Medium's Mess: The rise and fall of the site that was supposed to save journalism
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Going to the homepage of Medium.com means entering one of the most conflicted spaces in digital media. It’s a black hole of pseudo-emotional Thought Catalog runoff, corporate strategists spewing productivity hacks, personal lifestyle blogs, professional journalists blogging in their off-hours, and the odd slickly produced feature story. It wavers eternally between an open platform where anyone can post anything, in the mode of Twitter or Facebook, and an actual editorial operation commissioning ambitious original projects that are now paid for (in part) by readers. The problem is telling all the different kinds of content apart—and understanding how they fit together.
To some, primarily its founder Ev Williams, Medium is a savior of online publishing. To others, it’s a death knell, suggesting that no matter how much money a start-up is given, and no matter how much experimentation takes place there, the business bound to end up in confusion and conflict. At a moment when digital publishing is at a peak in volatility, Medium promises transparency, independence, fair wages for writers, and a method for funding journalism. While it repeatedly bungles many of its alleged goals, its core mission to alter the relationship between writing, money, and online advertising keeps hope for something better afloat—at least until the company’s next pivot.
Launched in 2012 by the former Twitter CEO and current board member, Medium was.....
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