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The Mess at Medium

Casey Newton, with an interesting take on what’s been going on with Medium.com:

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’s original journalism was meant to give shape and prestige to an essentially random collection of writing, gated behind a soft paywall that costs readers $5 a month or $50 a year. Eleven owned publications covered food, design, business, politics, and other subjects.

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.

Remember when Medium was first around and it was the darling of web publishing? Everyone had to get a Medium account. Oddly enough, it’s still the publishing platform of choice for many high-profile writers. I still don’t understand why anyone would want to write there.

I can’t think of a better article to explore the virtues of owning your own presence on the web. I get it: it’s still too tech-y and annoying for most people to buy a domain, configure a website, and keep it online to publish their thoughts. Medium, and others like it, are the easy path. We in the industry should be making this easier, without the walled gardens and centralized control of platforms like Medium. Journalism and writing on the web is better when there are more options and places to publish, not less.