Incumbents who dominate vast markets for decades and then lose their grip echo Hemingway’s depiction of sliding into bankruptcy: they do so gradually, then suddenly. Major network dominance of programming was an eternal fact of life when Netflix launched its first original show in 2013. But next year, the streaming leviathan’s $8 billion content budget will dwarf that of any broadcast network. Similarly, just a few years after launching in San Francisco, Uber eclipsed the revenues of the cab companies which had jointly monopolized that market for decades by a factor of 350%.
Shifts this big only happen when network effects are in play. Which is to say, that virtuous cycle in which more users make a platform more valuable, which draws more users, who make the platform more valuable still, which summons still more users, etc. In the digital era, we’ve seen network effects fuel the rise of messaging apps, social networks, and dating sites; as well as two-sided markets for Beanie Babies, handicrafts, and (of course) short-haul rides, to name but a few.
NewCo and I are very invested in Medium — we very much want it to thrive. Here are a few suggestions that might make it better.
Over the years I’ve had an increasingly deep relationship with Medium. In the past 18 months, the relationship has become more of a marriage. The publication I started, NewCo Shift, lives there. I even consulted with Medium, briefly, earlier this year, so yes, I do own shares. I’m invested. I’ve pretty much migrated any of my “new” writing to Shift on Medium, leaving my careworn site Searchblog to slowly rot into the fecund soil of the independent web.
I trust the 5,600 or so posts I poured into Searchblog will persist, as long as I pay my hosting fees (and they’re steep, damn it). Can I say the same of the 250 or so pieces I’ve recently written on Medium (I think this one is #251, in fact)? Or of the thousand+ or so we’ve run on Shift? I don’t know, but I’m now invested in the platform’s continuance. With that in mind, here are a few, randomly organized ideas that I think would make the place better.
When I caught the story of the mass shooting yesterday (and yes, I know, in my country, we need to specify which mass shooting yesterday, so I mean the mass shooting of Republican congressmen in Virginia, not the one in San Francisco, or any of the other 154 that have happened so far this year), I immediately feared what turned out to be true — that some crazy had targeted a group of politicians because of their politics. And so saddened by all that meant, I tweeted an expression of condolence:
For the past year or more, Medium — a new kind of content, publishing, and social media platform — has been chasing Facebook and Google’s business model. That model is simple and insanely profitable when it reaches scale: command the constant attention of a sh*tload of people, then insure they see a sh*tload of tailored, relevant advertising.
It’s not a particularly innovative approach, and it’s certainly not new (see, well, television…). And I’m not entirely sure Evan Williams, CEO and founder of Medium, was ever entirely committed to the chase. But given the realities on the ground (VC funding, growing content platform, etc), Williams had to at least give Google and Facebook’s business model a go.
Let’s discuss the rather sorry state of Internet publishing.
Here are the caveats for the rant I am about to write.
The fact that I am writing this on Medium will cause many of you to dismiss me for hypocrisy. Don’t. Read to the end.
I will be saying the word “F*CK” a lot. If that bothers you, time to depart for calmer waters.
This post will be subject to dismissal due to charges of high nostalgia — I will be accused of living in the past, failing to get the future, not getting with the times, being the old man yelling “get off my lawn,” etc. These characterizations will be entirely correct. And totally irrelevant.
This post will be compared, most likely unfavorably, to the many, many, many, many wonderful (and better) posts that have already been written on this subject. That’s fine. I just want to add my voice to the conversation.
This post will piss off friends of mine at Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, and probably Google. Sorry in advance. Kinda.
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to say something out loud.
In the past two months we’ve had the honor to run some extraordinary stories, written by some of the best minds in business today. Here’s our top ten — the stories that resonated the most with you, our readers.
But only if you turn on your email notifications….
I edit a publication on Medium, which means I spend an inordinate amount of time reading Medium. Which is pretty cool. What’s even cooler is finding an amazing story that fits NewCo Shift’s editorial voice and POV, then reaching out through Medium’s elegant platform to ask the author if we can run it in our publication. The author gets to reach a growing audience, Shift gets great writing, the audience gets a great read — Win Win Win!
But roughly 15–20% of the time I reach out to a new author, I get this:
Summer’s over, which is always hard for me to accept. But we’ve got a strong lineup coming for the Fall — this week the Shift Dialogs will be back, featuring an interview with Aaron Levie, CEO of Box. Look for that on Weds., and meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the best NewCo Shift stories you may have missed while out on summer vacation.
Hello NewCo Shift readers, it’s been a while since we’ve sent you a note. As many of you know, we lost our Executive Editor last month, and it took us a while to find our voice again. But we’re back, and the last few weeks have been our strongest ever, thanks to a passel of new stories from a fascinating group of contributors. Here are the highlights:
Shift Dialogs Launches We’ve already published half a dozen in-depth interviews with the leaders driving the NewCo Shift. You can find them all here. We’re taking a short break for the remainder of August, but will be back weekly starting in September.
Over the course of nearly two decades, I’ve been one of many journalists, analysts, and bloggers who’ve made a career of deciphering the impact of Evan William’s creations. From Blogger, which reshaped media as a two-way conversation, to Twitter, which supercharged it, to Medium which…
…well, in fact, amongst a certain set of media observers, Williams’ latest creation has been both fascinating and confounding. Is it just a better-looking Blogger? A Twitter-like network, but focused on long form writing? A platform for publishers? Something entirely new?