As for that entanglement among stories, Mr. Williams has conceded that it’s “confusing.” But this ambiguity isn’t a bug. It’s an essential feature of the business plan. The goal is to create the illusion that everything on Medium belongs to one editorial ecosystem, as if it’s the New York Times.
But unlike the Times, Medium pays for only a small fraction of its stories. The rest are submitted—for free—by writers like you. After a long time being elusive about its business model, Medium revealed that it plans to make money by—surprise!—selling advertising. This means displaying ads, but also collecting and selling data about readers and writers. So Medium will extract revenue from every story, whether it paid for that story or not.
In truth, Medium’s main product is not a publishing platform, but the promotion of a publishing platform. This promotion brings readers and writers onto the site. This, in turn, generates the usage data that’s valuable to advertisers. Boiled down, Medium is simply marketing in the service of more marketing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, therefore, utterly superfluous.
“But what about all the writing on Medium?” The measure of superfluity is not the writing on Medium. Rather, it’s what Medium adds to the writing. Recall the question from above: how does Medium improve the Internet? I haven’t seen a single story on Medium that couldn’t exist equally well elsewhere. Nor evidence that Medium’s editing and publishing tools are a manifest improvement over what you can do with other tools.
In sum—still superfluous.
As writers, we don’t need companies like Medium to tell us how to use the web. Or define openness and democracy. Or tell us what’s a “waste of [our] time” and what’s not. Or determine how and where readers experience our work. We need to decide those things for ourselves.
Matthew Butterick expresses in his piece one of the main reasons on why I’m not sold with Medium, and still prefer to publish everything I want over a space I can really control. Thanks to my pal Andrea Contino for pointing me to Matt’s article…