Popular long-form blogging platform Medium has given the biggest hint yet as to how and when it will let publishers monetize their content.
Medium founder Evan Williams — who also cofounded Twitter — told the BBC, “We’re building monetization into the product right now,” adding that some of these features should be out by the end of this quarter, which basically means within a month or so.
In terms of what such monetization features will look like, well, Williams was quick to stress that it won’t be messy banner ads; it will more likely be sponsored content — similar to the way online publishers such as BuzzFeed make money. While that in itself won’t be revolutionary (or even that surprising), Williams added that there could be some sort of paid model that gives users access to additional content.
“I think there are ways to [run ads] that are respectful to the user experience and privacy,” continued Williams. “We’re not limiting ourselves to advertising. I also think there’s a lot of potential for premium or subscription or even user-paid content, some sort of paywall or membership.”
Today’s news comes five months after Medium introduced a new publishing API, a WordPress plugin, and announced a slew of new content partners at an event in San Francisco. At that event, Williams said there would be new ways for publishers to monetize their work on Medium, though he stopped short of saying what that would be.
Though Williams has still not stated exactly what monetization features will be rolling out, or in what order, whatever it is could prove a cash cow not just for publishers, but for Medium itself. While Medium has already made moves to monetize through sponsorships, it could also explore a revenue-sharing model with publishers, though it hasn’t yet confirmed whether this will be on its agenda.
The future of publishing?
Medium has emerged as the default blogging platform for many, and it is often used by individuals and companies that already have their own blogging mechanisms. For example, when RunKeeper was acquired by Asics last month, founder Jason Jacobs made the big reveal first through Medium, even though there is a company blog (which the announcement was later published to). There was also a showdown between Amazon and the New York Times that saw a series of back-and-forth rebuttals across Medium — regarding a controversial article that appeared on the Times‘ website — and raised Medium’s profile considerably. Then there are the random musings of ordinary people seeking to go in-depth on a subject they care about.
All of this could help direct us toward what may be the future of online publishing. “I think publishers who are experimenting with Medium are seeing a world where it’s not about having a website,” said Williams. “There are not going to be tens of millions of websites that lots of people go to every day.”
As Medium begins exploring ways to merge blogging and the business of making money, Williams suggested that it could branch out into podcasts and video in the future. Certainly, all of these mediums offer additional ways to monetize, with preroll ads as one possibility.
It was only a matter of time before Medium sought to really bring the “business” to a product that has exploded in popularity since its inception almost four years ago. Now that it has more than $80 million in funding, including a $57 million round six months back, the time has come to make a big play for the publishing industry’s jugular — by letting people and companies earn from their writing. This should draw more users on board and boost Medium’s own standing and reputation.