back to article Pure Silicon Valley: Medium asks $5 a month for absolutely nothing

Silicon Valley prides itself on disrupting industries – yet it has bitten off more than it can chew by trying to take on an already highly competitive market suffering major money woes. Fancy blog platform Medium has been burning through VC money at the rate of $50m a year trying to take on the world of publishers. It has …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You missed the real killer aspect of the Guardian online model ... if you're someone like me who still pays for a printed subscription (Saturday Guardian and Sunday Observer) then you get to pick up a real "printed on paper" version of the website where you can find all the articles you've already read during the week. I'm still trying to work out how the "why don't you pay to read a printed version of articles we've had for free online for the last few days" model works!

    1. agurney

      "I'm still trying to work out how the "why don't you pay to read a printed version of articles we've had for free online for the last few days" model works!"

      That's simple; after reading it can be put to a plethora of uses .. lining for kitty litter, firelighters, mopping up old sump oil ...

      1. Tim Worstal

        I find this works better

        before reading it can be put to a plethora of uses .. lining for kitty litter, firelighters, mopping up old sump oil ...

  2. tgm

    Medium?

    I thought this was a story about a physic start-up.

    1. Flakk
      Trollface

      Re: Medium?

      Oh great Nerdradamus, I am planning to move my business to the cloud. Which provider will suffer the greatest number of outages over the next 36 months?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Medium?

        "Which provider will suffer the greatest number of outages over the next 36 months?"

        Whichever you choose.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Medium?

      "I thought this was a story about a physic start-up."

      Mystic Meg vs Septic Peg

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Medium?

      "I thought this was a story about a physic start-up."

      May I assume you meant Psychic?

  3. Tom Paine

    I have a lurking suspicion that, viewed on a timetable of decades, the quality of freely available news will steadily fall.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The quality of freely available news will tend towards zero"

      How's that sound?

      (At least we'll still have Dabbsy)

  4. ashdav
    Windows

    Snake Oil

    'Nuff said

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    So they got $135m for this bo***cks?

    This looks like another of those "deals" where the insiders (somehow) persuade a bunch of VC types (WTF were they thinking?) to hand them a big bag of coin for what is basically FA.

    Seriously.

    what is that? $4m for the devs, $1m for the servers and (oh yes) $130m for the CEO, COO, CFO for "conceptualizing" and "imagineering" this bu***hit.

    They may think they are "special" but I'm not seeing it.

    So long.

    Who were you again?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So they got $135m for this bo***cks?

      Silicon Valley resourcing budgets run to c. $1-200k per head for engineering heavy organisations, once you factor everything in (particularly property), so with 150 staff and 60M readers you can see where the money went. What I can't fathom is why the ever living shit they needed 150 staff.

      What on earth were they doing? They've got no advertising so don't have a sales force. They've got no customers so there's no support function. They're not producing their own content so there's no writers. I mean sure, there's a website to engineer, a platform to run, infrastructure to manage and so on. But 150?!

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: So they got $135m for this bo***cks?

        Many companies selling real, physical custom hardware and software have an order of magnitude fewer staff.

        I nearly said these companies have higher revenues as well, but then I realised that I have higher revenues than Medium.

        As does the busker down the road.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: So they got $135m for this bo***cks?

          Remember each CxO needs an army of assistants and PR people, and each of those need their own army of support staff, and they have to hire the brother of the VC's cousin, and their assistants

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        WTF?

        "a website to engineer, a platform to run, infrastructure to manage and so on. But 150?!"

        Exactly.

        I find it very hard to believe anyone looking at what is being "run" isn't wondering "how" many people is this thing needing? Where's all that money gone?

      3. Wisteriacats

        Re: So they got $135m for this bo***cks?

        I'm in SV and it is silly. There are young rich kids running all over San Francisco and wanting to have those millions of dollars. I used to read it when it was FREE. Unbelievable that they have tried to monetize this.

        This is a "community blog." That IS what it is. Each person blogs about something they are thinking about, things they have done, what happened to them, and just musings. It is NOT a newspaper. First, the writers GET NOTHING. Secondly, who wants to PAY for other people just musing? Seriously.

        PUT IT BACK! I am so tired of every kid in San Francisco and San Jose trying to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Gees. Most of the writing is not that good. It's a BLOG. Basically, it is people sharing their experience, just musing, or sometimes giving advice. But it is still a BLOG. It is NOT a newspaper.

        This is so stupid. I bet it's one of those young twenty-somethings that thought, "Wow, I can make a lot of money for making people pay to read someone's blog post about whatever they're thinking about at the moment."

        Go and set up a "real company." Has anyone actually seen what they DO in San Francisco? Or just Silicon Valley. Lots and lots of very young people wanting to start the next "Apple" (which in my opinion is sliding quickly downhill). Except in cases like these, they just want to coast, not innovate or work hard.

        Just let it be a community blog. Otherwise people will just go off and start a free Wordpress blog.

