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Ask HN: Why did medium.com "fail"?
461 points by slymerson 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 552 comments
Medium.com is still up and running so it hasn't failed exactly, but it's not the best platform to go to anymore when it comes to blogging.

The post quality has deteriorated, and it feels like I'm reading the same posts over and over again. Not to mention the stupid paywall which is infuriating.

Why did Medium end up like this? In the beginning it was pretty good but then it started to wither. Is there any way for a platform like Medium to keep up with high quality posts while also paying their writers well?

Substack has done a good job at competing in the blogging market but it's different from Medium. Medium is more of a social blogging platform while Substack is more of a newsletter platform. Substack doesn't have an algorithm that recommends you content, but instead shows you exactly who you follow. This is nice, but I can't deny that I also like finding new content through a recommendation engine, which Medium also sucks at.

I'm Medium's current CEO as of last July. I actually pay a lot of attention to this sentiment on Hacker News. For example, I've bookmarked and often share this recent HN poll where 88% of people here think there's a negative stigma to a medium article. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33223222

It's sad and entirely our fault. We didn't fail but we did lose our way. Here's how I see it:

1. Lost our way on recommendations. When I showed up the company was convinced that engagement equals quality. That's not true and it gets even more pronounced if you pay people to game your recommendation system. I think we were boosting articles that made people think we were a site for clickbait. The canonical example for HN is "Why NodeJS is dead" by a new programmer with zero experience or context. Readers noticed this, but worse, so did authors. And so we lost the incentive for a lot of the best and most interesting authors to bother because they were getting swamped by content-mill type authors. As of December, about 30% of our recommendations are generated by a new system that is picking much higher quality articles that have been vetted for substance over clickbait. This is getting a lot better, rapidly.

2. Got lost thinking about the creator economy, when we should have kept thinking about doers. Distribution was our winning value proposition (on top of simple free tools). We were built to find and boost individual articles and that meant that anyone with something great to say had a chance to get their story boosted, often by a lot. This is my original background in publishing: working at O'Reilly helping them publish programming books that were written by programmers. For a lot of topics, personal experience trumps everything. Not to knock creators, but by definition full time content creation gets in the way of having personal experiences that are worth writing about. We are partly through fixing this and #1.

Those are the two most obvious ones. But then there's a longer list. We competed with our platform publishers by starting our own in house publications. Those are shut down now. We started but didn't finish a number of redesigns and so the tools didn't get better for a couple of years. We're past that now and are putting out table stakes features again and some innovations too.

What I told our investors was that there was a huge pile of shit to dig out of, but that it would be worthwhile eventually. And I still believe both that there is a lot more to do and also that it'll be worthwhile.

I think these are not the main pain points.

The biggest issue for me is that medium makes me feel like a cash cow. The way it wants me to pay every step of the way, the way it hijacks copy/paste to insert its own marketing. The account it wants me to create. The trackers it inserts everywhere. You missed the step of making something great that people actually feel good about paying for. The grassroots "for users by users" community feel that other platforms still manage to tap into. A site you'd be proud to be part of and happy to pay for. The problem with an X-views paywall is: you annoy me so much that even if there's good content behind it I'm long gone before I ever find out because you've already pushed me away. It just has this "all about the money" feel that I deeply hate.

Also, not every author is out to make money. My personal blog is not monetized at all. It's more my way of outreach for my day job in tech. And I'd never want to put my readers through this experience. Free content should be exempt.

The other points like the quality of content dropping because you recommend the wrong stuff, yeah they dropped the value proposition even more. But they weren't the real problem.

This is literally it.

Especially hijacking copy/paste, or text highlighting. It just brings the entire feeling of the place down.

Imagine walking into a nice high end restaurant, and the server tries to sell you a credit card before taking your order. Would you continue going to that restaurant?

That's what this sort of garbage does to my sentiment around websites that do it.

I remember a few years ago I started to realize that if I somehow see the link pointed to "medium.com" I would just... nope. Not willing to take the gamble if I can read the page or not.

Agree, this is surprisingly annoying when you click and it tells you "nope sucker, not today, you're not getting to read something you're interested in". Why should I even bother to get my hopes up in the first place?

same with New York Times... and Wall Street Journal... and Financial Times... and The Economist... and many others. I've wondered what it would take to pre-emptively edit HN so i don't even see those links.

Substack does this too, though. In fact I feel like it's incredibly similar to medium in many ways.

Why has substack "won" this market? Or has it really? Is it just due to the newsletter publishing tools and subsidising some big name bloggers?

> Why has substack "won" this market?

Medium "won" this market a few years back as well. The reason it sucks now is because investors aren't paying them to make the internet reading experience nice. And in any case, readers aren't willing to pay a subscription fee for 'nice'.

Substack is now the leader because investors haven't pressured them to turn more newsletters into paid products. They will, they just haven't now. And just like Medium, the really good writers will have enough capital to run their own newsletters, and use Substack only for SEO. Sound familiar?

Soon, we'll begin to see "name.substack.com" with the same kind of suspicion that we now see "medium.com".

I already do.

Yeah, I want to "not", but sadly it's going that way for me as well.

Substack didn't start doing this until it had pulled significant share from Medium. I suspect it will hurt substack long term too.

In a way this feels like the cycle of image hosts. Everyone moves to the new user friendly one, that one enshittifies the site to make more money, cycle repeats.

I have a newsletter for CTOs, and I try hard not to link to Substack any more, the number of my readers seem to automatically lock the article behind a pay wall - Substack is lost I think as a website (don't know about the newsletter aspect).

I have some disdain to link to Medium but it's not as bad.

Same here. I have no patience for this type of shameless spamming anymore. One thing I hate about Medium is that it puts a paywall across everything, as if they’re The NY Times. If anything, I care about the author I’m reading, not Medium. With Substack I can subscribe to an individual author and they are the ones deciding what to paywall. Sure Substack gets a cut if I subscribe but that’s in the background.

I'll interrupt this stream of consensus to note I don't have issues following a link to Medium.

Here's how it goes: I open a link, I dismiss a sign-up suggestion screen (if any), I read the stuff, and then I go. If there's a paywall I leave, but I see many more paywalls at links to the Economist or similar sources so what's the big deal? People want to make money.

There are low-quality posts but they are plenty on all platforms (dev.to comes to mind). On plus side Medium articles are comfortable to read without distractions.

Medium is not Economist.

Point me to where I said "Medium is Economist" or cease.

I can count on my fingers the number of Economist articles I read per year while my history is full of recent Medium visits, mostly related to work so stuff that translates in productivity and earnings. They're not even in the same ballpark.

Sorry for rudeness I shouldn't get triggered by downvotes

> I see many more paywalls at links to the Economist or similar sources so what's the big deal? People want to make money.

Of course but it has to be a balance. Medium does all the things I mention.

If they did just one of those to monetize, ok I'd not be happy but I'd give them a pass. A paywall ideally not because I'm really not going to subscribe after reading only 3 articles.

But doing all of those makes me feel like a cash cow. Like they're grasping at straws desperate to get some cash. They don't understand the user-hostility of this and that's important because the users are their resources.

And as far as the NYT and Economist, I avoid those too. If I really think something is worth reading I'll use a paywall bypass tool but generally I don't even bother.

Maybe that's just me or selective geolocation but in my experience Medium almost never hits with a paywall, and because a lot of useful material is there I am not seeing it a problem. Substack links, for example, are significantly more annoying so I actually take a moment and think if I should even bother.

Medium is the Pinterest of text.

It's even difficult to read a medium post on archive.org because the page seems to reload every couple of seconds. (I was in archive.org because they banned somebody who thinks things that they don't think... Or something, it mentioned breaking rules but didn't say which rule, or link to the rules)

Fundamentally, it's hard to build a profitable blogging platform we'll like, because all you really need to do is render markdown/HTML with a decent stylesheet. Most features on top of that should either be browser extensions or shouldn't exist at all.

Everything else is platforming, which we will also argue should be separated from the blog itself. This is why we have URLs and links. Just as in the restaurant example, I first go to a credit card company, then I go buy dinner.

It's hard to build a profitable blogging platform because the economics of writing itself makes it unworkable.

The tech stack isn't even on the top 100 hindrances to profitability.

But medium isn't the one that does the writing here, so does that really matter?

That's a good point; I guess it's hard to build a profitable company that supports an unprofitable endeavor?

It’s crazy to me that they seem completely blind to the root problem. When I pick a blogging platform I don’t want popups, paywalls, required logins, or anything other than the content. Medium took off because it had a simple clean UI and good posts, and seemed like the lowest friction way to blog. Now Medium has huge amounts of friction and feels like yet another business trying to pump money out of users, so Substack is the new go-to and someone else takes their place.

I assume the plan from day one was make a very appealing platform at a loss, gain a moat from a huge library of good content, then squeeze the profit out of it.

It's a deceptive business model, and people feel deceived and no longer want to do business with that company (surprise!).

The same logic applies to Youtube. Do you think Youtube is going to fail soon?

The thing is video hosting at scale is still a pain, I have a YouTube account because I have a Google account so they never nagged me to create one, and almost all their content is still free in unlimited amounts. I'm not sure I've ever paid YouTube a dollar directly even though I watch it daily.

There may be some similarities (like when they used to let people upload full movies and TV shows), but it is a big stretch to paint YouTube and Medium with the same brush.

>I have a YouTube account because I have a Google account so they never nagged me to create one

hmm, not sure what you mean. I have a gmail account from early early days, and I've never created a youtube account. I would've accepted it if they forced it on me, but given the choice I've never seen a reason to create one. They nag me to create one if I forget and try to upvote, or comment, and they nag me for subscribing on the regular also.

perhaps if I created a gmail account later on it would come with youtube?

While there definitively _are_ similarities, this example (as far as I’m concerned) is a perfect illustration of a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and that Medium - as opposed to YT - unfortunately did cross. I’m personally trying to avoid Medium links because of the 3-article-max/month paywall applied to my account, but clicking on a YT link isn’t a problem for me. Why? Go figure! I’ll have to deal with the ad(s) - more and more so! - and a request to test YT-premium, but the net benefit is felt like positive for me at the end of the day. And for them too I guess!

Medium should invest in UX study, get to know better their targeted users and implement a paywall that is _just_ painful enough so that it doesn’t cause the customers to associate your brand with a negative concept.

You can trick us into paying, but do it nice and sweet! We want to feel like you deserve it, not that we got forced.

How is it the same model? I have been watching YT videos for years and was never denied access to any content.

"This video has been removed because of youtube policies".

This is the exact same thing: shitification.

Make a cool product at a loss then make it shitier to use to bring as much money as you can before enough users exit to break your network effect. You can even make it last longer by making it as hard as possible for your users to leave.

If the process is not entirely clear to you, look at Twitter. (Elon Musk is incredibly not-subtle at this). Everyone of those monopolies are "too big too fail" until it does. Yahoo was like this. Tumblr was like this. Facebook and Twitter were considered as indestructible gods yesterday: they look incredibly fragile now (I’m teaching to CS students and they consider facebook as "the thing used by their grandparents"). Youtube is indestructible? Every single creator is complaining about having video removed/unmonetized while every single person I know is baffle and annoyed at the number of advertising they get. Wait for the moment when people will hear about Peertube.

