Medium started out as an exclusive platform of high quality, interesting content. The problem is that it was free.
Startups exist to make money. They only exist because they should be making money – it’s how they get their funding. If you’ve never worked at a startup, here’s a primer on the cycles of fundraising:
- Have an idea, prove it could work, get funding.
- Spend a year or so trying to get more profitable.
- Realize you need more capital.
- Raise more money, with the promise of new features and further growth.
- Go back to step 2, and repeat.
If you’re running a startup that isn’t profitable (read: free), then this is essential for the existence of your company. The problem with that is that funding means investors want to see a return on that investment.
The requirement for a ROI on free products is how you end up with Medium as it is today. But here’s the thing… if it wasn’t free, it would never have been popular in the first place and we wouldn’t be talking about it today.
Why is the free-ness of it a problem? Because a hugely successful launch of a free product doesn’t guarantee that any of those free users will start paying. And that’s a problem if you have investors, so your free product is going to have to start getting real pushy.
That’s how Medium got to where it is today, and it’s fucking sad.
Medium is never going to be the place it was. The floodgates are open and there’s no guarantee of great content and there’s even less of a chance that your posts will hit the front page – even if the post is good enough.