What could be an alternative to the premium membership model of Medium?
Medium is a social platform that focuses on long form text based content. This type of content isn’t appreciated as much as it used to, because of the switch to mobile devices.
I’m a big fan of Medium as a writer as well as a reader. As a writer, I import all of my blog posts to Medium. I appreciate the views, reads, claps, responses, and private notes I receive on Medium as well as the followers.
Medium gives me the opportunity to be featured by online publications with tens of thousands of followers. This gives me an almost instant reach to their audience. If you’re just starting out as a blogger, those numbers are well out of reach, unless you stir up waters in social media.
Moreover, I like the interaction with the editors and reader of those publications. I learn a lot from them. The themes of those publications are steering me towards certain topics such as entrepreneurship and investing.
As a reader, I get to read the posts of writers who are enthusiastic about what they are writing about, not to promote their latest online product. The Medium posts that reach my recommended list have a higher standard than other social platforms; much higher.
In summary, Medium is a fantastic platform for people who like to write and read long form text based content. They do a great job managing this community. But at the end of the day, someone has to pay for all of that great job.
Current Business Model of Medium
Medium’s current model is based on selling premium membership. Premium members get to read the premium posts. As far as I understand, the only difference between a premium post and a free post is that the author decides to offer their post as a premium post. In return, the author gets some fees based on how well the post is received by premium members.
Medium’s premium membership is not compelling enough for me to buy a subscription. First of all, my reading, listening, and watching lists are already full of free content. Second, my reading and listening lists are also full of premium Kindle and Audible content. Both lists would take me a few life times to consume. Medium’s premium membership is squeezed somewhere in between the tons of quality free or low price premium content.
Now, you can accuse me of being stingy and tell me to cough up the $5 per month to keep my favorite social platform afloat. Sure, I can do that, no problem, but it’s not only up to me. In order to succeed with a fundraiser, it has to be announced as such.
At this moment, the premium membership is marketed as something that would add value to my life. I don’t see how a premium Medium membership adds any value on top of the quality free and low cost premium content available.
The issue here is not money, but the time to consume all the content that is already offered. I pay for premium membership of Spotify. I buy Kindle books. I have an Audible subscription. I’m convinced of the value offer of these products and services; and I use them.
If Medium announces a fundraiser, I’m willing to contribute, as I contributed to Wikipedia multiple times. But as we all know, Wikipedia has a different structure. They are a non-profit. I don’t think all the venture capital investors of Medium would be willing to accept that.
If membership wouldn’t work for Medium, what would?
Medium can use the promoted post model of Twitter and Facebook. I know this sounds scary to a lot of Medium fans, but stick with me. Forbes has something called Brand Voices, where corporations pay to promote their posts on their platform. The promoted post system also works fine for Twitter.
There is a conflict of interest when you use the promoted post model. On one end of the continuum, there is Medium, where writers pay nothing to publish their content. On the other end of the continuum, we have Facebook, where the only way to get your content in front of eyeballs is to pay.
The Medium model results in high quality posts and publications bubbling up to the homepages of readers. We all know what the Facebook model results in, but they make money. However, there are infinite points in between those two extremes.
Medium can receive promoted posts and they can adjust their algorithms to turn profits, sufficient enough to satisfy their investors without going full Facebook. The Facebook model reached a point where it isn’t sustainable anymore. They want to fix it as well.
Another argument against promoted posts could be that Medium has already tried this. Times change. An idea that didn’t work a few years ago could well work now with a few twists. It’s well worth trying if it would keep Medium afloat. The only alternative I can see is Medium going non-profit.
What I definitely wouldn’t like to see on Medium is those shady online marketing ads that we come across even on the websites of established publications.
The premium membership model doesn’t offer enough incentive to users to purchase it. It has to compete with an abundance of free and premium content available online. Promoted posts would be an alternative. A balance between user experience and profits needs to be maintained to keep the business sustainable.
There are two more alternatives. The first one is going non-profit, which would be the last resort given the venture capital Medium has already received. The second one is receiving ads, lots of them, which would reduce the user experience.