        This is ridiculous. Quit trying to make money off of people's musings, blog posts, and feedback.

        Keep your fingers off this. Besides, it's only going to slide downhill if you do it. Just let it be a community blog - for free - like so many other blogs.

        Come up with an ORIGINAL idea of your own instead of trying to squeeze money out of a community blog.

        The ONLY real alternative (without making people never go on there to read anonymous posts) is to put in some advertising on the sides. Just make the boundaries palatable.

        SV is so out-of-control now. It "used" to be a novel place to come up with good, financially sound and reliable ideas. Now...it's just "off the top of their heads" ideas (but they're not even original ideas, so they're kind of worthless).

        Just give it up and let it be a community blog. Find something ORIGINAL to market. This was too easy for the young kids in SV. That's why they did it. I'm so sick and tired of that attitude. Just let it continue as a community blog.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Sillicon Valley reporting in ...

    ... I've never heard of "Medium". From the description, I'll probably never hear of it again.

    1. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Sillicon Valley reporting in ...

      I was wrong. I did hear about it again. But it took a newbie commentard replying to a three year old comment here on ElReg ... Seriously, as a guy who has lived & worked in SillyConValley & environs these last 60ish years, this is quite literally only the second time I remember hearing about Medium. In any medium.

      A pint o'beer to Wisteriacats, for the handle if nothing else. Welcome.

  7. Andy 73

    Beware..

    Before you crow too much, El. Reg should remember that the quality of its own reporting has been known to go down as well as up. Some of your articles over the last few months have been notable for the lazy journalism, poorly thought out reasoning and apparent lack of editing.

    Medium is indeed very Silicon Valley, but I'm not sure 'quality journalism' is out of the woods yet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beware..

      People come here for the stories but they stay for the comments. El Reg is just as much about UGC* as Reddit and the like. That's why it's such a shame there is one last hold out to allowing un-moderated comments amongst the ranks, the free flow of commenting brings a lot more insight into the stories.

      *User Generated Content

      1. Andy 73

        Re: Beware..

        I'm not sure that justifies the (admittedly fairly rare) 'verbal diarrhoea' articles that have to be picked apart in the comments. I do come here for the stories, but that's because I expect the authors to provide some insight into the subjects - or at least some industry standard cynicism :D

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Beware..

        That's why it's such a shame there is one last hold out to allowing un-moderated comments amongst the ranks

        Oh yeah? Try to say something not in line of this week's ever-changing mainstream correctthink (mainly about That Guy (you know who)), and see the "un-moderation" kick in.

  8. SirWired 1

    Yeah, overall their content is a bunch of circle-jerking

    I read a blog (The Billfold) that happens to be hosted by Medium, but yeah, overall their content is awful. I figure either the lions-share of their most popular content consists of SV-types congratulating each other on how awesome they all are, or their engine for recommending content for me to read is awful.

    On another note, I WOULD like to say the business model of "We lose money on every one we sell, but make up for it volume" applies here, but that actually requires selling something.

    I thought the "eyeballs-only" so-called "business model" kinda died out with the 2000 .Com Bust... where did they find the VS's to invest in this?

  9. Raumkraut

    patreon.com/medium

    This is effectively the same model as Patreon (a site which allows content creators to accept subscription donations from their audience), but implemented themselves, rather than relying on a third-party.

    Patreon really does seem to work for people who produce quality content. However, whether it would work for an organisation as large in size, or as general in scope, as Medium is more doubtful.

    1. DropBear
      Flame

      Re: patreon.com/medium

      There are huge differences - for instance, while admittedly there always are some Patron-exclusive rewards involved, intended to ratchet up the contributed sum, Patreon-funded ventures still tend to produce content that ends up free for everybody else as well. For me personally this is crucial - I would _never_ contribute a penny to anyone over there if it would _only_ pay for what I get in return, the way a subscription tends to do.

      I do understand that it takes money to create things, but I believe the price should be paid (sufficiently and no further) by those that care enough and can afford to contribute, according to what each feels they can spare - everybody else should be able to get to $CreatedThing for absolutely free. And yes, Patreon proved this won't mean "nobody will pay then" time and again already - support from those who do care simply isn't conditioned by whether others donate or not; that's a myth no matter how fond certain vowel-initialed "freetard"-hating people are of that idea. And if you can't make enough people care, if you need to tax every last one of your visitors - well, then maybe you don't really need to exist at all!

  10. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Patreon

    The major difference is that people actually choose to use Patreon as a way to reward creators of content that they know from experience they are likely to enjoy. It's like tipping the staff at your favorite restaurant. A subscription Medium is more like "give us money and we'll send a random food truck of our choice around to your block, maybe, someday"

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Hmmm..

    And there is the subscription model, like The New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, et al. These are big respected names [about as respected as pancreatic cancer with yeast infection on top, amirite] with huge resources that have hit on a specific model: offer a few free articles a month and then prompt for subscription. It has finally started working after a decade of hard times.

