So better to focus resources now than be walking dead in a year or so, jettison unnecessary products/projects, and hope for the best. It's a great product, and with time and luck, they'll sort out a good business model, but like the rest of the publishing world, they're still sorting things out.
Despite being one of those made redundant, I enjoyed being there, and wish them the best. On that note, you should ask yourself if you are prepared for winter, because winter is coming.
Big picture: Donald J Trump, and the potential to cause widespread disruption that benefits nobody. Hopefully that will not be the case, but if it is, money for startups with hazy revenue models will not be cheap.
In either case, reducing your burn rate by $10M per year is a smart move.
No matter how far you are in the SV bubble, even you must admit that was one hell of logical leap.
> Hopefully that will not be the case, but if it is, money for startups with hazy revenue models will not be cheap.
Sounds like a great thing to me.
Big picture, Trump, and a Trump presidency, are a huge unknown. It's probably a matter of personal projection what you think the outcome will be, but it can hardly be dismissed out of hand.
For example, do you think Trump, a hotel owner, will support legislation that favours AirBnB? It's not as if he is above petty payback on people he feels have wronged him.
And of course there's a more general effect on the economy. Maybe he'll be great! Maybe he won't. You might think that's a good thing but you can hardly blame employees of vulnerable startups who would rather not lose their jobs.
Is it really so far-fetched or useless to project that there will be far reaching macroeconomic effects if Trump successfully implements any number of his stated policies? Sure, if you want to be optimistic you can hope the effects will be net positive, but that hope is at least as speculative as predicting that "winter is coming", so all we're left with is a high level of medium term uncertainty. Given that, it seems pretty strategically reasonable for a company (especially an over-leveraged one struggling to beat their VC clock) to reduce their risk exposure "because Trump".
The point I was making about Trump is this huge fucking black swan just landed, and everybody with money is snapping their wallets shut, and the rest of us can just go fuck ourselves and drop dead.
Just watch, many of you are next.
Ergo, there will be more people with more money to invest. Maybe they all decide that they hate software, but I'm not seeing it. The only thing that's "bad" is the strengthening US dollar, and that ordinary interest rates make a bank a reasonable place to put some money.
Sorry to pierce your echo chamber. And your "might be you next" threat? So tacky. As if the many startup software engineers here haven't been laid off before. And if anybody at Medium making/announcing this decision said it had something to do with Trump's election, I hope you've lost all respect for that clown.
It's because the economy has done so well under Obama that it can withstand Trump's nonsense, at least for the near term.
Yeah who does this ex-median think he is? It's not like he worked there.
Putting it all in perspective though, to the extent it's a negative risk for SV based companies it's also a positive risk for things to be "disrupted".
Everybody knows the current situation cannot last, and in fact much of financial industry does not want it to last (for good reason), and knows that the current system must be reformed.
Framing this as a "hurrr Trump's gonna to cause widespread disruption that benefits nobody" makes you look very ignorant.
(I'm just explaining, not making any value judgements.)
In all honesty, it's very easy to technically build & maintain Medium with as few as 5 engineers. Add a few more people (say 5 - 6 more) and you have a good business (not a crazy growth startup) that can generate revenue and most importantly be sustainable.
As for generating revenue: it's very easy to charge people a few $ / m for stuff I'd consider extra features (premium themes and custom domains).
It's sad those 50 people lost jobs (I feel for them - I had lost my previous job when a startup decided to downsize), but in all honesty - what do 150 do at Medium and more importantly, WTF did Medium do with ~123 Million ?
 - https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/medium#/entity
Its due to a deeply embedded business philosophy where CEOs and other business people try to create bigger companies, and not necessarily better companies. Sometimes they are able to trigger a mushroom growth, but most of the times they fail. But due to survivor bias, they create a few more wannabe CEOs who again trey to create bigger and not better companies, and the cycle repeats.
