Medium founder and CEO Ev Williams demonstrated the downside of dealing with the devil yesterday when he announced the blogging platform would fire a third of its staff and cease sharing ad revenue with creators. This despite Medium continuing to raise millions while overall tech funding remains stagnant. While Ev Williams’ and Medium’s bottom line remains safe, the same can’t be said for those who trusted it:
A number of small but influential online publications — including The Awl, The Bold Italic, Film School Rejects and HBO’s The Ringer — took Medium up on this offer, either migrating their entire sites over to Medium or launching new sites on the platform. In September 2016, Poynter reported that Medium had accepted 30 publishers into the revenue program.
Medium offered minimum revenue guarantees to some publications in the program, promising to pay them a certain amount of money even if it was unable to sell advertising against their content.
As of this week, Medium will no longer sell any advertising at all, though it’s still expected to honor the minimum revenue guarantees. But once those guarantees expire in a few months, the online publications that decided to go all-in on Medium last year could be in trouble.
Content creators, especially those centered in social justice, were always a means to an end for Medium. Silicon Valley loves to decorate itself with trusted activists while funding and campaigning for the most conservative candidates and initiatives on the ballot, and Williams is a chip off the old alabaster block. Medium attracted many indie content creators and media outlets to its platform with promises of revenue sharing, reaped the benefits of hosting them by boosting its funding, valuation and prestige, and then shut off the revenue-sharing tap once it had what it needed. The Silicon Valley way.