Medium and There Is Only R

We started There Is Only R over the summer as our in-house publication about all things VR/AR/MR. (“There is no VR/AR/MR, there is only R”.) It has multiple functions for us: it allows us to talk to innovators in the industry, it helps us educate ourselves about what’s happening, it provides us with a platform to express our institutional opinions and findings, it gives us a mechanism to build community, and it’s a calling card. So far, we’ve been really happy with it.

We were also part of Medium’s revenue beta for publishers. Because we’re a small quasi-trade pub, I didn’t expect that this would result in meaningful revenue (and it hasn’t; we only saw ads on the page recently), but monetizing wasn’t its primary raison d’etre, so it was fine.

Now Medium is shutting down its publisher program, which is sort of unexpected given that (in my opinion) they had mostly opted for traditional ad sales for monetization, which is what they were theoretically going to find an alternative to. So I respect Ev, and believe that being proactive when there’s a problem is important, but I’ll admit I’m baffled when the stated rationale for throwing in the towel is that ad-backed media is broken. If we agree that it is, it was broken when Medium began the publisher program, and had they listened to any people who’ve been publishers before (many of the publishers in their revenue program, for example), that would have been obvious. So I agree with Bryan Goldberg here when he says that you generally have to understand an industry before you try to disrupt it, and too many Valley companies intent on fixing broken models think incumbent companies are using broken models because they’re idiots and not because the problems are not easily solved.

That said, I love Medium as a platform, and I wish them well. It would have been nice if someone from the company would have reached out about this, though. I still haven’t haven’t heard from them, and only found out this was happening because I read about it on the Internet. Move fast, break things, etc — but be professional, too.