Medium currently had a full fledged Sales, Support, HR and even a big ass operations dept. And 2 or 3 offices across United States. Their operations & other business depts were quite big in head count, even rivaling local oracle offices(which usually have about 1000+ employees). I can't necessarily say whether they had inefficiencies in their company structure, but they certainly over hired.
Even disheartening thing is that they might have already dried up most of their cash, and still don't know how to run a business. Executives are currently playing a dangerous game of "Let's see if we can raise more" and "We'll think of something".
Holy shit, sorry if I'm coming in to this discussion late and empty handed but isn't Medium basically a fucking blog?
It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like. This strategy is more focused but also less proven."
In so many words, "We'll think of something."
Maybe they would try to get acquihired
Edit: Looks like Instagram had raised 50m before being acquihired. Definitely a much different situation than this one, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that a company which raised 100+ million would be acquihired.
See definition from wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acqui-hiring): "...the process of acquiring a company to recruit its employees, without necessarily showing an interest in its products and services—or their continued operation"
Isn't it worth considering that those 50 employees should have never been hired, but only were due to incompetence of Medium's executives and its business model?
Or having taken on additional responsibilities (loan, started a family, etc) based on having the job.
Getting a job that shouldn't have existed and then losing it again isn't zero sum.
Yep, we are seeing this time and time again with startups in the Bay Area who went on a landgrab for talent a few years ago and now realize they can't support them as the VC money dried up. I actually wonder if Medium was trying to raise more and they were unable to, therefore they have to do this and are trying to spin it positively.
I respect Ev a lot. He revolutionized blogging and publishing on the web. And I want Medium to do well. And maybe I'm too cynical about the startup and SV world (I moved away from SF in October), but this smells of the same old same old to me.
Serious questions: why and how?
I both write a blog and read blogs. I have never had any desire to move my blog to Medium, and ask myself "is it really worth it?" before clicking on any Medium link.
I'm not sure there are many companies such a scenario has worked out well for, but I'd love to dig into examples if people have any. And working out well can mean different things for investors vs employees vs customers vs free users vs readers. I would expect the interests to become less aligned the more investment they take on without being profitable (see Evernote's recent moves and resulting user backlash).
I remember a couple years ago there was a guy claiming he could run Twitter himself on 4 really big servers.
Maybe 1 person can't make twitter by himself, but I think the necessary number is much closer to 1 than it is to 4,100
>Good point. I think it's easy to forget how much work engineers can make for ourselves (Uber has >700 microservices)...
Worse, are these asshole companies crowding out the H-1B system with all these extra positions?
Only a very strong non changing management that say no to nearly all feature changes can make that possible.
99% of companies and projects is not that. New features, new management, new customers, new priorities, leads to exponential complexity of services and staff numbers. And over-head staff such as sales, support, legal, hr, localisation, etc.
There really are no examples of something at Medium's scale being built and maintained by 5 engineers.
You say that like it's a bad thing.
The most straightforward explanation as to why Craigslist remains king is simple: network effects.
Maybe people prefer a "newer" web interface when it doesn't have ads, banners, popups, auto-playing-content, clutter (see yahoo), oversized images, 25 tracking scripts loading, but the lesson seems to be that too simple trumps too complex. An example that gets it exactly right IMHO is gmail.
The OTHER problem with having a nice UI is then people start to want to redesign every year, buy new logos, constantly adapt new design and FE trends (make it flat! make it angular! make it ES6! make it react! now pre-render on the server!).
Even more people like stable UIs.
People who like modern UIs greatly outnumber
people who like ones from the '90s.
Just like in games like shooters or Starcraft the pros actually turn down graphics settings - they don't notice the graphics any more so they don't are!
Same as why after a month you stop noticing the wonderful paintings you carefully selected for your home's walls. I haven't looked at mine in years. That#s why we get reddit /r/funny posts where people replace the family portraits in their parents house and then make a reddit post with the funny replacement picture "2 weeks and nobody has noticed anything yet".
Brains are made to tune out anything
a) not new
b) not used
So you end up with Google and reddit as major websites.
