It’s appears to have been an interesting few months at Medium HQ. First they lay off a significant chunk of the team. Then they pitch their vision for content on the web (advertising is bad). Finally, they launch a membership service, offering premium content and and a handful of member only features.
And, of course, a promise to pay the writers who use the platform. Or, some of them.
It’s an interesting about face, moving away from ads & sponsorships to a pay-for-content service. The entire concept has some merit (and has been tried by other services). But if the NYT struggles to get enough paying subscribers, I’m skeptical that Medium will fare better.
So of course I had to sign up and see what they’re doing.
After a couple of weeks, my skepticism remains. There are several reasons that cause me to doubt the viability of this platform.
First, there is the issue of quality. While I like the idea of an affordable membership paying for the work of writers I enjoy, I have yet to see the quality reflected in the members only content. Perhaps time will see this improve, but there is a lot of fluff content on Medium. This was true before the membership plan, but it has not shown much improvement.
And so distribution is an issue as well. I have also enjoyed some great content on Medium (my Items of Note over the past year are comprised of about 50% Medium content). But I have no idea if my membership fee supports those people. I suspect not, as many of them are not full time writers. They have full time gigs and writing is just a part of their online activity & persona.
I would love to simply support these people. But $5 per month to my 20 favourite online writers gets a bit spendy. This is why I like the concept of micro-financing and what Medium is trying to do. If I could direct where some of the funds go to, this would be a win win situation.
Last, there is still the question of ownership. I continue to believe Medium only works as a social network, a place to syndicate my writing that primarily lives in a location where I am in full control. Premium, member only content only makes the ownership issue more of a problem. If an article I write on Medium is shared with members and I am paid for it, do I have the freedom to post that article on my blog, where it’s available to the world for no cost?
I have no conclusion to share here. But the changes are interesting and I’m very curious to see what the next couple of years have in store for this platform.