In an April email to about two dozen publisher partners, blog platform Medium notified publishers that, in May, the company will no longer offer them the ability to offer paid memberships, reports Shan Wang for Nieman Lab. A Medium spokesperson said subscribers were notified on April 27 that Medium would start shutting down the program as individual memberships come up for renewal. Chris Faraone, founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, said they were never notified by Medium; they found out from a subscriber.
‘We’ve had an arrangement with them for two years. I’m not saying they don’t have a right to break it. We’ve been scaling back, trying to get people to other platforms anyway. But it’d be nice to have more of a heads up,’ said Faraone in the Nieman Lab article. ‘Our experience in dealing with a lot of these tech-oriented operations is that there’s some good reception, but in the end, it’s whatever their whim is.’
Through a spokesperson, Medium’s head of partnerships Basil Enan said it didn’t hear from BINJ, and publishers who asked for more time, were given some leeway to notify their subscribers or to move them to other platforms or products. Part of the problem, said Nieman Lab, is that subscribers didn’t know if they were becoming members of Medium or subscribers of their favorite Medium publishers like BINJ, The Ringer and The Awl.
‘The primary reason for discontinuing this feature is that it creates confusion among paying Medium members who do not have access to certain stories that are locked only for subscribers of a specific publication,’ explained Enan.
This is more than a ‘he said, he said’ scenario. Since the beginning, Medium CEO Ev Williams has made regular, unexpected shifts to the business model, making the platform’s relationship with publishers unpredictable. The timing is also interesting. On April 5, Williams wrote another manifesto on ‘The Medium Model,’ talking about the significant growth the company has experienced since launching the Medium Membership this time last year.
According to Williams, Medium is seeing accelerated growth each month, and more than 50,000 writers publish on Medium every week. He goes onto explain how Medium offers ‘a lot for a little.’
‘Medium is one of the largest bundles of original content of its type, so it’s a great value for readers. And it’s definitely the easiest way to get paid directly for writing, so we’re seeing rapid growth in people who may not have written on Medium before,’ wrote Williams.
‘We take pride that we offer a level playing field for diverse voices from everywhere to be heard. By curating and organizing these stories we have the equivalent of a publication with more talent than any other – and it’s growing all the time,’ Williams added.
‘One thing I didn’t mention is that all aspects of Medium are growing?-?not just subscriptions. (We don’t use it as a core metric internally, but we often get asked about unique visitors for comparison sake. That’s at 80M for the last 30 days.) With these basic mechanics established, we can continue to grow and invest, which will allow us to do a better and better job serving both readers and writers,’ said Williams.
If that’s true, then why did Medium really cancel paid memberships for publishers? Williams also said the company is looking at a new user experience – again. The company has vowed to pay out more via its Partner Program, it will offer collaboration tools, and will add audio narration.
With so many business model shifts and promises to offer more tools and options for publishers, writers and readers, it is hard to take anything Ev Williams says seriously. He talks a good game, yes, and I believe he has the best of intentions, but the only thing consistent about Medium is its inconsistency. Williams seems to talk more about changes and his philosophies and strategies than he spends actually working on them.