Letters

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Chris MessinaHunter@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
So is Letters Medium's way of taking on Mailchimp?
Michael Sitver@msitver · I build things
@chrismessina It's more competitive with Tinyletter (owned by Mailchimp) than Mailchimp proper. Mailchimp has some fantastic features (i.e scheduling and drip campaigns, analytics, A/B testing) that make it well worth its cost for business owners.
Jamie TalbotMakerPro@majelbstoat · Engineer, Medium
Hey everyone, I helped build this, glad to see it 'Hunted. I can answer technical questions, though may punt on some of the strategy/product ones :)
Michael Sitver@msitver · I build things
@majelbstoat While you're here, I would like to make some comments on Medium as a whole, from a blogger's perspective. As a place to write, Medium is awesome. As a place to interact with bloggers, Medium is unmatched. As a place to build a blog, Medium really lags, and here's why. 1. Terrible Discovery: There are so few opportunities for internal discovery for new authors. As a blogging network, rather than simply a platform, this should be your core competency. You shouldn't need an audience or a marketing degree to get 100 people to read your blog post. I have had some major successes on Medium (one post reached 150k in 24 hours) because the reading and sharing experience are excellent, but I have had to make my own successes. Without marketing, my blog posts on Medium reach a grand total of 10 people, at most. This should be your core competency, your strength but it's not. 2. Limited Branding Opportunity: Publication home pages are nice. The ability to put branding above your blog posts is also nice. Other than that, options for branding are really limited. Custom domains will make a big difference, once you roll that out site-wide. It would also be nice if we could set some articles as "Read Next", so that we could keep readers within our publication after their first article. 3. Limited opportunity for monetization: Affiliate links. That's basically the only way a Medium publication can make money, unless of course it has a following large enough to attract sponsorships (see #1). You guys should be the master of revenue-sharing. Introduce beautiful, minimal ads, like Carbon, Fusion, or TheDeck. Allow publishers to opt in, and users to opt out. Nobody's going to fault you for offering ads, if they're not invasive and logged-in users can opt out. Publishers will certainly be thrilled, if you offer a reasonable revenue split (60-40 perhaps). You might also consider a fan-funding option which allows publishers to collect donations from fans. Perhaps users can pay $5 per month to turn off ads site-wide, and revenue from each user is split based on which publishers they read the most. 4. Limited Analytics: I don't need to know browser, or screen size, or ISP. You guys handle layout and design already. I would like to know the gender of my audience though, the age, and the most popular countries. I would like to perhaps know what subjects they read about most on Medium. Things like that. Data is valuable to bloggers, because it allows us to tailor our content to maximize the enjoyment of our content (OK - perhaps that's sugar-coating it a bit). Still... #1 also applies to users. I spend a lot of time reading on Medium, but I spend more time finding things to read on Medium, because the options for discovery are really limited. I find myself always being offered the same articles to read, whether I care to read them or not. Even when I've already read them. A "New And Noteworthy" section would be nice. The category bars that you had for a brief while on the home page were nice. Things like that, which make discovery fun and easy. It would also be nice if we could see more than just the top 10 posts of the day (currently impossible). Thanks, Michael (Medium.com/@President)
Jamie TalbotMakerPro@majelbstoat · Engineer, Medium
@msitver Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. There definitely is a need for better discovery. The good news is, we have people working on tackling this problem, so I would expect that situation to improve soon. It's a surprisingly hard thing to do well. Branding, too, is something that is constantly under discussion. It was a deliberate choice to send Letters under the branding of the publication. As for analytics, there's definitely a lot to improve there too. So much to do, so little time!
Michael Sitver@msitver · I build things
@majelbstoat I look forward to the changes. Give @Ev my best :)
Ricky Yean@rickyyean · CEO, UpbeatPR.com (formerly PRX.co)
I struggle to understand the value of this. Maybe it's because anything that has to do with me receiving more email has a higher bar. I'd love to see someone at Medium talk more about it so I understand the thinking from the product perspective or a company strategy perspective.
Jamie TalbotMakerPro@majelbstoat · Engineer, Medium
@rickyyean There's been something of a renaissance in newsletters recently, and more and more interesting writing is being delivered to users' inboxes each day. It's mostly a one-sided conversation though - the newsletter author sends something to her followers, and the readers read it. They're not really interactive, though many newsletter authors would like them to be. Some authors will put together a forum for discussion, or maybe use a sub-reddit, or even a Google form, but it tends to be ad-hoc, it's not really an integrated experience, and people can't truly interact with the original content - nor with other subscribers - in a satisfying way. Even email replies to the original author will tend to be locked away in an inbox. The primary call to action at the bottom of a Letter is "Write a response". This is a deliberate choice that invites subscribers to engage with the content, and participate in a conversation. Medium already provides lots of ways to interact with people and with writing using notes, highlights, responses, etc.. And of course, as a Letter is just a regular Medium post, it will benefit from being part of the wider network, which should help grow the subscriber base of high quality publications that use the feature judiciously.
Chris MessinaHunter@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@majelbstoat great articulation! /cc @rickyyean
Michael Sitver@msitver · I build things
@rickyyean I have around 150 followers on Medium, but actually accessing them has been a challenge, because Medium never really gave bloggers a way to directly contact their fans. As a blogger with a semi-substantial email list (around 2,500 people), I found this to be a huge reason not to use Medium. My followers were essentially for naught. This direct access to fans makes Medium more competitive as a true blogging platform.
ktMakerHiring@ktzhu · product and engineering at medium
@msitver @rickyyean we strongly believe in enabling connections between users — tho note this is for publications (which anyone can create), but not individual user accounts.
ktMakerHiring@ktzhu · product and engineering at medium
hey all, thanks for chiming in with your thoughts and feedback. i was the PM for this product feature, and happy to answer any other questions you might have.
Alex Hillman@alexhillman · Indy Hall
Noticed the "noreply" sender address, that's a bummer :(
Jamie TalbotMakerPro@majelbstoat · Engineer, Medium
@alexhillman This is likely to change in the future. Conversation and engagement are explicitly part of the product feature - in fact, "Write a response" is the primary call to action at the foot of the Letter. We may put together a way to create a response by replying to the email, but no news on that front yet.
Michael Sitver@msitver · I build things
@majelbstoat @alexhillman Good to know. Medium has become very conversational with the Reply, and annotation features. That would seem to be the natural extension.