What Medium’s big play for politicians says about the platform’s future

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Startup politics

With the latest midterm elections at a close, politicians and analysts have now set their ramblings and pontificating on the 2016 Presidential race. With adoption on online networks even greater today than ever before, another parallel race appears to be taking shape: The fight between digital platforms to become the go-to destination whenever a politician or political operative has something to share with voters.

To this end, Medium has announced a new job listing: The role of Partner Development, Politics, Government, and Advocacy.

As the listing is quick to note, Medium has already played host to announcements and think-piecery from the likes of President Obama and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But with 2016 shaping up to be as important (and obnoxious) an election as they come, the platform-slash-publisher wants to ensure that it shares in a piece of the action.

Politicians would be foolish to rely on only one platform for their political overtures and overshares – Ice Bucket videos go on Facebook, snarky memes go on Twitter or perhaps Tumblr, etc. Which makes one wonder, what kind of content is best served when seen by Medium’s community?

This speaks to some confusion surrounding what exactly Medium wants to be. It’s a technology platform, but it also aims (and often succeeds) at producing meaningful editorial content. If I had to attach an adjective that best describes its content, I suppose “high-brow” might fit the bill — many of its users and readers could rightly be considering media or tech “elites.” The job description itself describes the platform as “the new op-ed page, where people who have ideas of consequence publish, interact meaningfully with an engaged, thoughtful audience, and have maximum impact.”

That’s a lofty goal — a destination where smart, important people, including politicians, can cut through the soundbites of cable news and social media to really talk about “issues” and “policy.” And the more intelligent discourse politicians can bring to the web this election the better.

But, sadly, elections are not won and lost through intellectual policy discussions. They’re won by not getting caught saying dumb things, by sounding and looking good on television, and by hitting on often-empty ideologies that appeal to swing voters without alienating the base. The average voter would rather snark on Twitter about a debate gaffe or argue with their parents about immigration reform on Facebook than dive into the muck of how governance actually works.

But for Medium, that’s okay. This play shows that it’s clearly looking to monetize influence over eyeballs. That means Medium will likely never be as big as some of Ev Williams’ other endeavors like Twitter or even Blogger. But if he can figure out a way to make money while making the digital world a little less noisy, then more power to him.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]

PandoDaily

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