Medium Well Done

Photo by Dustin Lee

Photo by Dustin Lee

A little over a month ago we published our first post on Medium, the first platform we are testing out in our Publishing Laboratory. Since that first piece a further five have been added, for a grand total of 23 minutes of reading as calculated by Medium’s proprietary algorithm.

All combined, our stories have received 3187 views and 1625 reads, with a read ratio of a touch over 53% which strikes us as pretty acceptable. Our most recommended story received 28 recommends, our least popular was liked just eight times, and we got the odd comment and highlight here and there.

Over the same period we’ve published five posts on our trusty stalwart, the BBH Labs blog, a couple of them versions of the Medium posts and three unique to the blog. 4,372 users spent an average of 1.31 minutes on the blog, over 5201 sessions. We had a couple of trackbacks, no comments and, of course, no likes, since this isn’t a metric that we register or measure on the blog.

So, if my shaky maths is correct, people spent a little over 37,ooo minutes reading our posts on Medium as opposed to just under 8000 minutes on the Labs blog. Of course we don’t know whether the time spent on the Labs blog was spent pouring over every em dash and colon – for all we know the blog might have been open in another browser tab while our visitor looked at cat videos on facebook.

What can we take away from this? Well, firstly Medium is a lovely, clean writing platform, a real pleasure to use. It brings a simple (but limited) interface together with an immersive writing experience that does encourage the words to flow. And clearly, Medium is a platform where people come to read – both desktop and mobile versions are optimised for absorbing text, as opposed to imagery or video or audio.

Medium is also most definitely a good platform for sharing content in our area of interest – the intersection of culture and technology and brands. But we have to ask ourselves whether Michael Wolff’s observation about twitter – that it’s a forum for media people to talk about media – is also true of Medium, right now. Maybe Medium is simply a nicer place for our twitter followers to read on, than a platform we can use to reach a new audience with new content.

Lastly, during the course of this first phase of our publishing experiment, Medium underwent a major rehaul of its writing tools, logo and feature set (custom domains!). This is again a reminder that when you are publishing on someone else’s platform you are a guest in their home, using their tools at their whim and as they allow. Medium is lovely to write and read on, and for the dozens of new followers who are joining us there each day we will continue to add to our presence there, but again we are reminded of the importance of having somewhere on the world wide web that we can call home.

Update: Periscope is our new jam and over the next few weeks we’ll be streaming live on occasion over there – make sure you’re following us on twitter to catch the stream as it goes out.

Introducing The Publishing Laboratory

Author: Jeremy Ettinghausen, Innovation Director, BBH London & Labs


Blogging has been good for us and good to us. Since launching this blog in 2009 we’ve published hundreds of posts, read thousands of comments, engaged in dozens of great conversations and made many new friends. Of course we’ve also been DDoS’d, hacked and spammed, but that’s all part of the rich tapestry of digital life and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And above the mechanics of blogging, pushing ourselves to write and share our ‘reckonings’ outside the realms of powerpoint and pitch have enabled us to engage with a culture outside the walls of the agency – a rich, exciting world of innovators and instigators, start-ups, pioneers, early adopters and tinkerers. Blogging has helped us learn, process, filter and share and these learnings have been invaluable not just for the individual bloggers, but for the agency as a whole.

But now it’s time to spread our wings and try something new. A few new things in fact. Because today, in late 2015, publishing on the web encompasses a wider, more diverse range of channels than the self-hosted blog and it’s hard to deny that sometime early in the twenty-teens we might have moved past peak-bloggery. There is certainly plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the days when blogs ruled the web are gone.

So, this week we are launching our latest experiment, a ‘publishing laboratory’ where we’ll explore some of the new platforms and services that have risen over the past six years. We’ll be creating new content for these channels to actively engage with new audiences, to reinvigorate our publishing and to continue learning through reckoning, sharing and doing.

Of course this blog will remain a key pillar of our web presence and activity — we strongly believe that owning and using a corner of the web that is yours (ours!) is a civic duty — and we’ll be cross publishing to the blog as we go along. But from today, and starting here with Medium, expect to see BBH Labs pop up in some different and hopefully unexpected places on the web.

As always, we appreciate your attention and your thoughtful comments. Thanks for coming on the journey with us.

“Big is easy, small is hard”: Print is Mobile

Author: Adam Glickman

Following our piece looking at journalism (a review of the transformational change at the Telegraph Media Group) and fiction (interview with Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher at Penguin), our interest in the profound changes occurring in the publishing industry continues with this look at the opportunities in mobile.

We often talk about the future of mobile media and what it will all look like, but what about the future of the mobile media of the past? The notion of carrying around your reading as reams of inked paper might disappear, but the written word certainly won’t. So it seems a very natural progression for print publishers to move from paper to digital by simply reformatting for small screen mobile devices. But the considerations are vast. And more importantly, how much do people really want to use their phones as reading devices anyway?

We recently met a company called ScrollMotion, a New York-based iPhone app developer that is hard at work answering these questions. The company have been steadily creating a suite of new tools for traditional print media companies to better engage their readers via apps on mobile phones, and in the process, quietly making publishing deals with a wide range of top-notch publishers. Their growing client list is impressive and includes Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., Tribune Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Wiley.



The Next Chapter in Interactive Storytelling: interview with Jeremy Ettinghausen

“There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
Mohsin Hamid

Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher.  This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole.  Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect).  Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.

The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space.  So just a couple of meaty topics then…

We Make Stories homepage