Are Writers Being Secretly Poached from Medium?

Photo by Sebastian Pociecha on Unsplash

Or are they being scammed instead?

I have always been very happy with the Medium comment section. It is clean, interesting, and always leads to opinionated discussions but which never cross over into being full-blown arguments. Ideal.

But recently I have been seeing some weird ones. Not extremely weird, like the ones you find on YouTube videos promising 100x returns from cryptocurrency if you trade with one Mr Smith who can be reached at + 1 3 0 4 8 9 1. But given the standards I have come to expect from Medium, they struck me as a bit off.

So, of course, I left whatever actual work I was supposed to be doing, and let myself delve into this mystery of the comment section.

The comment that started it all

It was one of my usual personal finance checklists — this one was for people with ageing parents. (You can check it out here).

I usually have email notifications for responses to my articles, because I like to respond back to each comment, but sometimes can’t do so immediately, and Medium notifications are notoriously difficult to navigate. A pending email in my inbox is like a to-do. (Yes, I am one of those people who have a clear inbox).

Here is the email:

Image by Author

Here were some immediate red flags:

  • The fact that he got my name wrong (It’s Priyanka, not even close to Mila)
  • The fact that he was trying to get me off the platform (a paid one) for an ‘opportunity’ without giving any details of whether it was paid or not
  • The fact that he wanted me as a ‘curator’ and not a content creator. I do not own any active publications, neither do I edit on any. Why would I be a good fit for being a curator?

In any case, I decided to investigate it further. First things first, I went to the responder’s Medium profile. There were no articles, but a bunch of responses, all with very similar contents. He had got the name of the author right on all of them, but mine was the last one and he may have been bored by the time. The author before me was Mila, so that’s what he decided to christen me as well. Well, at least if I was not special enough to have such ‘incredible writing’, I was the only one with the wrong name.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a screenshot of his profile at the time, because I didn’t think it would turn into an article (Note to self and to all other authors: everything is an article). But I do have one from more recently:

Image by Author

Someone was quicker than me in reporting the commenter, or maybe Medium detected his spamming on its own. In any case, the person is no longer on Medium, spamming (or luring?) other authors off the platform.

The next step in my investigation was to see what exactly this ‘opportunity’ entailed. The commenter, Yug, had very kindly given me a link to do just that. Here’s the link if anyone is interested. This is what the site means by curation:

In a world of infinite access to information, curation is key. It is a form of creation. To curate is about identifying the hidden gems and using your skills and passion to highlight the items that YOU find important.

And here’s what they want you to do as a curator:

As an early adopter, you will dive headfirst into a pool of opportunities before others do that will allow you to hone your skills and find success on the platform. You will be able to establish credibility and build large, loyal audiences that could translate across all your social channels. As a special user you will work with the Deepstash team to produce meaningful content.

If I read carefully between the lines, it seems that what is being offered to the curators is an audience that might translate to other social channels. There is no detail regarding how Deepstash might help the creator to shift the supposed goodwill from this platform to their other social platforms.

Also, this gem:

From time to time, Deepstash may provide the Curator with promotional merchandise. Hoodies, bags, mugs and more. Spread the love!

So, if it wasn’t clear before, it is amply clear now — there is no payment for the curators. This was not looking good.

Deepstash — the company

I decided to do some more investigating into the platform itself (a.k.a. Googled some stuff). After all, there are many platforms (ahem Vocal ahem) that are legitimate but that are not the best for writers.

Deepstash is a Romanian start-up launched in 2019 and is part of the Google for Startups Accelerator Program. It has over 1M users. Apart from this nugget of information, there are only PR releases around the time of the app’s launch.

Surprisingly, some of its C-suite executives also have a presence on Medium. The founder, Valdimir Oane, and the co-founder, Christine Mezei, are both on Medium. They both are pretty inactive, though sometimes responding on articles that round-up ‘must-try’ apps, exhorting users to give Deepstash a try too.

Okay, then. Independently of the scammy commenter, it seemed that Deepstash was a new start-up in the ‘content’ field. Nothing shady about that.

Going one step deeper (pun intended)

I wasn’t willing to stop at this. My final lead was one that had been provided by Yug himself in his response (which is now deleted). It was a calendly link to book an appointment with him to talk more.

Sure enough, I went ahead and did just that:

Image by Author

From the confirmation, I was able to get one more piece of information — Yug’s surname. Yug Jain. Sounded Indian (like me), but I didn’t want to presume.

Excited about a work call for the very first time in my life, I was distraught when no one admitted me to the call. Rude. I think the reporting on Medium might have scared him off.

Having run into another dead end, I researched the last piece in the puzzle — Yug Jain. And indeed, the person exists and works for Deepstash as a Content Strategist. I was able to match his LinkedIn profile picture with his Medium profile picture (from my email since his profile is not visible anymore). Yes, CIA, I am available for hire.

Tying it all together with a bow

This is what we know:

  • Deepstash seems to be a legit, albeit new start-up in the content space
  • It is a platform for bite-sized content pieces, which can be linked to longer articles, sort of like Pinterest.
  • It needs curators or the people who will be creating these pieces. But if it has the audience it claims it has, why aren’t creators flocking there? After all, there are other platforms that don’t pay writers (looking at you, Quora), but which still have good ones there, because of the visibility.
  • Why is their content strategist’s strategy to spam Medium authors with mysterious messages to become the enticingly titled curators?

This brings me back to the question I originally posed in my Title and sub-title. Is it a case of poaching authors from Medium (even though it might not be completely stealing them, for example, Newsbreak very successfully lured the biggest writers on Medium to write on their platform too)?

Or, is it a case of scamming authors into working for a platform, importing their social networks as eyeballs for the platform, with not much in return?

I also teach personal finance with this same inquisitive (nosy) attitude. Join my 10-day Personal Finance Crash Course absolutely free here.

Learn how to

· Budget without tracking every penny

· Use credit cards responsibly

· Plan for retirement while having fun

· and much more!

%d bloggers like this: