The Medium Move: Editorial Content vs. Ad Revenue
February 1, 2017
I was pretty startled to hear that publication company Medium.com laid off more than a third of its company due to what the CEO calls “a broken ad model.” Ev Williams, Medium’s CEO says “ad-driven media on the internet” is to blame for the company’s shortcomings. He believes that misinformation and the pressure to pump out weak content leads to a system that just doesn’t serve the people. Thus, compromising depth, originality, and quality.
It’s evident through these statements that Medium prides itself on being a publication that creates unique, high-quality content. Content that serves the user rather than an outlet for ads. Now you can see why this is a problem for Medium: by not being a site that the general public flocks to in masses, you inherently adopt a short ceiling for advertising growth. Which leads to loss in revenue, and firing employees.
Williams later added via NPR radio that he wants to move away from ad-supported content by employing an alternative model: one in which user would pay for the amount of content they read. While the idea was just thrown out there, no sources have confirmed this is the route they will be a taking. A less extraneous model, such as the subscription-based profit model could be popular amongst Medium.com and similar publications whose content tends to skew towards the likes of a loftier audience.
But how will businesses who rely on clickbait, fake news, or mediocre content adapt? While the subscription-based model might be out of the questions for publications who rely on such tactics, such as BuzzFeed.com, the hopeful future of programmatic ads still sits and the forefront of many marketers ambitions.
It’s not just Medium who feels this way. NY Times echoes similar feels on the subject, saying that valuable content served to their target audience is much more valuable than a viral piece.
One size does not fit all, and the subscription-based model definitely isn’t applicable to every type of publication. Viral cheap quality content can be great, and informative and quality content is, too! If an alternative model can be crafted to fit the needs of publication who don’t strive for mass consumption, then so be it. As advertisers and content creators, we must be mindful in that the ideas and strategies we implement effect the entire digital landscape.
Now tell me, is Medium.com’s move genius? Or just misplaced hope?