What most people fail to realize is that "failing" is never a big nova disappearance. It’s more subtle, becoming slightly more irrelevant. Yahoo is still there after all. Youtube/Facebook will still be there in 10 years. (while some may even wonder if Twitter will still exist next year). I keep hearing that "mastodon will never replace Twitter" while it already has: there are now more links to toot on HN homepage than links to tweets.

What few realize that it is all part of the plan when running a VC business. You have the "invest phase" (everything is free, growth at all cost) then the "cashing phase" (aka "shitification"). VC never invest without an horizon. So, sooner or later, money will flew out and the whole thing will fall. People miss it because the brand usually keep a residual value which keep the light on.

That’s why the only long-term sustainable solution is free software. Free software are the only software that can stay successful for several decades (sometimes without major changes in their architecture, which is awesome when you think about it).

That’s why, all in all, Medium must fail. It’s all part of the plan. I was lured in myself years ago but I painfully exported all my medium content to my own blog. It took me years to realize that any centralized platform is one signature away of being elon-musked.

> That’s why the only long-term sustainable solution is free software. Free software are the only software that can stay successful for several decades (sometimes without major changes in their architecture, which is awesome when you think about it).

Free software isn't enough though, we need publicly run platforms that are not driven by profit interests. I think the only way this can work long term is if those platforms are sufficiently decentralized that the damage can be "repaired" when individual instances fall.

The alternative would be government- or non-profit-run infrastructure, but I am not confident that that will hold up against money interests. See e.g. ICANN and the increasingly monetized domain name system or the sellout of Freenode how money can corrupt or take over such centralized platforms.

You are framing it as if money is the root of the problem. But it's not the case. It would be cheaper for Youtube to not ban anyone. It would be cheaper not to spend money on algorithms and people that post something they don't like. They don't make money - at least not directly - by controlling the narrative of public discussion and distorting it to their liking. They get something which is very important to somebody who already has the money - power. With power, they can ensure they keep the money, and also enjoy all the benefits of being rich and powerful. If you think getting the government to rule it would be better, you are deluded. Government is concentrated power, so it would only multiply the problems, and since the government can not be replaced by something else (at least not without very much unpleasantness and shooting and other bad things), they would have zero interest in sharing their power with anybody else. And if you think you will be able to control this power by just voting once in two years, you are double deluded.

Censorship is a different issue. It is a political/culture war related, not denying me content because they want money from me, but denying me content because they think this content should not be available to anyone. It is a horrible thing, much worse than paywalling tbh, but completely different thing.

> I’m teaching to CS students and they consider facebook as "the thing used by their grandparents"

Mostly true, but that isn't that bad tbh. Grandparents have income, grandparents have time to spend, and grandparents aren't prone as much to jump to the next new shiny thing. True, they will eventually go away, but it's not going to happen very soon. So if that is true, Facebook has at least a decade, and maybe more because my generation (which would roughly be "parents" to your students) also uses FB, though much less now.

> I keep hearing that "mastodon will never replace Twitter" while it already has: there are now more links to toot on HN homepage than links to tweets.

Is there? I see two tweets links, and none of the "toots" (I will never get over the fact that this word means "fart"). I am no fan of twitter, but I am not sure how Mastodon would be better - all censorship fans are already there. I mean, you could use it as a blog, I guess, but why not just use a blog then?

> Free software are the only software that can stay successful for several decades

I was thinking that too, for a while. Until culture warriors started attacking the free software. Now I am not so sure. I mean, they probably won't be able to take down a huge project like Linux - too many people depend on it being there - but I am pretty sure they could destroy any smaller project. Think about it - how much abuse would a person be willing to take based on something they don't even get paid for?

Youtube has amazing infotainment right now. Its a super cool emergent phenomenon that there are soo many amazing niches filled by content creators putting out information dense 45 minute+ videos. I don't mind the ads in this case (vs some short clip), and they all seem to have sponsors as well.

I'm already less likely to click Youtube links than a (usually Fediverse-hosted) webm/mp4. I think innertia will keep them going for quite a while though but hopefully more sites will start hosting their own videos. And hopefully browsers will pull their head out of their collective behinds and fix the <video> tag so you can do statically hosted adaptive streaming without bringing your own HLS/DASH implementation.

And Substack's already starting to feel the same way; the incessant prompts to create an account and subscribe to something are the telltale first red flags heralding an intention to put monetization first and utility second.

I cant think of a single platform thats doesn't ultimately lose relevance and get replaced that does this.

A few days ago people here said their Google trick is appending 'Reddit' to the query. Not Quora. Not other dedicated Q&A sites that have been around as long. Reddit the free (minus the dumbass mobile app prompt.)

Same for log-ins. Pinterest? Forget it. Twitter? Just missing a replacement.

I don't know what analytics compel these guys to put a gate in front the platform. Just accept what people are willing to give you. I guess they wake up one day and realize everyone just moved on.

Quora is a shithole too. I remember 5-6 years ago I hung out in Quora because it high quality content from real experts. It was really interesting. Now it's nothing.

Websites (forums, mostly) have figured out they'll actually drive more traffic if they didn't have a sign-up wall.

The signup requirement is myopic, some PM looking into the data and doing some math they can make more $$$ per unique visit if they make them sign up, not realizing the long-term harm it creates because it drives the unique visits way down.

I would ban quora and Pinterest from all search results if I could.

You can with the "uBlacklist" extension

No argument. But how do they make money without these measures? Also Reddit has never been a huge moneymaker, the vast majority of their labor—moderators—work for nothing.

I have known dozens of people who would gladly pay $20 a month to have a platform where they can freely share their writings and discuss with like-minded people -- small clubs, if you will.

Some still use Facebook and complain about limitations to this day. Though as much as I'll never like Facebook, they do a good job and have the functionality; where they lose people is starting to shove irrelevant seemingly outrageous posts to make people click on more stuff.

Medium and Twitter have a real thing going on where they absolutely can monetize part of their user base. Have 50k people pay $20 a month, you got $1M monthly revenue. Easier said than done of course but it's achievable. There are a lot of book and art nerds out there and not all of them count pennies.

The internet business models largely missed out on such opportunities. They are myopic and laser-focus on what SEEMS to be the biggest earning strategy to them. They completely miss the fact that people still love to gather and discuss with like-minded people.

Finally, of course there are other services doing this for free so the value proposition might be hard -- but again, it's achievable. Remove trackers, minimize telemetry (as a dev I understand you can't do without 100% of it), remove ads for paid users, make the site fast. People will hear about it and come.

But of course, somebody in the board says "we need more engagement and more ad revenue next month" and all mid- and long-term strategies get thrown in the bin right there and then. A kinda sorta tragedy of the commons thing in internet creator monetization businesses.

I was going to say that $20/mo sounds a bit high but then I remembered that I still have a $20/mo VPS for pretty much that purpose (email, small websites) and I can't can't really be bothered to downsize the server even though there is plenty of room (except disk space).

People only view $20/mo as high because many other subs are less but when you point out to them how much money they spend on several $5/mo subs and they come over to your side.

Frankly I'd gladly pay $20 for privacy-preserving focused online service that does exactly what I want. And I believe many people would as well.

The problem as usual are others poisoning the well e.g. Netflix et. al. because they are kinda commoditized for many people at this point and they perceive them as impossible to live without.

> But how do they make money without these measures?

By inserting ads every few posts in the feeds, letting users pay for bonus features and letting users pay for bonus features for others as a show of approval.

People don't generally go to Reddit to read one single thing that was linked from another site, so the kind of "engagement" platforms like Medium are struggling to achieve through incessant nagging happens a little more naturally. It doesn't have to dedicate a third of the screen area to links and thumbnails of totally unrelated articles, because I'm already in e.g. /r/StarWars where people voluntarily organize exactly what I was interested in reading about when I went there.

You also don't have to be as wary of the hustle because unlike Medium, as there's really no straight forward way to make money off of "engagement" with your Reddit posts and replies. You aren't there arguing about some detail in Star Trek TNG S03E14 with /u/dickmonger in order to boost your LinkedIn profile either. Even at its worst—a bunch of idiots dropping vulgar and/or trite oneliners in response to some banal news article experienced entirely through the headline because the article itself is paywalled—it has a sense of honesty and realness that you don't get when people are deliberately trying to culture profitable personas and turning every semblance of original thought into revenue streams.

> Also Reddit has never been a huge moneymaker,

Is Medium? I don't know that either of these companies make their profit public, but I have a hard time believing that Reddit performs worse than Medium. As someone who ends up reading an article here and there on Medium very occasionally, the changes I see between the visits tell of a company desperately struggling to keep investors happy.

> Even at its worst—a bunch of idiots dropping vulgar and/or trite oneliners in response to some banal news article experienced entirely through the headline because the article itself is paywalled

A lot of communities are not like this though. There's a lot of good ones too.

For me the bar is that a site has to work in incognito. That's how I open all links, so login is out of the question. Medium actually works very well that way, I didn't even know they still have the paywall -- or I might have disabled some scripts?

> For me the bar is that a site has to work in incognito.

Or you'll do what?

Or I don't use the site. I make exceptions for e-mail, Hacker News, and sometimes GitHub. But not for newpapers, Google, or Facebook. And definitely not for Medium.

Maybe you have the Bypass Paywalls extension (https://github.com/iamadamdev/bypass-paywalls-chrome) installed?

No I don't, but I do have uMatrix with scripts not loaded by default. So that might be it.

The point where once-enjoyable services start turning to shit to make a buck is inevitable; it was the VCs footing the bill, but now it's the user's turn. The illusion of 'startup disruption' collapses once it reaches what I call the "somebody has to pay for all this shit" phase.

yes but it can be more complicated than that. A site might run in the black and make small money being a sleepy, friendly site, but still succumb to the lure of taking a gamble to make more money.

Somebody could enjoy building a site for awhile, but not ultimately enjoy running it, so they sell it, because included in the value of that ongoing concern is the option to shoot for the stars.

> It’s crazy to me that they seem completely blind to the root problem.

I know it's cliché, but the classic quote remains true:

> It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

I've never used these commercial blogging platforms, so the answer to this question may be obvious.

Do these platforms provide something useful compared to something like write.as which is based on an open source solution? Is their tools so much better than the open source alternatives?

It honestly seems like a lowest common denominator play. I currently subscribe to a substack and they are allergic to using a computer beyond the most rudimentary interactions - launching a web browser. (Blocked and Reported specifically)

Bait and switch is the de facto business model of the internet.

Burn money to bring in users, then monetize and exit.

Substack doesn't even support markdown yet, right ?

As far as I can see markdown is very popular in developer circles only - I guess due to GitHub popularizing it.

So I could imagine it's not on their radar for something aimed at bloggers - of course some will be developers too but not too many.

This is the reason.

>Imagine walking into a nice high end restaurant, and the server tries to sell you a credit card before taking your order.

