The mess at Medium
Casey Newton writing on Platformer has an interesting take on the changes Medium is making to its editorial staff.
🚨 The mess at Medium
Last week, a partnerships manager at Medium working with the White House found that there was a strange problem with…
In a blog post, billionaire Medium founder Ev Williams announced the latest pivot for the nearly nine-year old company. Just over two years into an effort to create a subscription-based bundle of publications committed to high-quality original journalism — and in the immediate aftermath of a bruising labor battle that had seen its workers fall one vote short of forming a union — Williams offered buyouts to all of its roughly 75 editorial employees.
Medium has raised $132 million in venture capital, but its last funding came in 2016. Williams has been funding the company out of his own pocket since then, sources said.
But in the end, frustrated that Medium staff journalists’ stories weren’t converting more free readers to paid ones, Williams moved to wind down the experiment — throwing dozens of journalists’ livelihoods into question, just as he had in 2015, when he laid off 50 people amid a pivot away from advertising on the site. (This 2019 history of the company by Laura Hazard Owen in Nieman Lab offers a definitive look at the company’s stop-start relationship with journalism up to that point.)
Instead, like most publications in the platform era, Medium’s traffic successes came from search engines and social networks.
Staffers who worked on Medium’s core technology platform generally had less positive things to say. Williams was prone to change his mind often, seemingly on a whim, they said, making software development difficult. The product roadmap over the years looks like a series of blind alleys: in 2019, a take on Snapchat stories; last June, a refreshed newsletter platform; in January, an acquisition of an e-book publisher.