Democratising Medium

As the first party publications come to an end, what next for the great content publication experiment?

Jonathan Beckett
Mar 30 · 2 min read

Earlier this week I read a story written by a journalist castigating Ev Williams for announcing that Medium are pivoting away from employing a team of journalists and editors to run a number of “first party” publications on the platform.

When Medium introduced the concept of publications, it seemed somewhat like the attaching of a rudder — to give a directionless ship a heading, and a purpose. The engineering team had built a wonderful publishing platform, but nobody quite knew how best to use it. Publications such as One Zero, and Elemental served as a guiding light — an example for groups of independent writers and editors to follow.

When I joined the Medium partner programme and began researching the various routes toward syndication across the platform, the existence of the first party publications seemed a little unfair. After a little legwork on my part however I soon found a number of interesting independent publications that gladly accepted my work. I was off to the races.

It has come as no surprise that the first party publications have essentially failed. In many ways they have replicated the “old media” content generation model, within a “new media” platform — the only difference being the method of revenue generation. Instead of receiving subscriptions for content directly, or polluting the feed with mindless advertising, the first party publications were always a loss-leader.

The journalists that previously worked in the ivory tower now find themselves on an even footing with the rest of the platform’s content creators — with equal opportunities, and audience access.

I wonder what will happen next. Medium certainly has mind-share in terms of being a platform for thoughtful, original, insightful content. Statesmen, politicians, and celebrities are increasingly turning to it as an outlet for long form writing.

I’m not sure the first party publications had a place on the platform if I’m honest. At least now the playing field will be level.


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