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The Medium Model

How we are building a system for high-quality publishing at scale

Medium subscriber growth, year one. (Daily and total lines are on different scales.)
  1. Put great stories behind the metered paywall.
  2. Help people find the great stories they care about.

We offer a lot for a little.

As I wrote over here, I believe bundles are a large part of the future of content monetization. That doesn’t mean there won’t be lots of individuals subscriptions and patronage and other models that work — all of which help serve the cause. (It also doesn’t mean writers and publishers won’t be paid well.)

We welcome ideas and stories from everywhere.

I sometimes describe Medium as a system for moving ideas between brains. You could describe most of the internet that way, but at Medium we specialize in ideas that require a little space and thought — or, as we also like to say, smart thinking on things that matter. This has always been the point. And if that’s the point, why would you limit your source brains to those who work for you — or even those you know?

Our editorial team commissions original stories and uplevels organic ones.

We have no writers on staff and don’t plan to add any (except for marketing). However, we have a growing editorial team that is commissioning world-class writing by professional journalists and authors. The team is also partnering with some of the world’s most compelling writers on ambitious projects (like this one we just did with Roxane Gay).

We partner with publishers on and off platform.

Our goal is to offer the best selection of insightful stories — not news — you can get anywhere. To do this, we go beyond what our editorial team and individuals on the platform create and partner with other publishers in two ways:

We use personalization to deliver the best for each reader.

Finally, a key element of our model — and a differentiator for us — is personalization. We serve a broad set of interests — and we serve many of those interests deeply. We collect data — both explicit data (which we get when readers follow specific topics and writers) and implicit data (which is informed by which stories you read) — in order to suggest stories that we think you will be interested in.

Improving quality and relevance

Our most important job is to deliver great stories to readers. And we have great stories. We also have not-great stories. And we don’t always manage to help the best get seen. We’re obsessed with helping the best quality stuff get in front of people — as well as that each person really cares about. And we know we have a ways to go here.

A streamlined and more beautiful user experience

It’s been a while since we took a serious look at Medium’s design, from how the site looks and the UI to the app and to the underlying code. We’re going to be doing some major remodeling the next few months. This includes upgrading parts of our technical infrastructure to make the site speedier (and, for the nerds: faster to develop on).

Writing bigger checks

As our subscription base grows, so does our budget for content. We will continue to invest in the ways we do now: through the Partner Program, by commissioning stories, and via publisher partnerships. But in each case, we are going to be looking to do bigger, better, and more ambitious stuff.

What’s a little further out…

As long as I’m painting the picture, I’ll mention two other goals on the horizon. These aren’t nailed down, but we’re excited to get to them:

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Ev Williams

CEO of Medium, partner at Obvious Ventures, co-founder of Twitter, aspiring motivational speaker 🤸‍♂️