Medium Platform Insights

Is Medium revamping its letters function?

As many of you know, I am a huge fan and proponent of creating your own Medium publication in order to access the platform’s letters function.

So I found it interesting when I noticed some small changes to Medium letters.

While I cannot be sure these are sign Medium is revamping this long ignored publication feature, it seems like a reasonable bet as this is the first change I have observed in months.

When reviewing one of my own letters that I recently sent out, I noticed that the letter label at the top of my letter had changed to email. At first I thought this was some sort of error or glitch, but a quick inspection of the page’s code confirmed this was a deliberate change:

I know some of you are probably wondering why this change is significant at all.

It’s a significant change because Medium has not focused on improving writer tools for quite some time. All of the new improvements have been geared toward readers or attracting large established publishers.

So what does this mean?

That’s tough to say. It may just be a small rebranding change or it could be indicative of a shift in strategy by Medium to maintain their position in the digital publishing world.

Medium may be starting to realize that they are losing writers by not allowing writers to communicate directly with readers, and the change toward a clearly labeled “email system” (as opposed to “letters”) is the first step toward reassuring writers that Medium offers all the same functions that rival platforms offer. One of these functions is the ability to email readers (and ideally, to be able to build your own mailing list).

While a change in terminology may seem too slight to indicate such a major change, consider all of the terms Medium has stubbornly refused to change, even though they never really stuck with readers or writers:

Story—Most people still insist on calling Stories articles or posts. It would be easy to abandon this terminology and use more broadly accepted terms, but Medium wants to make a point about how its content is unique, so it has kept the function name.

Responses—Responses are really comments, for most users. While they technically are a stand alone post, since responses are not eligible for Partner Program payments, many people wish Medium would simplify the feature, allowing for straightforward commenting. Medium has not made any such changes.

This theory is further supported by a recent post by Medium’s Chief Product Officer:

What comes next? This tidying up is only the beginning. We’re building an even better writer and reader experience on Medium in 2020, and this initiative has helped us build a stronger foundation for what’s to come. We can’t wait to show you more.

As I noted earlier, I cannot guarantee that Medium is making changes to its letter function. But one thing that is predictable with Medium is that they don’t change major platform functions without clear intent.