The first thing I'd think is "how high are the prices that they suggest I need more credit?"

Agree. There's a reason there are so many "de-medium-er" scriptlets and browser plugins; to get away from all that crap.

Here's the one I use with mostly success:


I don’t understand what you mean by hijacking copy paste and highlighting and I’d like to. Could you say more?

> you annoy me so much that even if there's good content behind it I'm long gone before I ever find out because you've already pushed me away

I cannot agree more. The brand has destroyed itself by putting everything behind a login/pay-wall. I don't even click on medium.com links anymore, regardless of how interesting the content may be. And if I accidentally click on one, I click the back button in less than a second.

I understand the desire to monetize, but this is not the way.

How do they monetize? I never tried to register. Do they ask money to actually read the content they did not even produce themselves?

I'd expect for them to monetize on ads. And ads show up regardless of registration status.

I was looking at Medium yesterday for the first time after a long break.

"X free articles." OK. Fine.

How much does a subscription cost? No idea. That info isn't available without a signup. [1]

This is so fucking stupid. With other content sites I can see a price and I can decide if I think it's worth it.

With Medium it feels like they have something to hide.

Obviously I didn't sign up and I didn't click through.

If the content was good enough and if it was worth the money I would. But they way Medium is now, neither of those important details is visible.

[1] Or by Googling. Which works, but...

> How much does a subscription cost? No idea. That info isn't available without a signup.

On top of that, they don't let you specifically log into an account. They let you type in an email address, which will either log into an existing account or create a new account. Better hope you use the same email for every site. Also better hope you're not trying to check if an account exists or not, because the process of checking will just create a new account if not.

That subscription cost thing is a really good point, totally forgot about that when I wrote the original comment, I also ran into that myself and I still don't know because I never created an account.

This is also a bad idea IMO because it brings up the feeling of "if you have to ask..."

Exactly, it is the enshittifying of the service by corrupting it’s original promise and replacing it with “make more money”.

Nobody comes to use your service just because you want more money. People come to get value, and that has been sniffed out.

P.S. props to Corey doctorow for his fantastic “enshittification” posts.


Thanks for the link, found the post very interesting.

On top of that, medium just isn’t a site that matters much to me. I am not interested in exploring medium to find the interesting articles they are boosting. For me medium is just a place that hosts articles that I find through reddit or HN or mastodon. The best thing it can do is let me read that one article and get out of the way. It doesn’t need features, it doesn’t need recommendations, it just needs to not be annoying to read, it needs to not try to engage me.

But the investors will never let it just be that, there’s too much money involved.

Agree idk why anyone would stay in the medium ecosystem. The site is annoying so much so that like others I think twice before I even click a medium link.

I love these. Someone posts a scathing critique of a company. Company representative responds with a mea culpa that misses the mark, and includes plans to fix. Top reply nails the actual problem, why the fix won’t work, and gets massive agreement. Company rep doesn’t respond.

You know it hits hard though. Hopefully they take it to heart. I like using medium as an author but HATE the “4 articles remaining” crap. I’ve been planning to move elsewhere but have been lazy. I’ve noticed from my readership numbers that I’m not alone.

I think it's just cause there's two options.

As the platform goes to shit, keep milking it for all it's worth till the bitter end.


Try and fix it and earn a bit less money for a year or two as it becomes healthy again and thrives.

It's not easy to tell investors that losing money for a year or two is ok and "just trust me".

Exactly. X-views is just disrespect and ensures I never build a habit out of the platform’s content. Same goes for sites like FineHomeBuilding.com. Even if I know there’s good content there, I now avoid clicking just to not “use up” my stupid 3 views a month (yes, can copy/paste url to private browsing, but easier to just go elsewhere).

these days i usually immediately close a page if it's on medium.com because of these dark patterns

Same feeling here. There was a time in which it was pleasant to read an article in medium but not anymore and they made the experience so awful that I'm not willing to give them any more chances to improve. And reading the CEO here it seems they aren't even aware what the real problems are.

I wonder how much traffic they loose on that first pop up. I bet like 25-50% of all views never make it past that shitty subscribe thing

Exactly my reasons as well. I just kept running into walls on medium. I recall commenting on articles that I did end up reading wasn't smooth either.

Everyone needs to build a brand, with their own blog. When posting on Medium, it also feels like Medium is hijacking the long-term reputation that we’re building.

I don’t know, maybe Medium should promote individual articles that are on Wordpress instances of personal and corporate blogs. Who would be happy to pay to apply to the vetting process.

This. I never felt recommendations were a problem. I stopped reading medium articles once everything was behind a paywall. When most content is mediocre at best, paywalls aren’t helpful.

But even if the content is good.. Annoying me with making an account and only viewing 3 random articles ensures I'll never find out how great it is. Making an account is a pretty big step if you're just consuming content.

Unless those 3 articles all happen to be amazing which is unlikely, and even then it's still a very large jump to a pricey subscription. Not everyone makes silicon valley money.

Ps not sure if it's still 3, because I haven't visited medium for about a year now.

Could you give an example of 3 amazing articles that would make you purchase a subscription if you found them on the same platform?

> The problem with an X-views paywall is: you annoy me so much that even if there's good content behind it I'm long gone before I ever find out because you've already pushed me away.

I'm not a spiteful person in general, but I won't pay for anything that does things like this out of spite.

I just assume I'll be paywalled before clicking a Medium link, so I don't.

Exactly, at the risk of repeating the same word that many other sibling comments begin with.

After Drupalgeddon, I signed up for Medium and started migrating my content from my site https://donhopkins.com to Medium, because I was tired of sinking time into maintaining my own blog.

I loved the simplicity of the interface and how nice it looked.

But it felt like Medium's goals were at cross purposes to what I wanted to use it for.

I just wanted to make my content easily accessible to the maximum number of people, and I was willing to pay a monthly fee for that. I have no interest in making money off of it.

But Medium seems to be designed for people who want to get rich quick, and the devil's contract that I entered into was that because of the possibility of making money off of Medium (even if I opted out), that gave them free license to make money off of me, so of course their pursuit of exploiting me of me overwhelmed my presumed desire to make money off of my own labor and content unless I systematically and enthusiastically played their clickbait pyramid scheme, and even then were I to monetize my own content at the expense of people being able to read it, all I'd get was chump change, so monetization simply wasn't worth it to me.

I'd rather pay more in exchange for freedom from the feeling of being treated like a prostitute by an exploitive pimp.

I got the distinct feeling that Medium's promotion algorithms not just ignored me but actually had disdain for me, because I wasn't playing their monetization game.

If I write an article about ray tracing lime jello, then why can't I submit it for syndication to three specialty groups about ray tracing, jello, and limes, without restricting everyone on the internet from discovering and reading it for free in my own channel? Why are all the popular syndication channels there for the express purposes of exploiting me to make money for themselves?

That's like having not one pimp, but an entire pyramid of pimps trying to bully my customers and restrict and exploit my work, that I'm happy and willing to do for free.

I'm not going to get into the user interface, which would require writing a hundred page Medium article in itself (that would be promoted to and read by exactly zero readers). I'll just say that at first it was the thing that attracted me, but then once I actually started using it, it was infuriating and frustrating and purposefully lacking obvious and crucial features (not to mention those that I came to depend on that were later removed or hidden).

There are some great things about the ease of writing and editing and formatting articles, but also so many conspicuous trepanations of the skull and lobotomization of the brain that it's obvious it's all part of some dark pattern to brutally control my mind and behavior.

The final straw was when I found myself unable to control the formatting of my images. I was SURE I was able to do that before, but the interface simply was ignoring my mouse clicks that I'd learned to use. At first I thought there was something wrong with my mouse. Then maybe my browser was broken. Or possibly it was my internet connection. And then finally I felt like I was losing my mind and mis-remembering that I used to be able to do this simple obvious thing, and wondering how it was that my previous articles were formatted in ways I couldn't figure out how to apply to my new articles. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I am being gaslighted?

Finally I googled for "why can't I control the formatting of images in my medium articles", and this came up:


>Image formatting feature deprecation

>As of January 2022, Medium no longer supports formatting options for images in the Medium editor.

>All images in stories are now displayed in a single image size. Other features, such as the alt text, captions, grids, and image links, remain unaffected.

>Medium has recently redesigned parts of its website in order to deliver a more browsable, consistent, and faster experience to all users. To that end, we have removed certain design elements on the published story page, along with the ability to format and resize imagery in the story editor.

>We know image sizing matters to many writers. So, why did we remove this feature? Simply put: We removed image sizing to accommodate a new right-hand column that provides readers with relevant context on the story they’re reading, along with related reads across Medium. Our data shows this new right-hand column benefits writers by presenting their stories to more readers across the network.

Then why the hell don't you program your web site to respond to the mouse clicks on images with a big red popup and loud buzzer that goes "BZZZZZZZTTTTTT!!!!! YOU CAN'T DO THAT ANY MORE!!!!" so I know it's MEDIUM and not ME that's at fault?

FUCK Medium's right-hand column. I don't give a shit about it. I don't want Medium to "provides readers with relevant context on the story they’re reading", I want readers to READ MY STORY. But obviously the only thing Medium cares about is castrating my formatting and gobbling up my precious square centimeters of screen space for the express purpose of diverting and distracting people away from reading my free content that I'm paying them to publish, and sucking them into the click-bait paid content that they actually make money off of.

The patronizing phrase "Our data shows..." is as bad as "I'm not racist, but..." because it tells me beyond doubt that Medium has become yet another data driven Zynga Cow Clicker skinner box.


Medium's and Zynga's only goal is monetization by metrics, which suck out every drop of human creativity, design, and intent, and incarcerates my readers in the Clockwork Orange Movie Theatre Scene!


>I believe in second chances. I want us to work together. I want you to become a valued member of our organization. Surrender, and you will find meaning. Surrender, and you will find release. Take a deep breath. Calm your mind. You know what's best. What's best is you comply. Compliance will be rewarded. Are you ready to comply, Agent 33?

Are there other platforms you'd be willing to name that you see as being grassroots "for users by users"? I may want to look into some of them.

You're on one right now. If that wasn't clear from my post.

Also, Reddit still manages ok on this front IMO. The only reason I stopped paying was that they doubled the price when they moved away from gold to whatever it is they call now.

Another one is tweakers.net in Holland.

Boards.ie in Ireland though I left that country years ago and I don't know how that site is fairing now.

Those are the main ones I can think of right now.

Reddit is doing everything they can to kill it though. It's gone from habitually including site:reddit.com in every google search to actively avoiding it on mobile.

I'm not going to install the app. Ever. I will never, ever, ever install reddit's app. No amount of nagging me will ever get me to install it ever.

I still use site:reddit.com for recommendations, I just use a third party app for viewing (rif is fun, aka "reddit is fun").

"reddit is fun is fun for reddit"

Is that Apollo for Reddit on the iOS app store?

How do you get weblinks to open in that app?

Three dots, open in app. You need something that is associated to those links for the menu option to show though. (Firefox)

Good point. I forgot about the incessant app nagging because I use the old mobile interface and I don't really use reddit on mobile that much anymore.

