You can’t make unicorns like that.
- Automattic, the “WordPress company”, is valued at 1.16 Billion
- medium.com is valued at 600 million
- medium is supposed to be an unicorn
This is peanuts. Asking for money for profile tools? Paying for premium access to followers? Ha ha! It is as if google would drop its advertising business and get money exclusively through premium Gmail and business Google Docs. Ha. Ha. Where would the shovels of cash thrown into becoming “AI first” come from then? The internet companies have wildly different goals.
Let me tell you what I mean below.
Ev is not at his first stint. Ev did what Matt does. He made a great blogging platform, it is in the past. Medium is supposed to be the next level. So far that ceiling is pretty hard to break. Ev is not Matt. Just like Jason Fried is not Peter Thiel. Just like Yvon Chouinard is not Jeff Bezos. You cannot fail to see that business is nothing without the people who envision what that business is. 37 signals is no Palantir, and the other way around. Patagonia is no Amazon, and yes there is a comparison even though one is a giant store and the other is a fashion brand, they have different core values. Which is why I hate when people offer Amazon as the universally valued model for business success. It is not.
The “take money for stuff” classic business model does not generate the fuel of unicorns: faith. It generates revenue, but revenue is a road block if you aim at becoming the behemoth of online publishing, like Facebook is the behemoth of Internet Contacts or Amazon the behemoth of Internet Carts.
There is more.
I hardly think Ev or anyone in the Medium investor panel thinks of this platform as an enabler for the open decentralized web where everyone has control over their voice, but instead I think the model they seek is to somehow become the next gatekeeper: want friends, you need FB, want information, you need GOOG and so on, in this case, want good content, you need Medium.
This race they momentarily put the brakes on, was to directly compete with Facebook to lure in the big players in publishing. How? By using the AdBlock created momentum to push for the advantage of using an uncluttered and streamlined content consumption platform. Everybody can make platforms, it is the writer that is the real asset. And real writers do blogs on the side. Real writers and real journalists still publish using the big channels, big publications. For a platform looking to become the next gatekeeper to content, you need to bring in the big publishing brands of the world and convince them to use your channel for distributing content.
Let’s see where I know this from: their About Us page says in headline bold:
“Medium connects you with voices and perspectives that matter.”
To achieve this, you need to innovate and be more than the classic business in “Capitalism 101”. You need to burn money while you test and try all kinds of never seen before approaches and yes, you need to fix publishing, because publishing is broken for Medium’s business vision.
Medium is not about monetizing, Medium is about publishing.
And it is publishing which the need to disrupt. But publishing as of now is not an easy to disrupt economy, because:
- starving journalism actually becomes more authentic
- defunded publishers grow cult followings
- authors and writers and journalists have a deeply ingrained sense of their worth and know the value of their work, irrespective of how much they’re paid for it
- advertising works, advertising works, advertising works
- people don’t pay for content until you take the content away
People don’t pay for content until you take the content away. In communism access to content was non existent. When communism went away the biggest post communist fortunes were made from selling content, without advertising.
And regarding that survey: a business ran by polls is a horrible idea. Medium is not searching for what “features” to add to this tool they’re building. They are soul searching and asking Members for ideas when you’re soul searching is akin to calling your friends and asking them to tell you the meaning of YOUR life. Considering no one really understands the meaning of life in general, would you like to be told the meaning of your life by other people?