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Arc Digital

The Discourse Report: November 23, 2020

Welcome to DiscRep, your guide to the public discourse. I’m Berny Belvedere, editor in chief of .

Rundown

This is the relaunch of DiscRep. Except it’s no longer on Substack. It’s now on Medium.

Why Medium?

I like Medium. , my site, is on Medium. There’s a vibrant intellectual community on Medium. One of the very best hubs for COVID-19 info is on Medium. One of the best tech publications is on Medium. My satire site is on Medium (though we’ve only soft-launched it thus far).

(Full disclosure: Medium is a close partner of , but Medium neither owns nor employs any of its staffers.)

When I heard Medium had launched a newsletter function, I wanted to bring DiscRep onto it. What I like most about Medium is they’re always tinkering, always wanting to enhance what they offer, always trying to find new ways to be a better platform.

Substack’s fine — I have no issues with it. I just … prefer Medium.

Quite apart from my own choice to be here, I see Substack and Medium as the future of the internet’s re-embrace of the blogging function. (I’m excepting Twitter here, which despite being a microblogging site in its own right, is also a platform option that is rather than monetizable.)

Substack’s platform works like a charm for well-known entities trying to fund their operations via subscription-based revenue streams. If you’ve got a sizable audience, built up over years, Substack gives you the opportunity to capitalize off that.

See if you can spot the common denominator across the following names: Matt Stoller, Heather Cox Richardson, Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, Judd Legum, Yascha Mounk, Matthew Yglesias. Anything stand out? Every one of these writers had massive followings prior to joining Substack. Each of them has over 100K followers on Twitter. When you add the talent from the major publications that have chosen to set up shop there (), or to partially set up shop there (), it’s clear Substack is a tool that can be used to great effect by people with preexisting readerships.

Medium strikes me as the better option for more up-and-coming writers — writers whose audiences aren’t yet big enough to bankroll their operations. Medium’s got this pool of funds writers can tap into that is part of what they call the Partner Program. Writers earn revenue based on Medium’s internal performance metrics. (pays writers a flat fee and allows their work to be eligible for extra revenue from the Partner Program.) A piece that gets lots of attention from Medium members will likely earn its writer a nice chunk of change. It can be frustrating when a piece doesn’t earn so well, but for many writers, the Partner Program surely represents a more viable funding strategy than for those same writers to somehow convince people to pony up a monthly amount in exchange for getting to flood their emails.

Over time, in our shared digital ecosystem, you might start to see more sorting along these lines: (1) thinkers and writers with big followings leaving their media positions, or dropping their regular freelance arrangements, to capitalize off their popularity via a Substack blog, and (2) everyone else heading to Medium to earn revenue on individual pieces and to try to build a following from the ground up.

It’s amazing how closely this discussion parallels the one about streaming service subscriptions. In that world, cable was king for the longest time. In recent years, people have increasingly ditched their 74,000-channel cable services in favor of three, or four, or nine streaming service subscriptions. It was cost effective when all you needed was Netflix — but it no longer feels like such a good deal when you need Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO Max, CBS All Access, Peacock, Disney+, Apple TV+, etc.

Similarly, there’s a growing consternation about what the new Substack model means for our Hot Take Budgets. You get a subscription to and it’s a flat fee for their entire lineup of reporters and opinion writers. On the Substack model, though, you pay for each individually. It’s possible that there will need to be some consolidation in order for the model to work over time. But once that happens, what? Do we now just have a publication again? Just . . . with fewer editors?

However the platform sorting ends up going, the most interesting element in all this is that blogging is back.

It never really went anywhere, actually. But the content we were seeing didn’t like blogging since the aesthetics and platforms were different. Now, though, there can be no mistake. It’s back.

Tweets

G Digitalz Smooth

David French

Andrei Cherny

Akiva Cohen

Audio & Visual

Biden’s Cabinet Picks Include Historic Firsts (CNN)

How Facts and Data Tell the Story of the Covid Pandemic (Bloomberg Technology)

What Trump Allies Said About Election Results in 2016 (The Washington Post)

How 2020 Is Reshaping Black Friday (The Wall Street Journal)

Links

Thanks for reading,

Berny Belvedere

Editor in Chief,

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