Venture capital is going to murder Medium

It’s a crying shame, really. I love Medium. It’s the best writing environment on the web, and they sweat the details like nobody else. The community too is just peach. This could have been a love story for the ages.

But I don’t think we’ll grow old together, Medium and I. I suspect it’ll end quite tragic, actually. $132,000,000 is a lot of money after all, and that’s how much venture capital Medium has been dipped in. Before having a prayer or a song about how to turn into that multi-billion-dollar business it must to satisfy the required rate of return.

The clock started running three years ago when $25,000,000 of Series A growth dynamite was rigged. That means they’re about half ways until the bomb explodes, and so far the company doesn’t seem much luck finding the code that’ll disarm.

All the vanity metrics are up, but it’s clear that there’s no idea how to turn that into actual moolah model. Well, short of following the same brain-dead advertising extraction scheme that Medium was specifically founded to counter. So credit to Ev, at least that strategy seems out — for now.

And credit to the whole Medium team for building that better typewriter. Seriously. That’s hard! There were a bunch of big typewriter makers out there already, and how much can you improve that mousetrap anyway? But improve they did.

It’s just that in Silicon Valley, you can’t merely make a better typewriter and sell that at a profit. No, you have to DISRUPT. You have to REINVENT. Well, at least you need the appearance of that, while you squeeze eyeballs until they pop out enough advertising dollars to give the VCs that 10x return.

So what is Medium going to do now, after axing a third of their staff? They’re going to essentially think about how they should fulfill the mission they were founded five years ago to pursue:

So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.

It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like.

Wut? Five years is not enough time to think about how we should make any money in a way congruent with our founding values? That just doesn’t compute. But the convoluted language and indirection does, and the ticker is spelling S. H. I. T!

This is tragic, but also expected. Medium rigged that VC bomb and is failing to disarm. And just like most other VC bombs, it too will explode and take with it the prospect of a lovely, smaller, important typewriter business.

The web, of course, will go on, if murder is indeed what she’ll write. Especially for anyone who moved to Medium but hedged their bets by keeping their own domains. A quick dump and nothing will break — except our hearts. Again.

Cheers to none of this actually happening, and Ev finding a diamond in the rubble before it’s too late. But if you’re a publisher on Medium, I’d dust off the contingency plans none the less.

It didn’t have to be this way. Ev could have RECONSIDERED. He surely had enough in the bank from previous exploits. Started slower. Not hired 150 people before there was a path to profitability, let alone sustainability. Maybe you will.

One thought on “Venture capital is going to murder Medium

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