Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.
Medium pivots, a big story in the tech press, but the reports center on the company and the publishers, but little focus on the users and their interests.
Medium has zigged and zagged, admirable as a company. I envy their freedom. When I was an entrepreneur, I got one shot at success, no pivots. It must be nice to have the freedom to change course several times, with years of runway at a significant burn rate.
In the meantime, all the content that continues to pour into Medium is at risk due to the missing business model. And this is where I part with Filloux. I wonder why he only discusses Medium’s interest and the interest of its shareholders. What about his interest and that of other people who use Medium as their publishing platform? Is this the best way?
Here are the keys findings:
- The total reach for publications with more than a thousand followers is almost 7 millions readers; (these includes duplicates, i.e. readers who follow more than one publication).
- 20% of publications account for 75% of the followers.
- Only one publication has more than a million followers; it’s the publisher/incubator Matter.
- Publications related to the tech sphere (including some in the “uncategorized” section), account for half of all followers.
This is both good and bad news. On the plus side, Medium mostly addresses the tech elite. This is a premium audience, attracted by quality, more likely to pay for information; on the supply side, publishers on Medium are more likely to go for a revenue sharing coming from subscriptions, as opposed to see their beloved publication infested with toe fungus ads.
On the minus side, as opposed to Buzzfeed, for instance, Medium is not a mass/general public destination, and will never be, even if it claims 60 millions monthly unique readers. This puts a ceiling on its potential for advertising growth — anyway a broken model, according to Ev Williams.
The numbers speak for themselves. 2 billion words written on Medium in the last year. 7.5 million posts during that time. 60 million monthly readers now. Pageviews galore. So step 2 is simply to slap some banner ads on the site, while step 3 is to profit, right?
The reality — again, perhaps hard to see in the midst of such numbers — is that it behooves no one to simply continue down a path if you know the end result isn’t ultimately going to be successful. And so, the prudent yet extremely difficult move is to swallow your prideful metrics and course correct.
And really, it’s just a decision to get back on the road that Medium initially set out upon.
I have read a lot of opinions on the changes Medium is embarking upon. I have thoughts but the fate of Medium doesn’t impact me. I don’t write for direct-revenue. I see the blog as a running resume, a way to express myself, share my adventures, a personal diary out in public and a way for me to run a server and tinker and learn new technologies. The biggest reason I write is because I’ve completely opted out of Social media except to read Reddit.
Medium could fail and that wouldn’t affect me but I want Medium to succeed because someone has to make publishing better. I don’t want Medium to be a silo but I do want them to enable great writers to earn a living and find readers. Medium needs to succeed to prove to us that media can be democratic.
I don’t think Medium is the end-all to publishing but I think they picked up in a way that Blogger and WordPress never did. I’m thrilled that Ev is taken a higher-ground and I hope he builds a lasting company and legacy that impact us all.