Ev Williams, the founder and CEO of Medium, announced today that they will be laying of 50 people, and and changing their business model:
We decided we needed to take a different — and bolder — approach to this problem. We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.
The problems that Medium are facing are the same problems as every person who is trying to make money writing on the web.
I like Medium a lot. I think it's the best platform on the internet for writers who want their voice to be heard. When I was writing about the NBA last year, it was only when I started to post my work on Medium that places like Sports Illustrated started to notice.
I applaud Medium for seeing that the way ad revenue is divided up over the internet needs to change. I also agree with John Gruber over at Daring Fireball when he says that:
I also don’t think the problem is “ad-driven media on the internet” in general, but rather, the specific ways most ad-driven media on the internet work — and have worked, ever since the first banner ad in 1994. Measuring clicks and page views inevitably leads to clickbait. Instead, measure attention. There’s no way to cheat that other than by producing content that is worthy of attention.
In the meantime I wonder if Medium will start to roll out some kind of subscription model in which readers can give their favorite writers a bit of money every month. It's a model that has worked for decades with larger publications, and is surprisingly effective for video services like Twitch and Youtube, and a lot of writers are already using services like Patreon to make a living. The idea that people should be getting paid for providing content is starting to resonate. Medium could be in a unique position to be the first mass publishing platform to take advantage of this kind of model...
Or not. They could be be looking into a different business model altogether. Whatever they are working on, I hope they figure this out, because finding a longterm solution to online advertising is good for everyone.