Meet Matter Studios

“Be more radical,” Ev Williams once emailed me, which is the most terrifying and electrifying thing your boss could say.

OK, here’s more radical:

Today, we’re spinning off Matter, the National Magazine Award-winning longform publication, from the Medium mothership.
We’re now an independent media company called Matter Studios. And we’re going to be a very different kind of media company.

For starters: It’s not a website. It’s not a website. Matter won’t even be a publication, not anymore, or a publisher, not precisely. We’ve been describing it as sort of a studio and sort of an incubator.

Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Matter will work with diverse, visionary, entrepreneurial voices—creators who are finding themselves constrained inside even the most forward-thinking media companies, who want to break out, who want to pioneer their own things.
  • We’re going to give these creators the financing and creative support to develop different media products under their own brands, from multiplatform digital journalism, to podcasts and books, to live events, to streaming film, TV, and video, to new things we haven’t thought of yet. We want stories and projects that are timely, daring, form-breaking, that have genuine social value and cover topics of consequence, that offer unique and underrepresented perspectives, that will bend the zeitgeist and change the culture.
  • We’ll build whole worlds out of these projects, by exploring their themes and subjects in experimental, iterative ways across distributed platforms, and by rallying and engaging powerful communities around them.
  • We’ll make sure these stories have the distribution, reach, and influence they deserve, and we’ll develop with each of our creators the sustainable model of support that best fits their voice and their work.
  • And when these personalities, these stories, explode, we’ll give them the investment, guidance, and resources to set up their own independent media entities and vibrant, expanding intellectual properties.
Essentially: Matter is going to be for digital storytellers what HBO and Amazon Studios are for TV makers, or what the best incubators are for startups.

Who is Matter Studios?

Ev Williams — the co-founder and CEO of Medium, not to mention the co-founder of Obvious Ventures, Twitter, and Blogger — will be Matter’s chairman and owner. (The overwhelming majority of his time, of course, will still be devoted to Medium.)

Hillary Frey—most recently the executive editor of Fusion and one of the most respected and beloved newsroom leaders in journalism — and I will be its chief creative officers. (Me, I’ve been the editor in chief of Matter and the head of editorial at Medium for the past couple of years.) Disclosure: Hillary and I are married, and we’re exactly the sort of nerds who dream up “kind of a studio and kind of an incubator” on our vacations and in our spare time.

The three of us have been talking about this for a long time — about how to do work of impact and fun outside a badly homogenized media environment and free of the preposterous pressures of traffic and scale; how to put the focus back on creators and their individuality, rather than on big brands getting bigger; how to push the boundaries of other platforms and formats as hard and as far as Matter’s pushed Medium.

To us, it feels like very much the right moment — the necessary moment — to turn what we think is a pretty cool idea into a real, working thing.

We’ll be announcing an initial slate of creators and projects soon. In the meantime, Matter Studios is represented by Sloan Harris at ICM Partners, and together we’re going to turn this into the most energizing, most supportive, most collaborative home for digital storytellers. We’re also building a brain trust of advisers that includes:

  • Stephen Friedman, the former president of MTV, who won four Emmy awards and two Peabody awards for groundbreaking pro-social campaigns and who’s now returned to his roots to focus on social impact and mission-driven companies
  • Akilah Hughes, a UCB-trained stand-up comedian, YouTuber, a contibutor to Fusion and MTV, and a fellow at the Sundance Episodic Story Lab
  • Bobbie Johnson, the Medium editor who co-founded the original Kickstarter-backed Matter and masterminded our Ellie-nominated Ghost Boat investigation
  • Lydia Polgreen, a veteran editor and foreign correspondent at The New York Times who currently leads the paper’s global expansion effort
  • Laura Olin, the digital campaigner behind Obama’s 2012 social media strategy and the creator of The Awl’s Everything Changes newsletter
  • Fisher Stevens, the documentary filmmaker, producer, and actor, who directed Mission Blue and Another World, and won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for co-producing The Cove

So. We’re going to make stuff and we’re going to get stuff made. That’s the idea, though we have no real idea where it’s going to lead. Matter’s always been this mad scientist’s laboratory of creativity, a slightly bonkers and forever-evolving experiment. This is just the beginning.