Medium is a shopping mall

2020-11-14 2 min read

    I empathize with Medium’s need to make money while avoiding ads but as an author it’s a bad deal. Medium has great editing and writing tools and a built in audience but if your goal is to share your articles with as broad of an audience as possible the fact that Medium throws up a paywall is a non-starter. Sure you can avoid it by going incognito but how many readers know that?

    One way to think about Medium is as a shopping mall that decides to charge admission. Sure they drive foot traffic but every visitor you’re able to drive yourself is forced to pay the admission fee. A mall makes money by charging stores rent and stores pay the rent with the expectation that they’d be able to generate more sales due to the additional foot traffic. This is where the analogy with Medium breaks down - most (all?) writers don’t make any money on the traffic and won’t be willing to pay “rent” for pageviews. Maybe there’s a world where bloggers would pay for reach or additional functionality but it seems like a stretch.

    The obvious model would have been Substack but despite its popularity and potential the total volume of articles written pales in comparison to Medium and it’s unclear how successful it’ll be. Medium tried and abandoned advertising yet the reality is that advertising was likely the right model here to encourage both creation and consumption. Couple that with the option to have both readers and writers pay to remove ads and you end up with the best of both worlds.