When People Pay, They Pay Attention

I’ve said it before. And I’ll say it again… I have a love-hate relationship with Medium. And today’s message from the Founder, Ev Williams is going to make more people have similar feelings. If you read the comments below his post – you’ll understand why.

I don’t believe I’m saying this as an investor, but I’m quoting Jason Fried of 37 Signals who said it so eloquently…

This is one of the reasons I encourage entrepreneurs to bootstrap instead of taking outside money. On day one, a bootstrapped company sets out to make money. They have no choice, really. On day one a funded company sets out to spend money. They hire, they buy, they invest, they spend. Making money isn’t important yet. They practice spending, not making. Making Money Requires Practice

Medium has not been able to figure out the publishing model or even understand the advertising model that so many publishers rely upon. Changing behavior, or changing the world is a huge task. So many people were talking about Medium and how it was changing the publishing world. I beg to differ, their user experience is fantastic. But that’s about it.

Those who managed to get followers because the gate keepers (i.e. editors) promoted certain posts, meant that one-hit wonders and the undiscovered gems would remain at the bottom of the pile. SEO was not a factor, no internal ability to have people sign up via email (which incase you didn’t know is still alive). You could only map your domain if you were a publication (not everyone is, some are just individuals). And for anyone who hasn’t lived outside the US, please know there is a much larger world that is beyond where people speak different languages and have different cultures. Cater to them.

But having said all this, I have stumbled upon some great stuff written by new writers/publishers – no doubt. But there was a problem… unsolved.

[Tweet “When people pay, they pay attention.”]

The problem imho is the incentive system… that’s broken, not the publishing model.

When everything is free, there’s a limit to the amount of leverage you have. If there’s a price people pay for ,  then you can increase the price +/- a few dollars and it will make a huge difference. But when it’s free, there’s really little you can do.

Think about the music industry. In the old days, you had to perform your song and get paid, whether it was in front of one person or an audience.

Today, thanks to digitization  –  you can reproduce infinite copies , but the music industry was still following the old revenue model and expecting to be paid huge sums for each dvd/cd sold. Then mp3 came along, then Steve Jobs’ iTunes came along.

Was the music industry (or the publishing industry) broken? No, they’re still producing… it was the payment model, or in this case advertiser model that was broken.