However one of the things I do like is that they don't really interfere with the content. There's some really fringey communities on there like exhibitionists that would be banned by other platforms in 5 minutes because they really don't want to deal with the legal worries and stigmatization. Reddit leaves them alone, the only time they really close communities is when they become toxic.

I'm not a fan of Conde Nast but they could have done a lot worse with Reddit.

I use https://apolloapp.io/ - heck a few weeks ago I realized I used it SO much I paid for it, not because I wanted any of its premium features, just because it has delivered so much value to me I decided to give its author some money.

I use Apollo (paid version) after Alien Blue got unusable and I still have the problem that sometimes links go to the mobile site in a browser within Apollo where I get bombarded with "download the Reddit app".

I wouldn't be surprised to see Reddit kill their API in the future.

They're probably sitting back taking notes on the bull in the china shop that is Musk owned Twitter

If you replace the reddit URL with i.reddit.com, you get the old mobile site, which was optimized for 533MHz devices. They sometimes put banners to redirect you to the newer design, but you can dismiss them

That’s great info thanks!

Same… and, yeah, it’s purely out of spite. The more you nag, the less likely I will do the thing.

I use site:reddit.com all day in Google though. It really is still somehow a reliable place for information.

What’s wrong with the app? I’m not using reddit very often, but the app seems ok.

Patreon still has some of this feel somehow - it feels more connected when I support someone

I think that's because not many people use their discovery. They usually end up from somewhere else. So they don't have that part to play with (eg charging money or using algorithms to recommend content that's profitable for them).

Also, their monetisation is pretty seamless because you come there with the intent to pay. So requests for payment don't feel out of place.

I guess for the people you patron it's less great now because I see many people moving to ko-fi.

I don't know if this fits what you were thinking of but I love rateyourmusic.com. Great community, great content, simple website.



Their clickbait-optimized recommendation engine is still a major problem, though.

The main landing page is such a shitshow. The feeling sticks to you no matter what after that.

You nailed it.

The same goes with coding. SO and github are good. Everything else is pretty much garbage.

Yeah, the paywall is also a huge part of it. They basically committed suicide when they locked everything behind a paywall. At least most Substack authors are smart enough to make most their content free.

This x 100000000


I have been conditioned to expect low-effort, surface level, self promotion fluff when I click on a Medium article. The site feels like if Quora and LinkedIn had a baby. I don't know, maybe it's just because I mainly stick to programming posts, and nobody decent is using medium for those anymore (you just can't customize the articles well enough, format code like you want to, have any degree of interactivity). This happened gradually, I didn't always have this association with the site...

> The site feels like if Quora...

Sorry. Quora, to me, is beyond useless. Every once in a while I'll click on a Quora URL only to be let down again. One day I'll do the right thing and blacklist it on my local recursive DNS server so as not to be tempted and waste even more time in the future.

Indeed. I’m tired of the SEO’s rehashes of an MDN page when I just came from the MDN page and am looking for someone’s experience with the given topic.

I’m a writer who used to write on medium, started writing on substack last October. To be honest, I like the business model of medium better. I get paid when people read my stuff. Plus having distribution built in, that’s great. But last year I started posting really thoughtful content that I put a lot of work into, and I would get like dozen views. I had 300 followers and several previously successful articles and I was getting nothing. I get more views on Substack with no distribution at all! So it is just straight up not worth it, in any way, for me to publish on medium. I really feel like it was a bad move to remove the discrete human curation. I really feel like you need a big wheat-chaff separator, so that readers aren’t getting shown clickbait garbage, and writers get distributed if and only if they are actually producing relatively thoughtful, relatively unique content.

> But last year I started posting really thoughtful content that I put a lot of work into, and I would get like dozen views.

I used to be active blogger in 2000s and was a part of blogging community back then. One lesson that I learned back then was that you cannot predict popularity. Those heavy pieces you think will be hits with readers will not be and those that you throw together on a whim about your sock drawer will get more hits than anything else combined. Ymmv, but the effort you put in does not always equal the popularity it'll get.

These aren’t the key problem.

The key problem is that you’ve lost the trust of the authors you want to attract. It’s no longer a place I can post and know that my content will be cleanly accessible to readers. I now think you’ll pepper it with pop ups and account demands.

It went from being a minimalist and trusted place to post, to now a feeling of feeding my own content into someone else’s machine and losing control of it.

Also: if you've been the new CEO since last July and haven't figured this out, you'll fail to save Medium.

You mentioned paying attention to the sentiment and linked to the HN survey where people explained why they don't like Medium. The top comment was someone explaining this exact reason.

It's highly admirable that you are on here trying to listen, communicating issues transparently, and working to fix problems. But I think you need to listen even more deeply.

Unfortunately this will push you into the depths of the business model that you won't want to change, but is the fundamental reason for medium's eventual failure.

Right now is the moment to save it, as you read this note!

For me, it’s more like: if I write on medium, I know my stuff is being put right next to utter shit. I take writing seriously, and it honestly looks bad to be in the platform, because almost everything you see on there is so bad.

I think that’s a pretty good summary. If I write something for the public to enjoy, I’d better to it on my own site. They may never actually find it, but at least they’d be able to access it when they do.

I mean the key problem is surely that most readers don't want to pay to read blogs, so you can't really fund a large business from it. Medium has 180 employees apparently, which tbf is less than I expected. But still, it's a very simple site. Really it should be "finished" and running on like 50 employees at the most. You could then probably find it by relatively reasonable advertising instead of paywalls. Or potentially charge authors for features like image hosting.

There is only one reason medium went down the hole and it's because it annoyed the fuck out of users by demanding sign up (and subscription) just to read content OTHERS had created on the platform.

What the hell did they expect would happen?

Medium did one thing and one thing well: a fast, easy, and free way to publish an article for the others to read. The value of that is immense.

It has nothing to do with 1 and 2. Youtube is FULL of click bait videos and their recommendation system is garbage, but it thrives, you know why?

They take care of their best content creators, they even send a plaque! And they don't force viewers to subscribe, they show ads and offer a subscription to remove them.

Imagine if youtube tomorrow started telling every visitor that they must login to view any video, and if they view more than 10 videos they need to buy a subscription. Rumble.com would be popping champagne.

Am I misremembering that medium's signup nag screen was just cookie based? I have cookie autodelete after I close a tab, so I haven't seen those since forever.

On the other hand, the low quality content was what made me avoid medium.com links, so my experience perfectly mirrors the comment.

> It has nothing to do with 1 and 2. Youtube is FULL of click bait videos and their recommendation system is garbage, but it thrives, you know why?

It's extremely expensive to run a competitor to a global video platform, the platform is much stickier, the app makes it even more sticky, and they're a billion dollar ad company that can spend giant sums of money on creators? Starting a medium competitor is trivial in comparison, you can do so with Wordpress out of the box. It won't scale to the same size, won't be as nice etc, but it'll work. You can't do the same with Youtube.

That’s another problem - anyone writing on medium who is actually successful and good will end up just writing their own content for their own platform.

The NYTimes does it. And that's the thing think we got wrong: the pay off for what is behind the paywall has to be higher.

There is a huge difference between the NYTimes and Medium. For readers, the content on Medium is fungible: if it goes away today, it's easily replaceable by the 100 other user driven sites like it. I'm not saying that the content on Medium is bad, but it's easily replaceable.

The NYTimes provides a level of journalism that is not easily replaceable by letting a bunch of random people blog. That's why their subscription works. True there are other journalism sites. But there are also many actors, but only one Tom Cruise; the NYTimes is like Tom Cruise, which is why he is paid so much. Medium is more like an unknown actor that is good but there are 100 waiting to replace him.

The best of Medium is better than the best of the NYTimes and isn’t fungible at all. That’s not refuting what you see. To get those gems you see too many me too articles. You are right.

This is delusional, the best of Medium isn’t exclusive to Medium. The New York Times has over 150 years of reputation built on quality, and its content is available no where else. Medium has a loose collective of bloggers who can easily migrate to a different platform with no requirements on the quality of the content they produce. If you want to compare yourself to the NYT it’s not enough to have a few good articles, every article has to be held to the highest standards of trust and the vast majority must be exclusive.

You probably think too highly of the times. They have access though more than quality. They are the official communication channel of the US government and that alone makes them unique and important. It’s comparable to a subscription to a standards library or government code book

That’s going too far. The NYTimes is playing a different game in a different league and a comparison is not apt.

I have read really interesting material on Medium and it’s just not enough to make me want to pay to read _any_ content on Medium. I might pay to remove ads like I do on YouTube but only after developing a habit that is triggered by content I care enough about and visit often enough for the ads experience to detract from it.

In my experience Medium should have been (could still be?) a Wordpress killer and not a publishing play.

That is a good point...if you had some way of putting this amazing content at the top, then Medium would have a chance. In that regard I think Medium has the same problem as Soureforge.

I've seen tons of medium articles and to me it always seemed like random ranting and a pulpit for leftists, rather than a serious platform. I hope you can do something about it.

Perhaps something like the Top 2/5/whatever medium articles a day/week are absolutely free to everyone - a taste. And then if you subscribe you get a larger amount of similarly good articles right below.

I’ll admit I don’t bother with the NYT or Medium or Subspace, but if I ever were to subscribe it’d be along those lines.

Even if that were true, it doesn’t matter. The NYT is THE NYT and Medium is just another Quora/Pinterest/rando website.

Medium has not earned the right to paywall content, the NYT has, apparently.

You need to find another way.

Maybe a pay by the drink subscription model.

Put a button on each article so I can decide how much I want to pay, with zero as an option.

Put a little counter at the top so I can see how much I’ve spent this month and how much has gone to authors vs the company.

If the content is that good, people will pay, I know I would. But I ain’t paying monthly for something I don’t use regularly and I ain’t paying to read something based on a title.

NYTimes is both vetted and timely which completely changes the value proposition.

Medium has a very different and inherently lower value proposition. It needs to get people to read and value old content.

I subscribe to the New York Times because I want to support the journalists who write for the New York Times. I don't want to pay some intermediary.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding where the money for Medium's paywall goes and you've actually been giving the vast majority of subscription revenue to the writers this whole time—but that wasn't obvious to me.

I don’t think this will work out for a site that’s based on user-generated content. What would work is require payment for power-user features. But not for content.

They're not very successful are they? I mean it's a famous paper but are they really succeeding at monetizing their site this way?

I often get linked to a NYT article but as I don't even live in the US I'd never be tempted to pay for it. If I couldn't just use a paywall blocker or archive.is I'd just ignore them altogether. I kinda doubt they get many subscribers from outside their native area (US as they have a bigger reach than just new York)

I think the guardian does this a lot better, they don't paywall but ask for a contribution even if you don't subscribe. I've actually contributed a few times there.

NYTimes is definitely a successful example of the paywall strategy. They just added 180,000 subscribers in their most recent quarter and continue to make a profit: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/02/business/media/nyt-q3-202...

That implies that NYTimes is thriving after their inclusion of paywall.

It's not.