I'm not quite sure where that leaves websites like USAToday, but I highly suspect people learn to navigate it despite the graphics, and the design only serves to attract people initially. I on't think it helps retain users once they've been there for a while, except that keeping it stable helps keeping customers.
I know that Germany's top 1 or 2 news website www.spiegel.de (the other one competing for the top spot is a tabloid, bild.de) decided to stick to a much more text-based linear design even after a recent major redesign.
So while a look at actually successful websites doesn't tell us that simple designs always win your claim certainly isn't supported by the facts. Probably not as-is, and when it applies a lot of terms and conditions apply: What kind of people does a site attract? What kind of content do they serve? How long do people stay, how much do they interact with and use the site? Is it mostly "look at" content, or are there many interactions (reddit: lots of "using", USAtoday: mostly "looking")? Etc. I would make the claim the more people actually use a site (interact with the contents - clicking, navigating, writing, searching in the broadest sense, not just the "Search" function, for example trying to quickly find the top comments on a page) the less important the "fanciness"/"modernity" factor. As you use an interface your brain stops noticing how it looks and concentrates on how it feels (for example when it's always hard to hit that tiny "expand" icon on a comment thread right next to a complete different icon separated by only two pixels, how the icons look like will be lost).
Apartment searching on Craigslist was so bad for so long, services like Padmapper sprang up to supplement it. Now Craigslist has a similar mapping feature to Padmapper, but still far clunkier.
Their forums were never very good, and have largely atrophied.
Sometimes change is good.
There’s WhatsApp. A billion users, and 35 employees, running on less than 100 off-the-shelf servers.
It looks similar but to say it hasn't changed is silly
I love Medium and I hope it succeeds. It sounds like their headcount was substantially higher than it needed to be and that this layoff was the right move.
I wish Ev had mentioned all the additional facts that are in this article by one of Medium's investors: https://500ish.com/long-medium-b9ddfe2c3a0a#.ch2benant
Not the number of servers, necessarily, but running a big site with a small number of engineers.
(Video is offline)
To which Twitter's Nick Kallen replied on stage, incredulously, "... I don't think that's correct."
I worked with said person and I feel like he would get along very well with Arthur Whitney.
It's definitely easy to make guesses on how an org could be streamlined from the outside. Though Medium needed to grow quickly and that takes having a lot of people to create features, sell, etc. They didn't grow and needed to scale back and change their strategy. I've seen quite a few startups go through continuous hiring booms then layoffs over and over again.
But then again if you race to investor money and immediately have to make $1 billion to appease investors, it suddenly makes sense.
Now why you need 150 people to build a pretty straight forward blog platform is a very valid question...
Because it’s not straightforward, and it’ not that many people? Facebook has 100x that number. Twitter has 25x. Airbnb hired almost 10x that number in 2015 alone. Stripe has almost 4x that number.
the only hard technical part of Medium is perhaps their content recommendations, but thats it. dealing with a ton of pageviews is hard, yes but nowhere near the complexity of dealing with what others are doing. you can solve that problem with more machines and money if need be. hard problems (ie google search) can only be solved with PHDs and thinking.
While true, this doesn't really answer the GP's question, does it?
I'm guessing they have a lot more than 5 reviewers, writers, editors...
Interesting people freaking out about this when if you point out the bloat at Twitter (which dwarfs Medium many times over and goes years without shipping anything user facing) HN posters will jump to defend it just because they have a few dev centric open source projects that are widely used.
Just let it sink in what that means for journalism. If the economics of the internet come to be all-encompassing, there will be no revenue model to support any professional publications.
There's obviously no shortage of hate for "mainstream media" right now, so probably many people can't await the demise of that industry. I'm just wondering which blogger we'll send to cover Ebola in Guinea-Bissau and which twitterer will file & finance 14 FOIA lawsuits. But maybe democracy works just as well without people digging into "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documents".
Even at the Washington Post (profitable now), what drove growth was their opinion pieces (which they're doubling down on). And opinion pieces, while having their own merit, is rarely journalism. It makes me sad.
