Medium Level Chaos

The official Medium blog announcing renewed custom domain support.
The official Medium blog announcing renewed custom domain support.

Casey Newton very publicly left his job at The Verge for building his own brand on Substack. However, he continues to work with The Verge in some capacity, and they just published his piece on problems at Medium.com. As most have come to expect, Medium is doing yet another pivot in their strategy and is letting go a large chunk of their editorial staff, admitting that their rapid ramp up of publications had been too aggressive.

From Ev Williams’ email about the change to employees, which he published on his blog:

Whether this strategy works or not, here’s what I know is certain: There will be more change in the future. I don’t want to shy away from this reality, as I consider embracing change one of our biggest strengths.

Anecdotally, to a person, everyone I have encountered considers change to be Medium’s biggest weakness. You can’t count on them to stick with any given strategy. While their current (until this week) business model was fairly successful, it apparently was not enough. From Newton’s piece:

Medium entered the year with more than 700,000 paid subscriptions, putting it on track for more than $35 million in revenue, according to two people familiar with the matter. That’s a healthy sum for a media company. But it represents a weak outcome for Williams, who previously sold Blogger to Google and co-founded Twitter, which eventually went public and today has a market capitalization of more than $50 billion.

When I saw figures a few months ago detailing subscriber growth, I thought Medium would now be on a stable path. The figures were correct, but I overestimated the tolerance for slower growth and ability to let the model mature. When I wrote a post about the new strategy, the response I received was one of skepticism about their latest pivot. I understood that reaction, but hoped that the positive results they had seen would stabilize things.

The recently renewed ability to use your own domain name on a publication or on your individual blog further convinced me that Medium was headed in the right direction. Now I’m unsure again. There isn’t much risk in blogging on Medium, if you do use your own domain. If needed, you can export your posts as HTML. Moving off the platform would be pretty easy. There is reason for pause, though. How much would you want to invest in a company that, after almost a decade, still can’t decide what they want to be when they grow up?

Robert Rackley @frostedechoes