagging questions answered without chasing their tails in a blog filled with marketing content.


Kali Bizzul

I write and market (yes, verb) at Verblio. Whether that's a blog post, email subject line, social media update, or a lousy author bio like this one, if you've been around Verblio you've likely seen some letters I threw together. I love helping get the word out about Verblio to get all sorts of folks good content to market themselves. Apart from Verblio, I'm really passionate about puns, foreign languages, Colorado at large, staying active, and leprechauns.

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