It's on the same path as medium and slowly over time other venues of information are (stealthily) eating its lunch.

There will be a 'Why did nytimes.com "fail"?' HN post in a few years from now.

The NYTimes digital subscription is doing north of $800M/year. That’s successful in my book.

Medium is not the NYT. They have a hundred years of reputation as one of the best newspapers in the world to build a subscription model from. People want them to survive.

Medium.com used to have a good reputation. But it never had anything like the NYT's and right now the only reputation you have is "hot garbage cash grab". Most people want your service to die. I know I did, before reading your responses here at least.

Sorry to be blunt, and I wish you luck in digging back out of that. But I would gently suggest that looking to the NYT as your shining success story is... Well I think there's a parable to match this but it escapes me now. Like an ant looking at an elephant maybe.

Is that the inclusive of the games? I used to pay them for access to the crosswords (they really are the best, but couldn't care less about their "journalism"), and as far as I knew that's under the same umbrella.

Of course, that was before I found out that canceling requires talking to an AOL-like retention droid rather than just clicking a button, and that's when they stopped getting my money permanently.

This is my impression as well, about NYT's business.

The "internet person" knee jerk response about paywalls, does have a certain degree of truth about relevance of journalism though, but that's a longer term loss of a commons rather than a business model issue, at least right now.

Soft paywalls often allow you to read a few articles when you click through to google, but then you share an article with someone who's wrong on the internet. And you end up looking like a ding-a-ling because a paywall is presented when the user opens the article url directly with no google referrer, and no normal person is going to google an article to be allow to read an opposing view.

Essentially, it's a shame that the open web business model didn't work for 'real' journalism, because there's plenty of dogshit-tier content to happily take its place.

Here in Finland, public service broadcaster Yle has been a good source for good information in text form, but the media industry has fought tooth and nail to try and impose limits like Yle only being allowed to publish certain types of longer-form journalistic text, like investigations when enough rich media is included.

I can appreciate the argument about public service distorting the market in this case, but I'm really worried about the local information that's going to be available sans paywall on search engines in the long run with these restrictions.

It's unclear how big the impact of the above is going to be, but remember, this is a small market, too. Especially if Yle's budgets are slashed to allow less longer-form journalism that qualifies for web publishing with the rules, it might get hairy.

I've been thinking about something related to internet paywalls.

In the old print model, you paid for up-to-date news on whatever topic. If you didn't want to pay for that, the news was available to you anyway, just slower. Your friend subscribes to a magazine and you can read it once she's done with it. There's a newspaper in the break room, usually 2-3 days behind today. Which newspaper it is varies.

Internet paywalls seem to place more emphasis on restricting their content permanently. Subscriber content goes to subscribers, and non-subscribers aren't supposed to see it.

I suspect that the availability-with-delay model of the older system generated a lot of influence for the content that permanent locks don't generate. If you can't afford a subscription to Seventeen, you might still care what it says because you can follow it anyway. If you can't follow it, it's a short step to not caring what it says.

I heard AOL was doing great in revenue too.

It won't happen over night, of course there will be a temporary boost in revenue when one decides to force everyone that visits the site to pay.

How much of that is from existing NYTimes subscribers, marketing tactics (eg. wordle), shady subscription offer deals, forgotten subscriptions, and lack of suitable competition.

Over time though that withers and once that withering starts, nothing brings it back.

See you in a few years.

The New York Times's paywall is more than a decade old at this point.

Then something changed recently then as I personally never noticed an annoyance on nytimes til recent years after where it seemed any article required paywall.

In addition, there is one important thing that is not being paywalled (yet), the 'news' value of nytimes is still accessible via the headline + summary on the front page.

The moment the guys chasing a buck remove that is the day nytimes dies.

The NYT paywall has gotten far more aggressive in recent years.

wrong. NYtimes revenue is growing after inclusion of a paywall. After initial years of decline at the start of the digital age, NYTimes finally have their revenue strategy right. It's actually the ad share of their revenue that is decreasing, while subscription is growing faster than ad share is decreasing. Print subscription is now stabilizing. So you are wrong, what the market has shown is that priced appropriately, people will pay for high quality content. Personally I am proof. I pay for both Nytimes, WaPo, and the athletic, and together they cost less than $20/mo

Revenue != Success

Priced appropriately is a key word, you're happy to pay $20/mo for 3 services but will you feel the same when it's $200/mo for 10 services?

Netflix was priced appropriately until it started getting some competition, we all see what happened there.

The irony of the entire situation is that real competition could have been medium, if they didn't fuck it up.

Netflix has more subscribers and revenue now then it ever did when there was less competition, so unclear what “happened”

Short term, yes, but it's had a massive head start, these things take time.

Subscribers recently increased because account sharing was stopped but recently Disney has already passed Netflix in subscribers across all its platforms: https://www.forbes.com/sites/qai/2022/09/27/disney-surpasses...

Netflix revenue has started to decline and as they start increasing their pricing and removing shows to save a buck, more and more users will leave, it's already happening, just not reflected on the charts yet due to the aforementioned stopping shared accounts.

The Disney+ vs Netflix subscriber growth trajectory says it all: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/netflix-statistics/

As a random HN visitor that clicks links to Medium from here, it’s been a while since visiting Medium has become the following experience for me.

First I click a couple of, let’s say, “why X is dead” links, then I start getting the message “You have Y free articles left this month”. Then I’m thinking, okay, the “X ded” articles were meh anyway, why would I even subscribe then? Somewhere in this scenario the incentive to subscribe is missing for me. Maybe there’s a world of cool articles out there, but from visiting a random article with the “you have Y articles left” popup they cannot be seen. Just my two cents!

That’s probably a chicken/egg problem, and I don’t know how I would even begin to untangle it if I were you. But I hope you will! Best of luck and thank you for the interesting remarks :)

Yes, that's precisely my sentiment as well.

As far as fixing it, the obvious first step is to at least be more generous with the article count... and don't show it at all until someone has seen at least 5 articles on separate days that month. Count a session clicking through a few articles on the same day as at most 2 article views (maybe have a separate limit of something like 5 articles in the same day). Don't be a nag trying to upsell when people haven't even had a chance to get interested yet.

That at least would cut down on the sleazy feeling of the whole site. An easy next step would be hiring someone as an editorial curator. Most of their job to start would be to build a regex list of article title structures which are overly cliched, so that those articles get de-merited by the recommender algorithm

Another way to feed a meaningful recommender: Allow users to tag posts (and other more clever things like deriving tags by looking at, e.g., which sub-reddits link to them). Build user profiles that are similar to how StumbleUpon had a "Stumble DNA" for users.

That's what I would be doing, anyway.

I think the issue here might be of a more general nature.

Would it be fair to say that we usually expect blogs to be free to read? I think yes, because that’s how it has been for some time -- somebody wants to share their thoughts, you want to read them, no money involved.

Now, some people run paid newsletters, and can charge you for their content, and you pay them if you feel like you’re getting value out of it. Investment advice, curated content, you name it.

But that’s precisely the thing: if a blog is paywalled, you can decide if you want to pay this exact author. But Medium is a platform. And it’s weird: why should you pay money to some platform on which some author is publishing a seemingly free to read blog? Without the value clearly communicated, it feels like a weird form of extortion.

There might be something to do about it, like along the lines of “hey our crazy AI recommendation engine can find some articles on the same topic for ya, just for three bucks a month”. Okay, but why would you do that if you still have search engines and stackoverflow? Where’s the value? I don’t know vOv

An afterthought: there are platforms with “bunch of bloggers” that we can pay money to, and they are called old school newspapers. But the implication remains: with the newspaper, you know what they do and what you pay money for. What does Medium want to get paid for without being a traditional newspaper, with all the things like editorial policy, journalistic standards (whatever they might be) and so on? To me it’s unclear.

Based on what the CEO said, it sounds like they want to get paid for a recommendation engine that surfaces quality, substantial content. Upping the signal-to-noise ratio. Where traditional newspapers have editorial policy and journalistic standards, you could see that as an authoritative "these are the rules and follow them". I could see medium attempting a more 'free market system' where writers are incentivized to write quality content by getting views and money and the snuff sinks to the bottom. Essentially taking a more 'automated system of incentives' approach to try and fill that newspapery niche.

Especially with the consideration that traditional newspapers typically don't have niche content like programming articles.

Commenting on you and j_crick:

> That’s probably a chicken/egg problem, and I don’t know how I would even begin to untangle it if I were you.

Paywall half of the article so the reader gets an idea on whether or not they want to pay to read more. This would also encourage impulse purchases.

> Most of their job to start would be to build a regex list of article title structures which are overly cliched, so that those articles get de-merited by the recommender algorithm

Categorize articles. There's no need to make cliched articles impossible to find for the cliche-interested reader.

Well that’s probably the response that’s most swayed my opinion of a service ever. Good luck with it, I really hope you can turn it around.

Agreed, I think this deserves recognition. This is not the fake self promotion disguised as “brutal honesty” you see in the corporate word, there are actual admissions here that go beyond that, which leads even a cynic like me to take this seriously.

It’s also important to understand that a lot of people will never pay for or be happy with the paywall content model, especially for articles. So even a success in this domain would be hated by a lot of people.

Those of us who personally wouldn’t pay for articles aren’t the target audience anyway, and that’s ok. I think throwing rocks at paywalls is a stupid thing to do, especially when the only alternative is ad-tech. I’d rather have competing business models than not.

What doesn’t make sense to me, is that opaque clickbait recommendation engines AND paywall made itself to the same platform. This seems odd, because usually the former is a plague of ad-tech. Perhaps this is the result of cargo-culting from employees who came from ad-tech mindlessly replicating these patterns even where they don’t make sense.

It is still corporate speak. He has posted similar before and been told that the paywall and forced reg is the issue. Then he comes back, doesn’t acknowledge it and gets told the same again. That is not genuine engagement.

The people who hate the paywall above all aren't customers, and frankly, being more concerned about that than whether the content behind it is worthwhile at all seems mixed up. I cant blame him for not prioritizing those things - I personally care way more about whether or not clicking a medium link is likely to lead me to something relevant, the rest can be negotiated.

Customers are the end of a funnel that starts with non-customers/visitors.

if visitors numbers are shrinking you get no new customers.

add to that the risk of other platforms trying to get away your existing users:

- substack: both writers and readers - hashnode: targeting writters and readers from tech - dev.to: the same as hashnode - mastodon: longer posts and with elk and others better syntax - ghost : writers and readers

and many more.

so not paying attention to the base of the funnel is very costly in the long run: and this is what happened to Medium = ignored the base of the funnel (the free users) for a long period and focused on short term goals/income

Maybe not customers, but still part of the audience.

Why should you, I, or anyone else care when that part of the audience is solely concerned with how to make the experience bearable for free at the expense of making it genuinely worthwhile? Its not a coherent position.

I don't care because I'm not Medium.

Medium is trying to be a two-sided marketplace. In any such marketplace, the producers want the audience to be as big as possible, and the consumers want the inventory to be as big as possible. Neither cares about Medium making a profit, except to the extent it incidentally furthers their own goals.