In order to provide value, newspapers need to provide exclusive value-add, which in many cases includes opinion pieces. Opinion pieces allow experts in the area to link many different news items together to provide a more holistic view of the news item.
Anyone can tell me that 5 Coalition soldiers were killed by an IED, but it takes an opinion piece by an expert in counter insurgency tactics to provide context about how that might represent a shift in tactics/approach by a group.
For news firms seeking survival or sustainable operations, you'll see your "value add" opinion pieces consume more of the content with less actual news. This is WaPo's strategy .
I think there's some truth to this. I think there's also a need for accreditation or other validation/reputation services, not to serve as a gatekeeper, but to assist in helping people determine which sources are likely worthwhile to listen to. If the vetting needs to be done for each person on a per-author basis, that can be overwhelming, not dissimilar to the paradox of choice.
In some ways this may end up looking similar to existing publishers, though with a little less tight-coupling between author and publisher. It's pretty clear there are large changes underway.
Though I believe they are actually profitable.
>So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.
It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like.
Oh, I've got a guess, and it certainly doesn't involve me getting paid more per view or read than I do via Spotify or any other "Artistic Content as Commodity" platform. Medium has been a decent trade-off: They don't charge me, and I don't expect anything but "exposure" in the grand sense. Not surprised this isn't exactly rolling in dough as a business model, but I'll stick around to see how they fare.
How do you feel the balance of compensation is, and how do you feel about your control - or lack of - of your own content?
I think the balance of compensation is fine for my purposes. I don't recoup the $19.99 annual fee via DistroKid that gets me into iTunes, Spotify, etc, so I'm generally a skewed perspective. In practical terms though - and this I truly believe is important - I think less than 1% of the Content Creator Population in any given Commercial Art Enterprise in the United States earns a Middle-Class Living (Wage + Benefits). Basically I think it's unfair in Modern Times to think that Musicians and Writers really had a lot of opportunities to make a good living before technology came around. Of course I'd like that to change, and maybe Spotify and Medium can play a role in that, but breaking the grip of RIAA and AP/Reuters isn't exactly an overnight proposition.
Reminds me of this comic: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/exposure in the grand theme of the flawed "sense". I'm aware that it kinda makes no sense.
You'll notice the engagement is absolutely terrible. Between 10-100 likes, and even those stats are inflated by (no doubt terrified) Medium employees. Keep in mind, the rough "like" to "view" ratio is ~1:100, so hardly any of these posts are even cracking 10,000 views. Those are okay numbers when you're paying your writer/marketing guy $200 per post. Hardly the foundation for a company valued last year at $400M.
Of course, Medium could monetize with banner ads like every other site, and it does have enough traffic to do that (it's the 371th most visited site in the world.) However, most writers only write on Medium because there aren't any ads. If Medium suddenly started monetizing on my content "YouTube style" I would leave them for Wordpress in a second. The Medium community is fine (they'll drive 100-1000 views per post on my pieces) but that's not enough to justify graffitying my content with ads.
It seems like there's a major identity crisis going on here. On one hand, a lot of great pieces are published on Medium.
(Perhaps not as many since Medium de-funded/spun-out their flagship in-house publications, Matter and Backchannel). But there's also a crazy amount of crap. The top stories on Medium are almost invariably listicles and trite "How I Xed my Y in Z days".
I get the feeling Medium set out to position itself as a curated Wordpress (which might justify that gargantuan valuation) but these days it feels pretty much like an awkward, less popular, and slightly more erudite Buzzfeed.*
*Buzzfeed is not without its own problems. See traffic stats here: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/buzzfeed.com
I think there's probably a problem in these numbers, but I'm 99% certain you've misread the tea leaves.
The Ringer page views are through the roof. But those are not coming from regular Medium users who typically leave reviews. So the problem is, why don't these visitors engage more, rather than why doesn't The Ringer have any page views.
IMO, big sites like The Ringer are bets that obscure what's wonderful and working at Medium. For a blogger like me, posting to Medium is a 10x on page views. 37Signals posted something similar. All the mid-size blogs that come over are having a great time.
