Ev Williams Hires Siobhan O’Conner from Time, to Continue Transition into Megamagazine

Ev Williams in doubling down on the conversion of Medium into a megamagazine ( as I discussed in Why I Am Moving Work Futures to Substack from Medium). He’s hired Siobhan O’Conner from Time to serve as VP of Editorial, reports Joe Pompeo, who called Medium the ‘chameleon of web publisher’:

Medium — best known as an online community where people (often well-known people like politicians, executives, and journalists) can self-publish op-eds, personal essays, and reportage, potentially attracting a large audience — has gone through various iterations since its founding in 2012. The most recent is a subscription play, to which Medium pivoted last year after an ad-based model proved difficult. Some outlets — The Awl, The Ringer, and Pacific Standard, among others — had even moved their content over to the platform, but subsequently pulled out. (Backchannel, a tech-oriented publication that debuted on Medium in 2014, is now owned by Condé Nast, the parent company of Vanity Fair’s Hive; an array of lesser-known, niche publications still host content exclusively on Medium, which also syndicates articles from big shots like The New York Times and The Economist.)

O’Connor and a small team of editors will focus largely on doing stories and commissioning paid writers to build out Medium’s membership program, as well as finding the best stories from Medium’s user-base to promote. Medium has struggled with people not quite understanding exactly what it is. (A blog network? A platform? A publisher? All of the above?) Now, like many media companies, it wants to be a place that compels readers to open their wallets for digital journalism, so the idea is to generate professionally edited features for which people would be willing to pay $5 a month after a monthly stipend of three free articles runs out. (The user-generated stuff will remain free unless the creator decides to put it behind the metered paywall, as a way to be compensated based on the extent to which readers engage.) O’Connor was traveling this week so wasn’t able to get on the phone to tell me more, but a Medium representative said to expect a mix of essays and reported pieces on a broad range of topics that generally aren’t news-driven.

Will Medium evolve away from the ‘pro-am’ model, like HuffPost has, with O’Conner steering the editorial direction that way? Of course, they could mutate the subscription system, fracturing members subscriptions to specific topical subsets. Will have to see.

Another option would be to build a B2B platform, liked Linkedin has done around recruitment, but with the hiring of O’Conner it seems Williams is not following that path

Actually published at stoweboyd.com, but cross-posted here.

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Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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