To succeed, either they monetize the transaction as a middleman (e.g. ads when transactions don't involve the exchange of money), or they figure out how to establish a direct financial relationship with the producers and/or consumers (like Costco's annual fee).

Medium has chosen a pathological route of using the two-sided marketplace principally to advertise a fee for their own product. (Yes, "principally" is fair. I believe their conversion rate is low, so the vast majority of impressions represent potential members of the two-sided marketplace that they're OK turning away, even though that frustrates both the producers who wanted the audience to grow, and the consumers who wanted to read the article.)

The fact that they can't figure out a better way to make money than to turn away customers is not my problem. There are plenty of other places for me to read or publish content that have figured out how to be sustainable operations.

My personal viewpoint is that Medium is in a death spiral. If their paywall is abrasive, which I think it is, then I won't join, because I would question which content publishers would be OK being behind an abrasive paywall. Medium's real offer to me -- that they're where to find content from publishers I like -- has failed. That was their one and only job from my perspective. They failed.

I can't be the only one who feels this way.

Yes, this.

Oh, I don't feel like I"m ignoring that, sorry. The regwall is a bit confusing to me personally because we don't have one anymore. People here seem to have a long memory about a time when maybe there was a regwall dark pattern. But I never saw it because I was always logged in during that period and nobody who worked on it is still at the company.

But the paywall, i.e. the metered paywall where some articles are behind a paywall by author choice and an unsusbcribed reader can read three of those a month, is up there. And I'm just coming at it from the opposite side. Many people here don't want to see a paywall. That's fine. But I'd like to see their reaction if the quality of what was behind it changed. A no might still be a no, but I think the tenor would change. So that's how my original take on fix quality first fits into the anti-paywall headline of other people. This model works well enough for us in the worst possible implementation that I believe it will work all the way if we have a better implementation, especially if there is more of a sense of that there's at least something valuable behind it.

How would you do it differently, assuming the same fundamental business model - ie charging users for content. If you don’t run ads, then you have to paywall, no? And if you paywall, you have to register.

Isn’t this the same as how Patreon works? I’m not too familiar with these services, but genuinely curious.

Either way, this still gets to the heart of Mediums problem. Why have a conversation about tweaking the recommendation system when there is this elephant in the room about gating content?

If charging for content is their business model then it's fundamentally flawed in my opinion. Why would people give away high quality content and let medium charge for it? It looks like they do have some revenue share programme, but Substack offer a simple and transparent 90% payment in your favour.

Hopefully you’re reading the replies here too then, because they don’t at all seem to gel with what you’re saying. The replies do reflect a lot of my own experiences though:

- Medium was a good platform for people to publish well formatted content online. - said content ranked quite high on Google. - There’s now a non-trivial amount of content published by myriad authors on there. - I have zero interest in following a particular author. I don’t want recommendations. I end up there as a result of a very specific need at the time. - you’re incessant pop ups to log in or sign up to read the content drastically reduced that value. - I’ve now been conditioned to just avoid any search results that look like they go to a Medium page.

I obviously have no idea how widespread that experience is. The unfortunate reality is that the damage has been done. You could undo all of the things that led to it and I’d never know given the muscle memory that’s been created.

From a non-CEO and non-creator perspective, the bait-and-switch from “come use our awesome tools you’ll love ‘em” to “now you our bitch and we pimping out your content” to me seems like that was the turning point for Medium.

As a subscriber I find it particularly odd that the recommendations got so bad

You can understand the kind of service which lives on ad revenue giving in to conflicts of interest leading to them recommending against the reader's interests, but there's no obvious conflict when you're a subscription service. It ends up being endless formulaic articles of the "5 packages your next project must use" ilk, with questionable grammar and a number of clichéd folksy writing habits common in certain circles.

Exactly. The whole reason we chose a subscription business model was so that we could focus on quality over clicks. I hope you are seeing some improvements. A lot more soon.

Just wanted to say thanks for your transparency - very cool to see you here acknowledging the pain points head on and sharing your plan to address them.

These aren't even the real pain points. Most people using Medium aren't using it to discover new content. The CEO clearly has no clue what they are doing.

I've never liked Medium, and your reasons aren't why. It's always been a primary example of building value on someone else's platform. Why? Why should I spend my time building value for you?

The "huge pile of shit" is a primary example of why authors should invest in tools they control and have a direct relationship with their audience. A portable relationship with their audience. As I see it, Medium is in conflict with that.

I'm really hoping that the Twitter fiasco and Medium's "huge pile of shit" will serve as object lessons why creators, publishers, etc. are better off building their own platforms even if it's slower initially.

I don’t really see why everyone needs to build their own cms. It’s super inefficient to have to maintain all the infrastructure and keep it up to date just so you can publish 6-20 articles a year

Are you sure you're paying attention? Those items fall way down the list of problems people will typically raise here. As others have said we're simply tired of being nagged and made to feel like cash cows, and this is doing serious harm to your brand.

Want to repair some of that damage right now? Stop prompting me to sign in when I try to read an article on Medium.

Are we still prompting you to sign in? I don't think we've done that for a long time. There's a metered paywall but there isn't a regwall on anything that you wouldn't expect (i.e. comments).

still get "Read the rest of this story with a free account." after 5ish articles. Rather than signin i just switch to incognito.

Thank you. I think that's still a form of metered paywall as in it's a regwall as an option to get another article.

I read your previous replies on HN and it seems what you’re doing is more like managing the public image rather than actually listening to what people want.

Medium is still very aggressive data harvesting machine. Look at what sub stack is doing and just do the same, what they’re doing is correct and valuable and what medium had done so far is absolutely full-on reader/writer hostile.

As someone who has spent time in the C-Suite, I applaud your courage in publicly addressing criticisms head-on. I just hope you are not fighting a losing battle against low employee morale, frustrated writers and angry, impulsive investors. I have a friend who got some traction on Medium, but if I want to write for myself I would choose Substack in a New York minute.

Best of luck!

You mentioned Substack, I’d like to question their model. With Medium they help with searching, although it needs an improvement, with Substack there is no such a thing, I have to subscribe to an author and read all his posts, but no human being can produce quality content 100% of time. I think they should change. Medium has better model, IMO

The way I understand it, Substack is literally a platform, more like Wordpress than Medium. It is incumbent on those who publish to do all their marketing, outreach, discovery, virality etc. using their own resources. Substack takes a very reasonable 10% on your revenue, so you don't have to be a programmer to distribute a newsletter, but getting the word out is up to you.

Yeah thanks for your transparency but how do you go about fixing these problems? Like it's great to acknowledge them but the "Why NodeJS is dead" article was in the suggested sidebar for me yesterday

It's been frustratingly slow because our recs system is sprawling. Your main feed is populated differently than the read-more section you are referencing. Plus author behavior lags incentives. We actually had a clickbait about MILFs on a programming story the other day so it's worse than you are reporting.

Where we are today is 30% rolled out but not even announced to our authors. That'll happen in a week and is when I think author behavior will change.

That "X is dead" trope will disappear from your recs both because we'll have better things to show and because the new incentives make it not worth writing. An article like that is very sensitive to incentives because there is no authentic reason to have written it. Probably without Medium's payment, it never would have been occurred to the person.

You're almost certainly right, of course, and it's interesting how medium fell into the same cycle of amplifying junk. Netflix is another case study here of something where the incentives weren't as obvious as with advertising funded content but still fell into line.

But mainly I came here to note the irony of this frank, honest and useful discussion taking place under an "X is dead" headline of its own.

Hah. You are right.

Do you see a shift away from clickbait in the long term across the industry? Publishing, search, social media, etc. have been devastated by it (among other factors).

You have to kill it at the funding - if the ad dollars don’t flow to the baiters they won’t bait.

Which for many platforms is a quite difficult thing because that’s they’re revenue and they don’t have the manpower or time to review everything.

Cutting the supply of money will kill the clickbait content alright but it will also kill vast swathes of "content, full stop". Somebody has to pay for hosting no matter what, and if I'm entertaining an idea of writing a fantasy novel in my spare time, I really don't want to be the one to pay. Or rather, I wouldn't want at the time in my life when I entertained such an idea.

I think more dollars is good, as it increases the number of opportunities. This comes with a lot of failed attempts at creating something of value, and that's ok. What we truly need, in a societal sense, is to make next generations recognize the current times as a crazed race after the least demanding content that they are, and to guide them in the direction of articles with enduring value, again. The generation that entered adulthood during these crazy times is probably already lost, the previous generation is busy raising kids, and the previous-previous generation lives in bunkers where only the guys who "go way back" can ever enter. If not the next generation, then we're probably done for, as the IT revolution will eat its children and their children too, like many revolutions before.

Theoretically, a subscription was supposed to be one part because it aligned us to the reader. But then we had a recommendation algorithm that was more aligned to an ad model. We're serious about changing our distribution to reward substance over clickbait and I think we will get there.

>MILFs on a programming story

Go on…

Do you know if Medium offers a verification process for authors to demonstrate that their content is not produced by a content mill?

As a Medium member since 2020, I've been writing articles that reflect real-world use cases and require 2-4 days of research and writing. Despite my efforts, I've only had one article boosted on the platform thus far.

It would be incredibly beneficial for creators like myself if Medium offered a verification process to prove our authenticity and help increase the visibility of our work.

I'm one of those people that don't follow authors and don't explore platforms. I access random pages on random sites from search engines or HN. That kind of solves the problem of quality.

Basically Medium is indistinguishable to me from any of its competitors, except it's quite slow to load so given two similarly promising links I prefer the other one. It's too much JavaScript because Medium can be fast if I turn JavaScript off using either NoScript, uBlock Origin, uMatrix etc.

Made an account to specifically say that I'll give your service a chance again because you actually admitted fault and how to fix it.

Great reply. It's rare to get such straightforward, measured responses from anyone representing anything.

Made clear by your own list, you seem to think Medium has a content issue.

The issue is how annoying it is to experience the content, not the content itself.

And wow, quite a claim to say that creators are too busy to have lives worth writing about.

Reconsider what went wrong with Medium so you can get on the right track.

I think we're seeing a similar problem just from different sides. Why make the experience more seamless if the content at the end isn't also worthwhile? You're working left to right, I'm working right to left.

If it’s not seamless then people won’t see the value to generate content in it. So you will get more garbage content.

If much of the content is garbage but some is good then presumably people will still come for the good stuff and just spend more time filtering out garbage. Most people don’t navigate inside the medium ecosystem anyway. So inner system garbage is less of a problem then landing experience

One thing you missed was the content ownership relationship between an author and their article. Articles posted originally on Medium are partially owned by Medium, which is a big reason why I do not use the service myself.

100% not true. Authors retain their copyright and can revoke their content from our site at any point.

I saw you made a similar post a while back and a whole thread of people who said it was the forced registration after a few views which damaged perception. The stuff above is trivial vs that.

That is by far and away your biggest issue in a community like this.

