Medium announced it is changing business models in a bid to salvage its original mission, but in doing so, it has to lay off 50 employees, or one-third of the workforce. The departures come from “sales, support, and other business functions”. The move was driven by the company’s recognition that it didn’t have the right solution for monetizing based on its content. To continue on this route would “put us at risk.”
Another result of the layoffs include the closure of the company’s New York and Washington, D.C. offices, although Medium said that some people will continue to work from those locales. The product development and engineering teams are unaffected.
In a Medium post announcing the move, company chief executive Evan Williams placed blame on a broken system that’s driven by advertisements. “It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other ‘content’ we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get … well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.”
The move is a little bit surprising in light of recent metrics Medium released prior to the new year. The service now counts 60 million monthly visitors, an increase of 140 percent annually, and there are more than 7.5 million posts penned, a 295 percent increase.
Medium didn’t offer specifics about its pivot except to say that it’s shifting resources towards establishing a new model where writers and creators will be “rewarded” (paid?) based on the impact of their work. Could this mean that Medium will employ a similar strategy like YouTube with content creators? Williams acknowledged that the plan is still in its early stages and cautions that it will take some time to get it right.
As the publishing platform provider seeks to right itself, one thing remaining unclear is how will this affect publishers that have slowly but surely flocked to Medium, such as Pacific Standard, The Awl, Franklin Leonard’s The Black List, Monday Note, Femsplain, Electric Literature, FilmSchoolRejects, The Kicker, The Bold Italic, NewCo Shift, The Banana Boat, MEL, and Above Average, all of whom seem to place more trust in the service.
In April, Medium sought to establish itself as a publishing powerhouse, launching a specialized product for bloggers and writers, allowing publishers to customize the look and feel of their site, including navigation, layout, and color scheme. It built on top of efforts to consider paywalls and premium content, all things that could make writers money. Things clearly didn’t work out the way Medium wanted.