Since you're a Medium advisor, maybe you can shed some light: how many of The Ringer's page views are coming because of native Medium readers vs. because Bill Simmons is linking to articles?
If I'm a deep-pocketed advertiser with little social media engagement (unlike Simmons), how does posting to Medium benefit me? Why am I not better off paying Bill Simmons to tweet about my product than pay the Medium middle man?
Relatedly, is it fair to extrapolate Medium's "10x on page views" on your blog to the average user, who doesn't start off with 20k Twitter followers? (Note: Medium uses Twitter followers to kickstart your Medium following.)
For the average user who doesn't know how to market their posts, I agree, Medium is a godsend. There's a small community of committed readers (good for page views) and the design is great (good for sharing.) But do you really think that these are game-changing advantages? Do you think that these advantages will survive once/if Medium starts plastering its posts with banner ads?
I do know though that specific to The Ringer that their page views are completely decoupled from what you can see in engagement. I have no idea where that's coming from or even what's required for them to be a media success. But I do know that they are getting heavy traffic.
Re: game changers. I wrote in one of the other threads that my analysis of the market is that there is has been a non-stop demand for personal publishing products since 2000: blogger, MovableType, LiveJournal, Wordpress, Twitter, Tumblr.
And we're in a moment now where many of those seem institutionally unable to modernize. This word "game-changer" is so loaded. Is changing the game the goal? Or just serving a huge market?
From the start, I've seen Medium as at minimum a modern version of an evergreen class of software. Obviously, they've done that by simplifying out features that end up not mattering a lot (customizable themes) and making a beautiful text editor.
On top of that, none of those other platforms ever did anything to boost my page views. I think that's a real benefit of the platform that goes well beyond whatever audience you bring with you.
I see my own stats (based on 20k Twitter followers) and the stats of people in my publication (Better Humans). It really seems like the pairing of a strong title with strong content is the primary driver of traffic. Publications will take those articles and then recommends will drive a ton of traffic.
Many of the people who write on BetterHumans are starting with no audience to speak of. It's certainly a huge ego boost to experience a few thousand page views for the first time.
My anecdotal experience is that I never get retweeets or mail from things I post there, whereas the people who read and then respond on Medium seem like the exact kind of people I want to influence. Not all viewers are created equal.
If Medium allows native video publishing, that would certainly be a curveball.
The Bill Simmons media empire has crashed and burned.
I heard Bill say on a podcast that he had a different theory about where media had gone. It was faster, mobile and more immediate.
So the initial implementation of The Ringer seemed like short, trite pieces produced quickly. Like you'd get a dumb Game of Thrones piece within 15 minutes of an episode airing.
Thankfully, they seem to have backed off and gone back to long form, loving fan pieces with obscure links and embeds. For example, this Donald Glover piece:
TLDR; I'm curious what you think of the more recent Ringer stuff. Because to me, it's so much better and is exactly why I loved the old Grantland.
I too loved Grantland and have been disappointed with Simmons' more recent efforts, but this is good. And Atlanta is fantastic.
Instead of making 1 site (or 1 show) that is a grab-bag of various things-that-Bill-Simmons-likes, why not have several niche sites that cover different topics?
I can't read The Ringer because I don't want to get movie reviews from the same place I get NBA game breakdowns.
Also, the ratio of joke articles to serious articles is all wrong. It should be 1 joke article for every 10 serious articles, at least.
(By contrast, the one print newspaper I still buy, the (UK) Observer, does all of the above and more.)
So when some other person writes on his website that "SoundCloud Comments Are the Only Good Comments", I just don't care about that. At all.
Fixing the nav would help but it wouldn't be enough if 50% of articles are humorous.
Maybe Medium can still expand outwards, such as if they created a Google chrome extension or browser annotator to save all the highlights I have on other websites that I read (e.g. NYtimes, Bloomberg); and later using that data to give better ads -- I probably wouldn't mind if it wasn't intrusive.