Must-read: Brian Feldman: “A Bunch of Websites Migrate to Medium–Following: How We Live Online”

Must-Read: Brian Feldman: A Bunch of Websites Migrate to Medium–Following: How We Live Online: “Medium has now placed its bets firmly on the ‘platform’ side of its bipolar business…

…It makes sense. Of the many reasons given for the decline of the media establishment, one of the most compelling has been the technological blind spot of many publishing companies, which operate at a slower pace than the portals and social networks that dictate how much traffic they receive. Part of the reason that BuzzFeed–to name the most prominent example–ate everyone else’s lunch so quickly is due to their substantial in-house tech department. Many others outsource development of new features to contractors. Medium wants to be everyone’s tech department (and, eventually, their ad department as well). In return for bearing the brunt of that work, Medium gets a bunch of publications to publish good stuff on their platform. And for a small website in particular, the pitch is good….

The dream of the internet, with its low overhead and near-infinite user base, is that a smart publication can find a large audience whose attention and traffic can sustain it. But it’s increasingly clear that the demands of the web economy are squeezing out the already-small middle class of independent content creators — even those with audiences in the hundreds of thousands. If Medium can help small and self-sustaining publishers like the Awl and Pacific Standard be better, for longer, that’s something to celebrate. But it also feels like the latest in a series of increasingly clear signals that the display-ad model, relying as it does on irritating and cheap programmatic ad networks, and competition with much larger publications (not to mention social networks), is not a sustainable business model even for the smart and popular.

April 8, 2016


Brad DeLong
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