Monday, March 29, 2021

Medium Buyouts and Leadership Change

Casey Newton (Hacker News):

In a blog post, billionaire Medium founder Ev Williams announced the latest pivot for the nearly nine-year old company. Just over two years into an effort to create a subscription-based bundle of publications committed to high-quality original journalism — and in the immediate aftermath of a bruising labor battle that had seen its workers fall one vote short of forming a union — Williams offered buyouts to all of its roughly 75 editorial employees.


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.

Medium has raised $132 million in venture capital, but its last funding came in 2016. Williams has been funding the company out of his own pocket since then, sources said.

Ev Williams:

To be clear, we had no illusion these publications were going to pay for themselves in the short term. The bet was that we could develop these brands, and they would develop loyal audiences that would grow the overall Medium subscriber base. What’s happened, though, is the Medium subscriber base has continued to grow, while our publication’s audiences haven’t.

Edward Ongweso Jr.:

In his email, Williams announced that the company’s editorial strategy would be shifting away from a focus on publications, seeking to support some “more focused, high-affinity publications” as part of focusing on “supporting independent voices on our platform.”


The move feels in some ways to emulate parts of the individual-based strategy that Substack has championed in the past few months, offering to showcase individual writers and provide them with deals and some support.

Dave Winer:

Medium has been around since 2011, getting pretty close to ten years, and in that time, they have switched business strategies many times. The appear to have done it again yesterday. So here’s another opportunity to take stock of writing on the web, and where we have been and what could change.

Adam Chandler:

I don’t really care if Medium survives or doesn’t but let’s think of the writers here. I’m not talking about the major media blogs who hung up their CMS and identities and moved all-in to Medium for the convenience or desperation but let’s talk about the people my size who published to Medium. They took hours out of their week to publish on Medium and the site will die and take their stories with it.


It is a shame how things went for Medium but like Blogger and eventually, WordPress, these products will die and your data will die with it. This is why owning your data is so important and only using services that support data portability, open source and standards is always going to win on an infinite timescale.

$35 million in revenue should be plenty to keep the lights on, so I don’t think there’s an immediate risk of losing what you’ve posted. But the trajectory of changes is not looking good, and without support for custom domains your links are guaranteed to break if you ever have to move.


1 Comment RSS · Twitter

$35 in revenue should be plenty to keep the lights on

The eventual prayer of most app developers. (taking advantage of a typo for a joke)

Leave a Comment