Medium needs ideas for Medium’s next chapter
Comms + policy. Author of #digitaldiplomacy (2015), Twitter for Diplomats (2013). My views here.
Let’s crowdsource ideas to reimagine the future of Medium.
To many of Medium’s fans like me, Ev Williams’s post yesterday on the future of the platform comes to a surprise. The company is making some major changes, including laying off 1/3 of its staff, closing its offices in New York and Washington DC, and setting up a new, “different — and bolder — approach” to reinvent the system that supports online content.
Medium’s decision is a clear shift from the broken ad-driven revenue model to a new, reimagined-but-not-yet-defined model:
So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.
However — to put it in Ev’s words — it is still too soon to say exactly what the future of Medium will look like.
But I’m sure Medium’s community has plenty of ideas to offer to the company’s leadership in order to pave the road ahead and build a better platform, a better reward system, and a better experience for writers and for readers… In order to disrupt the system, not repurpose it.
We all agree with DHH, in Silicon Valley, “you have to DISRUPT. You have to REINVENT.” It’s a no brainer. But not an easy equation.
vI challenge all to list their ideas, hoping they can help Ev and his team — and eventually us users.
Here are my ideas… What are yours?
- As I mentioned in my original response to Ev’s post, just like Netflix re-invented TV, Medium needs to reinvent long-form content and how we consume it. “A Netflix for words,” as Brennan McEachran writes. Or “A writing all you can eat buffet,” as Hugo Alves calls it. I completely agree with Joseph Smarr when he writes on his response to Ev’s post: “I can totally imagine getting to the point where I’m paying a fixed amount per month to the ‘Medium network’, which gets distributed proportionally based on some deeper metrics they’re able to gather on which authors and pieces drive the most real engagement, discussion, enlightenment, etc.” I’m certainly down for a model that allows us to subscribe to content consumption, multiple publications, and exclusive reads. But content would need to be different — better if you will — from what Medium offers today. And that brings me to my next point.
- M.G. Siegler writes: “Publishing, as we know it, is broken. More specifically, publishing on the internet is broken. And more specifically still, publishing written content on the internet is broken.” This is very true. To me, the way we readers consume/buy content is broken. Not only when it comes to subscribing to news outlets — whether it’s The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or other major or minor news publication , even when via Facebook— but also when it comes to books. How many of us use Amazon to buy books, ebooks, and even textbooks for school and college? I’d love a system that would allow users and subscribers to access content on demand — of course that would require new partnerships, but it would also require new efforts to create exclusive content. In short, it would require Medium to be at the same time a publisher, a library, a bookstore, a newsstand, and a platform for authors and writers to market their long-form content. Does this exist already?
- And why not a Medium for books, as Lisa Renee suggests in her post — that is “old school, pretty paper things for us to hold in our hands.”
- Free content is [or seems to be] what the Internet is all about. But as Ev writes, “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.” The Facebook age complicates this even further as it camouflages advertising materials as news stories and fake news as real news — although, as Paul Dughi writes, “The awareness of the proliferation of fake news may turn out to be a good thing.” That said the ad-driven revenue model is not going away, not anytime soon. As Elizabeth Spiers writes, “too many Valley companies intent on fixing broken models think incumbent companies are using broken models because they’re idiots and not because the problems are not easily solved.” Maybe the model needs to be revisited so to allow ‘campaigns’ of any sort — for marketers, for writers and authors, for politicians, for social-good entities and charities, etc. And Medium revenue beta program publishers need to be part of the solution.
- I can also see Medium becoming a tool for news outlets and writers to crowdsource paid content: a local news site offering $5–10 for an interview on a specific subject (like Stringr does for TV news outlets); an author looking for somebody to edit a first draft (like Steve Case with his latest post Help Edit My Book); or a company needing a translation.
- Medium’s value proposition is not only the way Medium-ers share and interact with content, but also the incredible network of readers and writers it has been able to build and nurture since the beginning. This is comes particularly handy when it comes to amplifying content. But it still works as a social media platform that focuses mostly on soundbites and open content… And engagement still looks problematic, as Andrew Åkesson highlights in a recent post.
I realize some of those ideas might just be crazy or not practical. But maybe they will help Medium refocus and reimagine itself. They come from somebody who loves the platform — I admit I’m addicted to it :) — and how it’s always shown a keen ability to morph and adjust.
I agree with Abby Norman when she writes: “The expectations are higher now.” Like her, many of us are frustrated, even a little hurt, and certainly confused.
I’m excited to see if more of us come up with more ideas for Medium to help the platform evolve, morph, and adjust again. The expectations are now higher than ever before.
Come on Medium-ers!
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