Citing a need to change the company’s business model in the new year, Medium founder & Ceo Ev Williams announced lay offs totaling around 50 employees on Tuesday—equivalent to 1/3 of the staff—and the shuttering of offices in NY and D.C.
The Medium lay offs come after the publishing platform had record numbers in terms of readers and posts (Williams cited a 300% YoY increase), which included contributions from The White House among other top publishers.
The problem? As Williams put it himself:
…upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.
Instead of continuing to feed the ad-driven content cycle, Williams & Medium are seemingly setting out to create a new system for rewarding publishers. And to do that, they’ve started by trimming some of the staff—mostly cutting from sales & support roles which were, in essence, helping to feed the very monster the company wants to kill off.
Ev Williams wasn’t specific when announcing the Medium lay offs just what would replace ad-based media on the platform; likely, as he insinuates, that hasn’t been worked out quite yet. Be sure that there will be a period of ‘trial-and-error’ required, as besides for a subscription model, ad-fueled revenue is still one of the best means of funding online content today. A substitute to that won’t come easy—but if it’s able to be replicated, Williams may develop a model that other sites want to adopt.