In the past few weeks, I've read the following pieces on Medium: An article denigrating the practices of discount clothing retailers, written by the founders of a discount clothing startup; an article denigrating the state of music discovery solutions, from an executive at a new music discovery startup; an article denigrating allegedly fraudulent practices of some SaaS providers, written by the founder of a new SaaS startup.
This is not an article about Medium. I like Medium, and I've published on the platform. It's a poor potter who blames the clay, and I want Medium to have a long and happy life. This isn't a "Medium" problem. But is is a medium problem.
What the articles referenced above have in common is that they are all thinly-disguised pieces of content marketing. Maybe they weren't authored in that spirit, but that's functionally what they are. What they also have in common is that they were all written to criticize competitors. Right? (EDIT: To be clear, here, I am talking about criticizing specific competitors by name.)
So let's say I really, really wanted to write a piece that criticized my company's competition. I'm a market researcher, so my piece will be entitled something like "Why Using [Rival Market Research Methodology We Do Not Espouse Or Sell] Is Bad For Your Business." What, then, do I do with that post?
Well, I have three options. I can go small. I post it on my company's web log or "blog." What would you think, dear reader, if you read it there? Would you take it seriously? Or would you discount it? I think the latter. In any case, we wouldn't publish something like that on our site, so the "small" option is out.
I can go LARGE. I submit this to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or one of the leading trade publications in my field. What would you think if you saw it there? The answer is: you wouldn't see it there. No outlet with an editorial staff would ever publish it. So, LARGE is out.
That leaves us with the "medium" option. Not necessarily the Medium option, but because Medium is inherently democratic (anyone can post anything), there is a growing number of these kinds of posts there. What would you think if you saw this post on Medium, or some other third party site? The answer is--unclear. If, like me, you study the provenance of these articles, and look up the authors and their companies, you might apply some critical thinking here and discount the article somewhat. The article might not be "wrong," per se, but it sure as hell is biased, and I'll treat it accordingly. But if you (understandably) blow right by the author's bio and read on, you might fail to recognize that this helpful article is content marketing in sheep's clothing.
There is wonderful content on Medium--here is an amazing article from my friend Marcus Nelson. It's incredibly brave and true. This isn't about Medium. This is for you, fellow marketer. I offer what I hope is a useful guideline (certainly one that I live by) for "medium" content. If you wouldn't put it on your company's website, and a third-party editorial staff wouldn't accept it, place it under your bed for 24 hours. If you wake up in the morning and still want to publish it elsewhere--that's your perogative.
But know that at least some portion of your intended audience saw what you did there.