Ev Williams, announcing that Medium is laying off a third of its employees and somehow changing its approach to making money:
Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is
ad-driven media on the internet. 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.
That’s a big part of why we are making this change today.
We decided we needed to take a different — and bolder — approach
to this problem. We believe people who write and share ideas
should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not
simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We
believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen
their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what
they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe
that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In
fact, it’s imperative.
Sounds good, but with no details as to what this “different — and bolder — approach” is, it’s hard to judge.
I also don’t think the problem is “ad-driven media on the internet” in general, but rather, the specific ways most ad-driven media on the internet work — and have worked, ever since the first banner ad in 1994. Measuring clicks and page views inevitably leads to clickbait. Instead, measure attention. There’s no way to cheat that other than by producing content that is worthy of attention.
Sidenote: Does anyone actually like those “highlights from other users” on Medium? I find them distracting and gross, and the more popular an article is, the more of them I see (and the more nonsensical some of them are).