Can you expand on that? I get irritated by the paywall shit too but its hard to see how it would be reputation damaging in the same way as freeze dried fungible 'content'. The feeling that im getting is that people feel aggrieved and are saying what they think will be most effective in airing that grievance - is there something more substantial there Ive just missed?

get rid of the "register wall" or you're not even trying

This is the only real problem, everything else is noise. If that means Medium can’t have a successful business, “Medium is Dead”

Unless I'm misunderstanding you, we haven't had a register wall in a long time.

I wanted to believe you, but I seem to have just run out of "free stories for this month" and hit the register wall.

If this is what you believe is wrong with Medium, then i don't think you will rescue it.

Medium.com now paywalls even bullshit content. Simple as that.

You limit me to x number of free articles in a month, yet the first 10x articles from medium i see are absolute trash with no quality control and vetting and all so by the time i hit my limit, I am already annoyed by it.

If you are going to paywall me, let the content behind the paywall be from vetted sources that i have some sort of reasonable expectation. You can put a 'Buy Me a Coffee' for the rest of the other unverified sources.

If i am searching for articles on an advanced technique and all i see are articles from newbies who are neither addressing the question nor providing new insights, you can rest assured I will not be paying for your service nor clicking top search links from your site.

I think we agree. Quality is the issue. My points are the underlying reasons why.

Honestly the paywall has trained me to avoid clicking on anything from medium.com… I wish it was more nuanced than that, but the reality is that the content is not essential enough to justify a subscription.

The Substack model is more sustainable, but something about their incentive model or community design seems to result in impenetrable 9000 word essays.

In either case, "what if blog posts cost money" is a tough business—I wish you luck!

It sounds like you have a casual interest in longform articles. These subscription-driven publications are making their content more appealing to people who value longform enough to pay, which means the articles/emails are becoming really longform to appeal to those who like it the most.

That’s probably an accurate assessment—both of the market forces and my interest in longform. I love long reads from traditional media (eg NYT) so perhaps I just haven’t found the right Substacks for me—discovery seems to be a tricky issue in this space.

It’s doubly tricky because a good long form article is a bear to write - but a short article bloated up to look like a long form isn’t that bad.

Even reading enough of the long form magazine and newspaper articles you start to notice certain patterns.

Same for me. I end up subscribing through a lot and then picking through feeds with keyboard shortcuts and keyword filters to speed it up. Could be better--and those methods aren't solutions for large subscriber bases.

I was a Medium subscriber for a pretty long time. I'd seen some interesting, incisive stuff, so I subscribed. I'm happy to pay for quality. But shortly after I subscribed, the content I found was almost exclusively vapid self-promoters writing many, many words without any value about the latest buzzword they'd heard. It was so strange. The underlying tension between open, democratic platform, quality standards, and engagement is, clearly, not an easy one to resolve. I don't even claim to pretend to have an answer, but I would love to be in a position to pay for quality content on an open(ish) platform again someday.

Completely fair. Hopefully we are getting better again. The quality is there, we just need to make sure we show it to you.

my 50 cents, medium.com is a page I consciously avoid, a link to medium.com is a link I won't click.

medium.com has the feel of a dystopian internet that bugs you on every click. There is this classic Sci-Fi short story where the protagonist had to insert a coin in to the door to his apartment every time he wanted to use it. This is how medium has felt.

> full time content creation gets in the way of having personal experiences that are worth writing about

That”s incredibly insightful and explains so much of what’s wrong with, well, everything today. The actual doing has become an afterthought to the pitch, the documentation, the branding, the promotion, the cobranding, the cross-promotion, the synergies, and so on.

It’s never been so easy for people with so little to say to say so much. Curation has not kept up with creation. I hope Medium recovers.

Yeah, it's time for the curation economy! Did you read Neil Stephenson's book, Fall? There is a concept in there about edit streams that really stuck with me.

I have rarely seen a CEO speak so candidly about their company in public. Kudos for doing that.

You are drinking koolaid, though. Look at the comments. A lot of them are spot on.

>1. Lost our way on recommendations. When I showed up the company was convinced that engagement equals quality. That's not true and it gets even more pronounced if you pay people to game your recommendation system. I think we were boosting articles that made people think we were a site for clickbait. The canonical example for HN is "Why NodeJS is dead" by a new programmer with zero experience or context. Readers noticed this, but worse, so did authors. And so we lost the incentive for a lot of the best and most interesting authors to bother because they were getting swamped by content-mill type authors. As of December, about 30% of our recommendations are generated by a new system that is picking much higher quality articles that have been vetted for substance over clickbait. This is getting a lot better, rapidly.

You say this but this went on for literal years.

And I've been mad about it for literal years.

>Yes, but only because they are aggressively making their reading experience terrible. I'd argue that a WordPress site with the default template is less offensive at this point. The typography and layout on Medium is fine, it's the popups, nags, paywall, and the like. For a while there was a lovely extension called "Make Medium Readable Again" but they aggressively broke that too. I'm happy to let Medium fall off the tech community radar.

Honest question, how can you, on one hand, link to the previous discussion surrounding the stigma of being a "medium.com" article, but fail to address the literal top response to both that thread and even the top response to your own comment? Is it one of those "CEO's are not allowed to speak plainly in public" things or do you not parse/agree with the information?

Well, the top response on this thread changed after I went to bed. But yes, this is in the mix. People seem to have a long memory about a dark pattern experiment we seemed to have run with regwalls (I never personally saw it and the people behind it are gone). Plus the cruft. A lot of that has been removed. But the volume of comments about quality always seemed louder to me and I've seen quality draw people through a lot of cruft.

My personal experience was having written several articles based on my experiences that did get some views and claps or whatever. Hopefully they helped some people out.

Yet, I was below some sort of threshold to be in the club that would get me a few pennies if enough people read them, so I was kicked out of that program.

Not that the program mattered, but getting kicked out for not being popular enough was annoying, so I just stopped using the platform.

I still get a weekly summary that says my articles are being regularly read, which doesn’t seem likely. They appear to be made up numbers.

It feels like the platform quickly became another Quora and is 90% junk.

Not sure how you’ll regain the initial trust and stature Medium seemed to have, but best of luck. FWIW, I do like the site design and reading/writing experience. Keep it simple.

Thank you. And I'm sorry we kicked you out. It was a rough cut and I think too rough. Also, we are stingy with our view counts so I think they are slightly more real than what would be reported elsewhere. For example, they are lower than what Google Analytics would tell you and much, much lower than what Quora or LinkedIn report.

Thank you for taking the time to respond!

I've been a paid subscriber to Medium for a few years now (I have a lot of writer friends and it seemed a way to support the art) and I think it's great (I'm not afiliated to the company in anyway and not one of their creators) - I read it every day and there's always at least 2-4 interesting articles which is pretty standard compared to other more pricey publications eg. the Financial Times (I read about 20 online titles every day) - I'm not sure why a lot of these commenters seem to think removing a paywall or increasing read free limits will help improve the company, if anything the reverse will happen and these people will probably never pay for anything. I would actually wouldn't mind sensible text style ads added to articles (think eary 21st century Adwords style) if only because if an article gives me an idea then it would be great to then find a relevant solution provider - if YouTube can stuff 2-4 ads in every video then I think you can safely run non intrusive ads though I guess the army of ad blockers might cause issues (something YouTube videos seem immune to) - oh and reopen the API as that would help data driven content generators

"I still believe both that there is a lot more to do and also that it'll be worthwhile"

Everyone here is debating what went wrong. But how would knowing that help?

I would like a CEO to articulate what exactly will be "worthwhile" to each stakeholder in the future, and not just to clean up the mess. Instead I fear we have a generation of leaders who tell investors that the good times will come back and tell employees to tighten their belts - crisis managers instead of visionaries.

I think rough times are precisely when visionaries should have their greatest impact, because people are open to change. The question is not what went wrong, but where to go now?

Congrats on still sticking to the idea of monetizing via payments vs throwing ads everywhere. This and your reply here is a rare positive signal coming from Medium nowadays.

A few personal observations:

1. For a paywalled service, quality is everything. When seeing medium.com in the URL, my expectation is that on average I will see low quality writing, that is forming its own character now, somewhat similar to LinkedIN [1] (exceptions exist but are invisible). Have you considered paywall to post, even as low as $1/mo as a content quality filter?

2. There is no reason for a 16k character article to require 6.5MB of data to render. (looking at a random article from the home page [2]). I hear that Medium has an optimized writing experience, why not have an optimized reading experience too?

3. Do you wish Medium became what Substack did, and if no, what is your vision for it? Why should one use Medium as an author or as a reader?

[1] https://twitter.com/StateOfLinkedIn

[2] https://entrepreneurshandbook.co/be-present-aff45d6421b4

Re: 3. No but I wouldn't want to speak for them. But the obvious difference is that we want to hear from people that are too busy to be full time on building a mailing list. Someone above called me crazy for saying the best Medium article is better than the best NYT article, but if you think about it at all you realize journalists are relying on sources and Medium is a place where you can just hear directly from the source. (Except when we are hiding those posts in a mound of content mill stuff)

> for saying the best Medium article is better than the best NYT article

That does not matter. What decides if people pay for a publication is the median article quality.

On Medium it is a 2 (on a scale 1-10) while NYT is at least 7.

Would you buy a car that is occasionaly (once in in a month) great, but rest of the time is crap, or a car that is very good all the time? Good luck!

You've already opened up a Mastodon instance, kudos for that. Why not go the whole hog and join Tumblr as a full Fediverse platform? That way, the smaller players get synergy against the big walled gardens

We've got a lot more planned on Mastodon. Re: Tumblr. I think we just have a different view of how social software works and time is going to tell which one is better. I think the Tumblr approach sounds too much like syndication and that it's not going to end up being that useful. So we took the approach of having an instance and will be letting people in shortly. This way they are fully present and using the same software and exposed to the same norms as most other people. Maybe I'm wrong, and if so, that should be obvious soon enough.

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

You'll be welcome in the ecosystem whatever path you choose

Tony let me say it's super brave for you to come here and share this information. The critics are harsh but Medium is still a great resource and I continue to use it for my own personal writing. I think my only personal knock on it right now is things that would prompt the user to sign-up or hit a paywall. That's friction. That's friction that a lot of users don't like and I get that you're running a business but this is real what becomes the barrier to entry and then turns off an existing crowd.

My comment might get lost amongst many, you may not see it, but Medium still has the reach. I think as a blogging platform you can support a lot more customisation and become an actual platform that is the staple for where people put their content. I have a personal blog hosted on GitHub with Jekyll. I'd much prefer to use mediums tools but I'm reluctant to because of the experience for end users. Just my thoughts.

Thank you. FWIW, I think the case for Medium over Github + Jekyll is solid. We are a little more user friendly, we have syntax highlighting now, you do not have to put your own articles behind the paywall, potentially we will help with discovery/distribution.

Thanks for sharing this. What's your current view of Substack?

We've gone through many cycles of publishing platforms/trends. What catches your eyes in this space today (in general)?

Great service. It's our stagnation that created any confusion or sense of competition. Our sweet spot is completely different than theirs.