    In part thanks to the election of Donald Trump [citation needed] , these news organizations have seen their subscriber levels jump.

    I would like to see the numbers. At least in clicks, they are apparently faking it..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm..

      The zerohedge China conspiracy nutjob article you are linking to is about site traffic as picked up by Alexa. Alexa appears to be unable to distinguish botnet traffic, or maybe traffic from one botnet, from human beings. That is an Alexa issue and an Alexa issue only.

  12. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "The idea of quantity over quality is long gone."

    The Daily Mail's website is one of the most profitable there is, so it can be argued that it has successfully made the transition from print to online. And you can see the quality journalism on the right sidebar which has enabled it to do that...

    1. wikkity

      Re: "The idea of quantity over quality is long gone."

      That is because of they "produce words that people want to read", which unfortunately in this case is not the journalism that El Reg referred to. However they are making money from articles based on the way popular thought is orientated, which is how much benefits immigrants get rather than the hell they had to go through and somehow miraculously survive.

      Such "press" is not journalism but provides people with want they want, confirmation that their view of the world is correct and shared with others, and it does not get more correct to them if it's printed on paper and on sale. Unfortunately the affect is to exaggerate the beliefs and suck more people into it.

      IMHO These _journalists_ are responsible for a lot of the mess the world is in but it is profit that drives it as after all they are a business. I think the term newspaper should be regulated based on fact and how many related facts are ignored. Very hard to do I would imagine and I would not know where to start.

      I'd sympathise with Trump about the press but I suspect what I consider press to be the exact people he whines about are the people I'd call real journalists and vice versa.

  13. Bob Rocket

    There is some good stuff

    on Medium.com but there is an awful lot of dross.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb has some interesting posts

    https://medium.com/@nntaleb

    and this girl can be funny

    https://medium.com/@ThunderPuff

    at the end of the day it is just a collection of blogs, it appeals to people who read and I like it because I like to read but is it worth $5 a month, probably not.

    (has anybody written a medium to wordpress app yet for when it goes tits up ?)

    As for business models, The Reg uses articles but the readers stay around for the comments, Sara Bee in that context was worth her weight in gold in terms of clickbait.

  14. Korev Silver badge

    The Guardian - quality?

    The main reason I have yet to pay the Guardian any money is the continuous decline in quality. If they stopped publishing articles about Thomas the Tank Engine being racist then people might start to pay them money again.

    It's not just the Guardian, the Telegraph seems to be in decline too. Really Britain needs as much of its quality media to survive to hold the Government to account.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: The Guardian - quality?

      I do wonder whether the Guardian has actually increased the amount of 'niche' reporting by people like Valenti (read once then ignore) or whether I notice it more online. I do pay my little bit to them once a month, and I suspect after costs the paper gets as much landed revenue as they ever did from my print purchases. But at the same time editorialising (and some modding) sticks out like sore thumbs.

      On a related side note, and showing how old I am, does anyone remember that once the Telegraph had a standout online offering (bias whichever way you look at it) apart. 15 or so years ahead it was streets ahead of its UK competitors. It has now (ad protected or not) subsided into a pale copy of the Daily Mail.

  15. gloss

    A lot of vitriol and no constructive thoughts

    There's not much direct impact on the journalist from Medium's ability to gain investment, and yet they attack Medium like it's the cause of all the world's ills. Let's clear our heads and look at the facts. Medium is an above-average platform for *anyone* to post blog-like articles amongst their world-wide peers in a uniform readable and inline-commentable format. It's better than any of the social media sites—and better than some (but admittedly not most) news sites, even though it doesn't claim to be a news site, nor better than any news site. Medium only claims to be a top of market blogging (middleman-less content publishing) platform, which it clearly is. Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook are all objectively worse for publishing personal content in a seriously readable format. So given the facts, why all the hate? If you're going to hate on products for receiving money when they're not the best humanity could offer, then you'll waste the rest of your career iterating through 99.99% of all products. Medium isn't perfect, far from it, but blame the lack of competition because Medium beats comparable products. If you feel a better blogging platform is easy to make, make it! If you feel a better blogging platform exists, write an article about how to use it and why we should invest in that instead. Otherwise, you're just showing your jealous cards to the whole table here. I'm sorry you waited for The Register's permission to post online, but don't blame the ranks of educated women and men posting on Medium on their own volition.

    1. Trilkhai

      Re: A lot of vitriol and no constructive thoughts

      It's your opinion that Medium is an above-average blogging platform, or that it's better than some news sites, not a "fact." The one thing it had going for it was an initially-unique effects-laden style for people that favor the "a picture's worth a thousand words" approach to information, but the uniqueness faded when other sites (like BBC News' "Magazine") have already started copying it. In pretty much every other way it's effectively just a cross between Tumblr & Storify.

  16. ecofeco Silver badge

    50 million a year?

    I wish I had that kind of money to pretend to make something. I could actually... make something.

    But then, I don't know the right people, do I?

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