Can Medium Replace Facebook?

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“California News” by Gabriel Harrison

Facebook is getting out of the news business. They’re trying to refocus on family and friends, and not destroying society, so that’s their answer. Facebook’s newsfeed now filters out pages, which filters out publications.

So where do publications and their readers go? One option is a surprising one. Medium.

Medium’s Crash And Return

Medium crashed out of the advertising model in January 2017. It seemed like they might crash altogether, but they came back with a subscription model in October of that year. Actually earlier, but that’s when it opened to the public (like me).

For a writer like me it means I can make $50 a month writing a few pieces here and there, but it’s an even better experience as a reader.

If you pay $5 a month you get access to everything behind the Medium paywall. There are a lot of great independent writers, but also a bunch of otherwise paid publications, like the Economist, Washington Post, New York Times and Financial Times.

As a reader it’s a great experience, and one where I’m not bombarded with ads or dumb shit from people I kinda know. The content behind the Medium content isn’t always from professional journalists, but it’s somehow always professional. As a writer I’m also happy, because I get paid.

A Model For Writers

Getting paid for content is the great white whale of the Internet. Netflix cracked it for video and Spotify for music, but the written word has long squirmed free from attempts to monetize it. Google and Facebook have made billions by doing advertising at scale, but they basically keep all the money. Content creators and content get ground into an undifferentiated and often toxic paste.

Subscriptions are the simplest model, but so far only big publishers have been able to do it. If you’re a small publisher or writer, it’s hard to get people to deal with another login and payment. That’s what makes the Medium model so interesting.

What Medium does is aggregate any publisher (or writer) behind one paywall, and bundle in a lot of the big boys as well. You don’t have to worry about maintaining a website or paywall, you can just write. And the money just shows up in your bank account. It’s not huge yet, but the business model is at least simple and spits out money.

As a partner member who publishes maybe 10–15 articles and gets 400 views tops, I earn about $50 a month. You could say who gives a shit but, honestly, I’m amazed. I’ve never been paid for blogging before.

In January 2018, 43% of authors who published at least one story for members earned money — making $76.52 on average for the month. $11,316.74 was the most earned by a single author, and $1,435.57 was the most earned for a single story. (medium.com/creators)

Will this pay for investigative journalism or foreign affairs desks, LOL no, but by God at least it’s a model that spits out money. Facebook never even tried.

The Medium Partner Program doesn’t pay enough to run a publication yet and as more publishers get on board it’ll may pay less, but there’s at least the workings of a sustainable idea in there. One paywall to unite them all.

A Model For Readers

But that’s the publisher side. The more relevant part for replacing Facebook is the reader experience. Facebook was good for finding stuff to read, but friends and family were not the most qualifed editors, and an algorithm designed for profit just made them worse. I used to get news from Facebook, but the whole experience just left me feeling icky so I quit.

Medium, on the other hand, makes me enjoy reading again. The interface is nice, for one, as are the writers. Some of the stuff is lame tips on being your best self, but for the most part I get thoughtful stuff to read. Poetry, stories about parenting, news analysis. Tailored to me, but there’s a lot of good reading in there for anyone.

I’m also proud to pay for it. I like ‘clapping’ for my favorite authors because I know they’ll get paid a bit. And I like supporting publications that way. And, of course, I love not seeing ads.

A Model For The Future

Medium itself may not turn out to be sustainable, but at least they’re trying to create something that should exist. A place for paid writing that has both scale and quality.

So, even though Facebook has neutered their Newsfeed, there’s still a good place to get news and views. It’s called Medium.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. indi@indi.ca. Videos: tiny.cc/indication and podcast: anchor.fm/indication. patreon.com/indication

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