My biggest complaint about Medium is the anti-spam policy. I know it's essential for you to take some measures against spammers or crawlers, but I live in China, where Medium is blocked by the Great Firewall, the only way for me to access your site is to use a proxy. At least, it should not stop me from accessing the site when I was already logged in or I was a paying user.

Any chance you've written more about the system design and incentives side of it somewhere (whether about medium in particular, a previous biz, or just the mechanisms in general)? If so, I'd absolutely love to dig in... It's got big overlap w/ some stuff I'm trying to figure out for building useful communities, and it's not so common to find folks with a deep view on it ;)

No. But you could email me.

I agree with the sentiment of every response I've read to your comment so far. The agressive tactics, paywall, general sense of sleaze all make me actively avoid following medium links.

But even ignoring all that, medium is the worst place for any article about programming because the code blocks do everything to make it harder to read them. There's no syntax highlighting, the lines wrap and the container the code is in pads the text to make a narrower column than the body of the article.

That's the opposite of what I want. Especially on mobile! It's one of the sites that make me wonder if its developers have ever tried using it.


This is years too late, but I did have us had syntax highlighting. So that, plus better recommendations, plus returning incentives for the programming authors that do great work should change things.

Also, not sure if you know but we have the entire back catalog of Pragmatic Programmer books. I need to do a re-import to take advantage of the syntax highlighting, but it's still a pretty good feature. (Unfortunately, I was the programmer who did this import and so it's still on me to redo it)

Thank you for being so candid. FWIW I think you are bang on with your assessment and I'm really hopeful that I can get back to using Medium again.

Also, Medium were blocked in some countries including Vietnam. Here we can't access Medium so need to find alternatives.

1. The paywall killed your product. When I google something, and it leads to Medium, and I then see that it is not accessible, I CURSE and immediately go away. Let this happen three times and in my mind it is cemented that Medium is "that shit platform that wastes my time clicking on inaccessible content" - same like Quora, by the way. As long as the paywall exists, you will not get rid of that stench.

2. Substack killed you. I know that HN is mostly populated by extremely left leaning people who wholeheartedly believe in all the Current Things that MSM feeds them, so this argument will fall on deaf ears, but I will write it here anyways because it is the truth and if you aren't just a Woke CEO, you might actually care: During the pandemic, Substack was the only news source where I could get proper information about what is going on. Virtually everything that got people cancelled on Twitter and labelled as conspiracy theorists eventually turned out to be the truth. These people all moved to Substack. Thanks to Elon we all know now that Twitter was infested by deep state actors abusing the platform to spread disinformation and manipulate elections - I'm not sure if this is still true but I somehow remember that Medium emerged as a sub-company from Twitter, so I must assume that the exact same ways of censorship and propaganda that brought Twitter to its knees are also in place at Medium. If that is true, and as long as that is true, I can guarantee that you will have zero chance whatsoever against Substack.

FWIW, the idea that Medium is progressive is kind of ridiculous if you look at the view numbers. The vast majority of people are reading about apolitical topics, namely professional development, hobbies, personal stories.

As a libertarian conservative myself, I agree with martin and mostly read Substack along with WSJ now. I'm sure your data is good enough though and it doesn't matter. Good luck :)

Another pain point for me: no syntax highlighted code blocks

I see a lot of people using GitHub gists to embed code blocks for this reason, this means that writing any article code related is a pain

Edit: i think it's available now but definitely too late

Yes. We added them recently.

first of all i appreciate your willingness to own the issue, thats what i would hope any CEO would do.

my main issue as a reader (im the guy who frequently campaigns to just ban all medium.com links on HN) is the authwall that is thrown in our faces before we've had a chance to even read the article. its against the open web and not something i would encourage on HN. i understand youve changed your defaults but i still encounter these walls enough that there is just overall brand damage to Medium as a whole. mr stubblebine, please tear down that wall.

There are two types of writers - professionals and amateurs. Professionals want to earn money on their writing - so they are happy with paywalls. Amateurs have no hope to earn money but want their writing to be distributed as wide as possible - so paywalls make them sad. Professionals also want their work to be read - but they understand that paywalls are the only way to make people pay for their work.

Medium tried to make two of these groups happy and that is difficult. Both need many of the same tools - like nice looking templates, easy editing, comments and also recommendations - so there is a lot of investments that could be used by both groups and there is also a lot of synergy between these two - but they need to be monetized differently.

I think it is too early to say that Substack has found the good model - they managed to attract the cool guys - but Medium was also fashionable for a little while. But right now Medium needs a total rebranding.

On the positive side, the mobile app was amazing for writing. I can't think of a nicer interface to write a blog post on a phone.

I literally couldn't use Medium.

I think I've changed my email since my first Google SSO and you guys haven't dealt with that scenario - but it's probably pretty common

Do you think the name held the site back from becoming any bigger?

Sorry I laughed.

I wish you the best of luck. If you can turn Medium around, that will be quite the achievement and will make for a much more interesting read on HN than this thread.

Thank you for writing this.

I'm convinced the single biggest factor is the wrong incentive leads to poor quality, well beyond other factors like the paywalls, publications, etc. Not only it disinterests reader but more importantly, it push away good writers. Content is the beating heart of your platform.

It started out like a beautiful small town. The residents are nice and talented, the streets are clean and elegant - it attracts tourists.

It went wrong when the incentive encouraged bad actors to resides in town - litters and tea scammers are everywhere. Not only they're hurting tourists, they discourage good actors from residing in - nobody wants to live in dirty neighborhood and live with bad neighbors.

Thus the negative feed back loop, which causing the infinite downward spiral on quality.

You're clearly out of touch. Are you even paying attention? None of those are the main reasons people hate your website.

While it's normal for a CEO to focus on engagement statistics and whether the company focused on the right way to monetize, Medium is also read by quite a lot of technical and professional folks, and the pain points I encountered are:

1. Paywalls. Some people don't mind. Make it obvious in the link itself that this blog is monetized. I want to know if it's worth navigating away from what I am doing right now.

2. Site it slow. Ask yourself why did Medium scraper websites (that strip tracking) had to come into existence. If the market actively tries to circumvent you then it means you are not in connection with the users who you would want to spend time on Medium. This Silicon Valley mentality of "extract money, we'll think of performance maybe one day next century" is driving away the professional users who would pay for your service.

3. Too much trackers (likely related to #2). If that's your monetization model then the business is already on its way out.

You can do a lot with Medium. You can be the specialized Facebook for small club of readers and authors. You can help people organize events. You can provide a platform for book writers to draft and store chapters. You can put a paywall like "early access to my book's new chapter", too.

These things are not what drives insanely huge engagements that investors love but they absolutely will be bringing some money.

This hyper-growth mindset has to go. There are good ways to make money and not make your product suck.

I loved the idea of Medium when it first came out and consumed it a lot. For no less than two years now though, I use various scrapers and read stuff ad-free and tracker-free. Think of why it has came to it.

I used medium a lot to read Rust articles back in 2020 when Rust's community was smaller and not much of resources available, except of raw code in github. It worked wonderful for my purposes, and the recommendation algorithm worked very well. For six months i would read 5 articles everyday of Rust articles the algorithm sent me. Then after 6 whole months of reading the recommendations the algorithm stopped sending me Rust articles, or repeating ones i had already read. Well i had finished the whole website at that point!

Medium is a good website in opinion for articles about programming, hardware, gadgets etc. Most of the articles are not that great, but they are not bad either. The algorithm works well.

The paywall is necessary for now, but soon a better solution will become popular for paying on the internet. The pay as you go model will become easier and cheaper. Maybe a solution of reading the article and afterwards clicking like/clap transferring a small amount of money, like 0.1 cent will become a viable solution for writers and the service.

That said, i write my articles on lichess. It has the best website design i have ever seen, and it is fast as hell.

I second everyone saying the paywall is the actual problem. I used to write on Medium a lot because it was a simple way to blog and share essays with a minimalist UI. Now it just feels like a clown product because you have a paywall between users and reading. I would never subject my writing to an ugly paywall and wouldn't want the experience my readers have with my content to be ugly and broken like that.

> And so we lost the incentive for a lot of the best and most interesting authors to bother because they were getting swamped by content-mill type authors. As of December, about 30% of our recommendations are generated by a new system that is picking much higher quality articles that have been vetted for substance over clickbait. This is getting a lot better, rapidly.

Deboosting those content-mill authors is a good step! However changing the recommendation system is not enough. With Google, everyone interacts with it through the search box so them changing the search results is enough to influence what SEO junk is on the front page. But with Medium, anyone can promote their junk articles on Reddit and on other platforms and it will still result in a click and a paywall, which contributes to people avoiding medium.com links. You need to stop incentivizing these content-mill authors altogether (or prominently blackmark these posts/blogs so everyone knows to avoid them).

Thanks for writing this, Tony. I had a couple articles on Medium, and now I have a lot more on Substack, even though they're free.

Let me recommend Ted Gioia as someone to listen to. I actually pay for his newsletter, while there are hardly any others I'd pay for. From what I can see, if you are good on Substack, you'll make a lot of money. That does mean writing about something other than your current life and/or romantic involvements, which are, I'm sorry to say, boring. An awful lot of the Substack writers are doing that, too.

Maybe they do have some far left-wing writers, too, but Medium is just loaded with them.

Hello, What do 6021 employees do in a medium?

What made me go away, as a reader and writer, was the paywalls. It's not a very smart idea to put a paywall over text when your business modal is providing content.

I'm sure there are better ways of monetizing it.

Look at how feedly does it.

I stopped visiting the site after greedy publishers started to destroy links with useful information.

There should be a penalty for a free page going behind a paywall. Paywall pages also appear at the top of google searches because they were left there as a bait for indexing bots for months and then got paywalled. Not cool, medium.

so, marketing did it again

I must say that the hook and lede of Medium articles are very effective. They are sticky and grabs your interest. The frustration comes with the paywall. There must be another way, like a free summary (maybe use ChatGPT) that will compel me to pay.

Most other metered paywalls move the paywall much lower in the page. That would be a simple way--let you get 1/3 of the way so you are more confident in what you are getting. Or move the location of the paywall.

In general though, we love being subscription driven rather than ad driven and I don't expect that to change.

> let you get 1/3 of the way so you are more confident in what you are getting

It's really interesting to see different perspectives here (especially yours, as the CEO). To me, I feel the opposite: I would rather know immediately on page load if I'm going to be allowed to read the whole article or not. If I get 1/3 of the way through and then get hit with a paywall, I get really frustrated, and even if I would consider subscribing, that frustration pushes me away.

Paywalls are difficult to get right.

For the consumer, it's very much not like "see 5 articles and now you got me as a subscriber".

I'm not sure what your ratio of free-to-premium content is, but I have a feeling it needs to skew more towards the free side to build engagement again. I hardly ever go on Medium now, but I used to a lot.

the sketchy SEO tactics(at least at the beginning), invasive paywalls, clickbaiting, etc…

medium was doomed from the start. but being myself a detractor from the start i’m probably too much biased

You put up a paywall dude and forced creators behind it. Stop deluding yourself that the failures are elsewhere.

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