Your product has to say something

Originally published on Medium.

I’ve written before that a startup that doesn’t aim to make a statement is boring. Your product is your manifesto.

The changes Medium announced today I’m sure are tough to stomach. Especially because, they don’t have to make these changes. Ev Williams could easily raise more money. I’m not even sure they need to. I believe Medium has plenty of run-way and with ad-tech in place, could scale to become a formidable publisher. And we do NEED a formidable publishing platform outside of Facebook/Twitter (a post for another time).

Medium rightly recognized that its current trajectory, however, wouldn’t be making the MOST bold statement it could. It would become part of a system or trend it wants to buck.

We’ve all spilled plenty of digital-ink on that current system, so let’s not retrace steps here. Suffice to say — I’m scared for Medium, but I’d rather see it go bold and make a statement than just be the “safe” publishing alternative that pays lip service to being different but never really delivers.

There is hints in the post by Ev Williams that Medium might play with a more “direct consumer-to-produce” payment model ala Pateron. Considering my experience with Spot.Us (the first crowdfunding platform for journalists) I remain somewhat bullish on this system and have always wanted to see somebody try it at a scale I never could.

Of course, this could be a classic case where I’m reading into the post what I want to see. But as I often say “there are no new business models” for journalism (just a few different old ones with new names). Direct payments to reporters isn’t new (even Spot.Us wasn’t really the first, just the start of a new generation). But direct payment has always been “in the minority” and just as we need a healthy alternative publishing system, we need a healthy alternative business model.

Here’s to seeing what Medium does in 2017.

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