April 5, 2016 Last Updated 1:21 pm

Medium introduces ‘Medium for Publishers’ to attempt to attract content producers

Platform launched by founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams will try to lure publishers with the promise of revenue from Promoted Stories and Memberships

I admit that I have never understood why some journalists like Medium so much. I’ve imagined that it suits their view of the future of publishing: a world without art directors, production people, or ad professionals. To me, part of the joy of publishing is design, and the engine that makes it all possible is revenue generation. (I know, I’m a dinosaur – I prefer P&Ls with black ink rather than red.)

But creating a new digital publishing platform is far easier than creating a new media outlet that actually attracts large numbers of readers and proves worth a publisher’s efforts financially. Apple, which likes very much to go it alone, may be learning that lesson now (though I doubt it), and others who jumped into the tablet app market learned that lesson quickly. No, they found out, the PDF isn’t some sort of magical thing designed to make platform owners and publishers both rich.

Awl-Medium-iPhone-380Medium, the online publishing platform founded by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, is the latest to try to lure publishers. Today, the company unveiled Medium for Publishers, which it calls a “powerful, networked publishing platform for publishers, bloggers, and organizations.” We’ll see about that.

“Medium is already home to the best writing on the internet,” the company bragged. “For publishers, we want it to feel even more like home. That means giving publications a way to express their own identities on the platform. This week we are rolling out new branding tools that will allow publications to customize color, layout, and navigation.”

In a big way, this is an admission that the very way Medium was designed was of limited value to publishers. Yes, some journalists liked the way Medium simplified publishing – but then again, one might want to introduce these folks to the concept of paper and pencil – that’s pretty simple, too.

“Right now on the web, publishers are forced to spend time and money maintaining their aging content management systems. Expensive redesigns inevitably fail to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. On Medium, publishers have full control over their content and spend exactly zero time, money, or effort on tech and hosting, instead focusing their resources on producing great content and reaching new audiences,” Medium said.

If you are a publisher, you’ve heard this pitch before. It can be boiled down to “cheap and easy.” And it is true that far too many traditional publishers remain at the mercy of awkward, expensive content management systems. But this is because far too many publishers have not decided that they needed to be as personally expert at digital publishing as they have been at print publishing. Need a new website, outsource it to some web company that wants to sell them a big, inflexible CMS.

Medium says that they have a number of publishers already onboard, as well as some who already have Medium-based products publishing such as Time Inc.’s Money and Fortune Medium-native products.

To lure publishers Medium is introducing two revenue schemes: Promoted Stories and Membership.

“Select publishers and bloggers who consistently produce meaningful, original content and maintain a loyal following of engaged readers will have the ability to host stories from brand partners on posts in their publication,” Medium said. “Our initial brand partners include Bose, SoFi, Nest, Intel, and Volpi Foods.”

“The second component of our revenue beta is Membership. We are launching with a limited number of publications on Medium who will offer members-only content and other perks to readers, in exchange for a monthly membership fee paid directly to the publication. We’re welcoming such publications as Serious Eats, True Magazine and Great Jones Street who will all be offering member-only content on Medium.”

As you can see, the idea is the same as other platforms: give Medium exclusive content and there will be money coming down the line.

There will be publishers who sign on – after all, there is an oversupply of content, and an undersupply of revenue for publishers today. Proof of this is in the final promise from Medium, to make its new platform compliant with two other third party platforms, Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages.

As I said, for some reason, some new media folk are in love with Medium. Good for them.

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