I’m happy to read Backchannel on Wired.
This is a sign of the dysfunction of Medium. In many ways Medium is reflecting a larger problem with the web itself. Ads are increasingly obnoxious (who thinks that auto-play video is ever a good idea?) An increasing number of people are running ad blockers. With ads removed, there is an open question of how quality content will be paid for. Medium seems to be (unsuccessfully) experimenting with a subscription model.
I am only willing to pay for top quality content. I pay for a New York Times and a New Yorker subscription. I also have a subscription to Talking Points Memo (although this is partially a political as well as a content choice).
The quality of the content on Medium is not high enough to motivate me to pay for it. Medium doesn’t seem to have decided whether they are going to really become a publication or not. To become a publication means hiring editors and deciding on a content direction. That doesn’t seem to be happening.
I’m not sure where the web is heading. Right now, it looks like there will be some subscription sites, like the New York Times and the New Yorker that offer high quality, edited content. There will be vastly more sites that offer lower quality content. However, even the lower quality content must be paid for (even if content is free, Internet bandwidth and web servers are not). If ads start failing as a revenue source, where do those sites go?
I have a twenty something colleague who runs ad blocks and refuses to pay for any content. This includes written content and music. The only content he pays for are video games and he only does these because he had no choice. I don’t think that my colleague is unique among people in their 20s and 30s.
Along with paying for content, privacy seems to be a generational issue as well. Privacy seems to be something that people who are older than 40 care about more. The same people who purchase digital music albums or have music subscriptions.
Lots of people focus on what they worry is government surveillance, but they ignore sites like Facebook and Google which are now bound by the laws that the government is. Many people publish photos of their children, seemingly without concern on open Facebook and Instagram pages. Only when something goes unintentionally viral and harms them do people seem to discover privacy and the cost of posting to a billion potential watchers.
Where this all leads, I don’t know. I think that we’re seeing the start of a new stage of Internet evolution. I hope that the result will not be something that is wholly owned by Mark Zuckerberg and Co.