on An “Open Pay Wall”, has Medium lost its mind? by Ploum

A few questions for Ploum:

  1. Do you think it likely that Medium will reverse the ‘open paywall’ model as currently envisioned? Is that what you hope will happen?
  2. Is a platform that is built around a paywall a good place for those publishing openly? Won’t Medium’s time and energy be directed to features and extensions linked to the paywalled/closed experience, and less so for the non-paywall/open experience? A two-speed platform, in essence?
  3. If I want to be paid for my writing, wouldn’t I be better off with a Patreon/SubStack approach, where I get the money people pay for my writing, and not some fraction of members monthly subscriptions based on how they divvy up their claps? Has Medium created a ‘worst of all worlds’ model that is a headache for readers and starvation for writers?
  4. Should Medium block a writer who is trying to make money on the Patreon/SubStack platforms, and who only writes on Medium to attract readers to subscribe on those platforms? Would Medium be justified to do so? Is such a writer unethical? A parasite?
  5. What do you think of this analogy? If writing is a craft, maybe we should think of it like glass blowing. I’m happy if folks come to my shop, and peer through to the workshop as I am blowing vases, cups, or bowls. They get to experience what’s going on. But I don’t just give the vases away for free: people have to pay to take home and use a vase in the manner that it is intended, to hold flowers, for example. The mix that makes sense to me is a mix of free/open and fee/closed writing. This sounds like Medium, but Medium’s model for payment is too diffused. Imagine if the glass blower was paid some share of all the money visitors paid to all the glassblowers in town, and the fraction was set by an algorithm based on applause, and not set by the glass blower directly. That’s sort of what Medium has done. They’ve created a guild of artisanal writers where the guild sets the price for goods, pools the money, and distributes it based on a complex and unverifiable algorithm.

Personally, I am trending toward a Patreon/Substack/Mighty Network approach, since the relationship between writer and subscribers/patrons is more direct, and I get to set prices directly too. And the writer is not limited to just free/fee. A variety of tiers of prices are possible, as well as different ranges of limited access to closed content. (For example, those participating in an open poll could be granted access to the write-up of the results, and a three month trial of a full subscriber account.)

I guess I feel that Medium could’ve created more obvious plumbing to help publishers and individuals make money on Medium, and put more of the controls in our hands, instead of creating a unitary, centralized model where they call all the shots. Currently, they pick the writers, (who are not employees, note, nor guaranteed a fee per post), they choose what to promote, and they set up the system for sharing the proceeds.

Sounds a lot like driving for Uber, come to think about it.

Written by

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

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