Picture by Simon Davison

When you use Medium , do you feel it’s worth $132,000,000?

I got no idea how much of the $132,000,000 Medium received from investors is left at MEDIUM. But they layed off staff and within two months they rolled out more “substantial” changes than in the roughly two years I am using the platform.

So I assume their bank account statement has them in panic mode!

By-Note: I am an old fashioned guy. I expect a lot for $132,000,000. I know the failing renewable energy start-up I partnered in could have built seven or eight 5MWel power-plants running on biomass, each with six to eight percent return rates over 20 years, guaranteed by either the German or UK government. With 0.75 percent of what MEDIUM got, I could finance a last-minute turn around to a new business model while buying out other owners, retaining staff and signing on the first new customers. Renewables sadly only offer only small numbers, even in scaleable business models, not millions of users to make money with through ads :-(
When you are failing, you need extra-good ideas to turn around!

One of Medium’s “extra good ideas” is a subscription model. It is probably the easiest thing to implement and it generates some cash-flow into the company, instead of only seeing cash flow out.

But what is innovative about a subscription model? And do we not have enough established newspapers with millions of offline readers, newspapers who fail with online subscriptions?

No, giving the subscription money only to authors who provide special, deep understanding in the eyes of staff is not innovative! It is sales-talk for what will always be a standard boring subscription model, quickly coded into the platform! And it means that users have no say, where their cash goes! I am not flattered by this at all! I wonder if their investors are?

By-note: If they are, please provide me their contact data. They will be shaking to their bones from what they could get for one percent of what they put into Medium.

Alternatives? Well, even in panic mode there are alternatives, though most are harder to implement and things beyond panic usually take time.

Ads

may not be loved. But in what turned from Silicon Valley into Madison Valley, they allways seem to make money and sell with investors. So let people decide how many ads they wish to see per every minute of read. Some will set the pointer to zero and some will accept an ad per every two minutes of read.

However you do not have the money flow to the authors! It’s the reader whom you sell to advertisers!

So you let every reader get some cash for each ad impression they see. Then let readers spend that money on those authors whose contributions they really like or feel worth rewarding for the sheer effort put into them, or for the sorrow they feel for them.

This is the Internet and it is supposedly about empowering people, not empowering MEDIUM staff to reward their favorites or the favorites of their algorithms!

User wallets

…would have been an option too, mostly when there was still enough cash at MEDIUM. While not many investors might be keen to hand their money to users, giving every user a small abmount of cash in a user wallet to reward articles could have drawn not only a lot of attention, it might have worked wonders. It often does so for gambling sites.

User wallets could receive a free refill every month and users who read and write could see their wallet filled by others. Such a function could be run over some time to understand the growing eco-system before one starts with a cash-out feature. In the meanwhile one can assess how much income or subsidies one would need to keep the eco-system alive and growing.

A/B-Testing is not only for website design and content but also for building eco-systems within your platform. However such tests may by now take longer than MEDIUM was given by investors.

But they could have walked this way for the insight and the insight gained might have gotten them more time than a lukewarm reception of their boring, off-the-shelf subscription model. The latter one can result in a quick death-penalty upon not hitting target numbers.

Selling articles on Medium

…is still not possible. Authors could get an income from offering and selling content to publications, not just on Medium but even regular newspapers.

Every publisher who joins the service, could even have to pay a basic fee to generate some cash-flow.

Assuming $200 a month per publisher and just 100 publishers around the world joining in, this would generate as much cash as 4,000 subscribing users would. And heck, I have seen/read articles on Medium worth that monthly fee and even more!

This way the market for content would determine the authors income, not intransparent staff or algorithms!

Micropayments

…never really broke through. But still implementing an existing platform could have been done years ago. It never was. Medium staff only knows why. It could have been done even now, even quick and dirty.

Micropayments would not have generated cash-flow for Medium, but how many platforms are out there, where you can pay the author directly for whatever reason? And I mean multi-topic-platforms!

If micropayments would have worked sufficiently, then other services for reward or payments could have been set up, too.

Guaranteed Basic Income

…seems popular with young people these days. A basic income for all contributors (maybe even linked to the hours of reading they provided, or a KPI mix of the ratio of reads and recommendations) takes the User Wallet concept a step further. It though would have to be financed by something or someone.

This guaranteed basic income for contributors could come from subscriptions, ads, both of those. It would be given equally to all, as all writing efforts are viewed as equally important.

This may not add to quality levels of articles though. For a contributor from Bangladesh $10 a month is way more money than for one from California a huge shift in author origin would probably follow.

And while this feature would probably be hard to implement in ways it works and most likely not be a sustainable business model, I wanted to list this option for matters of overview and to add some disruption to thinking in boring subscriptions only.

Boring subscription models can be bought everywhere. Content for cash is abundant, as are functions for cash (SaaS and alike). I believe that functions always beat content in a race for cash.

That’s why I believe a mix of selling articles and the user wallet would outscore any Medium subscription service in terms of generating cash-flow, quality authors and a little longer life-time!

The “revolutionary” MEDIUM Stories do not convince me either! They too, in my opinion, reveal that Medium staff thinks too much in linear ways, less in a net-centric way. This, from the beginning, has prevented topical clusters of articles to form inside the Medium universe. Dialogues do not form and a one-liner praising or banshing a contribution finds itself in one line with valuable replies of in-depth comments.

MEDIUM is an o.k. online typewriter. They should stop rolling out new functions and take their last reserves to a well-networked Mergers & Acquisition lawyer. A good strategic merger is almost always possible, if investors agree. An M&A deal in my view comes with more hopes for survival for Medium, than the team rolling out more “revolutionary” features in the coming weeks while still lacking basic functions any author-platform would need.

Indeed not much to see on Medium for $132,000,000! Where did all that money go to?

P.S.: Half of that money would have done more to make Hillary Clinton win in Michigan and Wisconsin, than all Pro-Hillary and Anti-Trump contributions on Medium!

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