As a reader, I wouldn’t subscribe. As a writer, I wouldn’t pay either!
Couldn’t agree more with you on the whole story. But before I talk about my perspective as a writer, let me look at it as a reader. You have already highlighted all that would prevent me — as someone who consumes content — from being willing to pay. What’s worse is how medium is trying to push its subscription plans onto users (the way it is doing so).
Sure, I understand the logic behind keeping the tab ‘become a member’ prominent in the menus — be it on the website or app, but the prominence it is being given is slightly disconcerting. But I think I can ignore it, so let’s move on to the next thing.
THE PROMINENT “BECOME A MEMBER” BANNER
On the website, a good ~70% of the first fold is taken away by this banner.
In the same space that I could have seen 2–2.5 stories in, I am now seeing just half a story. How is that helpful?
- When I’m not engaging with it, it shouldn’t appear from the next time.
- If it has to be there all the time, it might have been a better idea to change it to a thinner banner from the second time (show the user the full banner the first time, but going forward show him a smaller, thinner one).
- It could have had an option to never show this again, don’t show it for a week or something similar.
- It could have been a collapsing item. Expands on mouse over but remains collapsed otherwise.
- If I have already checked it and not gone for the subscription, it may be a better idea not to show me the full thing every time. It may have been an even better idea to change this banner to one that asks you if you would want to share your feedback on why you didn’t go for the subscription.
Instead, medium insists on blocking a good part of my first fold of my homepage. That’s just annoying.
THE MEMBER ONLY ARTICLES
I think it’s a great idea to have members only articles. A taste of what lies beyond the promised doors.
Something that shows a compressed blurb of what the story is about, but doesn’t show the full story to non members.
The catch is in the quality of these stories. It needs to be extremely high — and I couldn’t emphasize more on the ‘extremely’. If I haven’t paid for the subscription yet, mediocre stories will reinforce my reasons behind continuing the status quo. And that’s what I’m seeing right now. Free to consume articles are much better than the members only ones and that makes me wonder why should I even consider shelling out $5.
ADDITIONAL PAID CONTENT
There are many publications that offer ‘members-only’ stories as well. Sure, the overall number of such publications is low, but it is still there. This ranges from $2 a month to $9 a month. Will my medium subscription cover that as well? Or would I need to shell out more to consume those? If it is the latter, isn’t it insane? This isn’t a carnival. You can’t expect me to pay an entry-fee and then charge me on every ride as well!
AS A WRITER
The reason I probably wouldn’t pay as a writer is because I have no intentions of monetizing this. I don’t promote any products, and I would never do so. I do not care about amassing hundreds of thousands of followers and what not. All I do is share my insights, along with my reasons and thought process behind it. I do so in my daily life, and I am doing so here. Why would I want to pay for that? I can simply find another ‘medium’!
FROM MEDIUM’S PERSPECTIVE
I understand the need to monetize the content, or at least the platform. Businesses are in the business of making money, and when you have raised $132M, you want to start thinking about revenue. Makes sense.
What I don’t understand is the urgency behind it.
Actually that’s not entirely true. I understand part of that as well. It has been more than 5 years since Medium was launched.
But when I talk about urgency, I am talking about playing around in a hurry to rake in cash, and probably doing it the wrong way.
Look at Quora. Adam D'Angelo and his team has raised more money than Medium, have been around longer, and yet they were never fanatically running around trying to monetize the platform.
Only recently have they started doing so. And it is not impeding my experience.
- As a content — consumer, my reading experience has remained largely the same
- As someone who provides content (answers questions), my experience hasn’t changed
- Yes, I do see ads now. But they are well placed, subtle, and don’t muck around with my usage behavior.
- I don’t know if Quora charges for the Q&A sessions or not, but it could soon start doing so. Charging the person holding the Q&A session, not the audience. Right now, it is just building up that platform. But imagine the scenario where brands want an opportunity to directly reach out to consumers, address their concerns. Instant community outreach, great marketing potential — brands will pay. And as far as the readers are concerned, the Q&A sessions have actually further enriches their usage experience
- Sponsored answers — I recently came across this new feature where a brand can offer a cash reward for the best/most insightful answer. Works out great for everyone. People who answer have been answering irrespective of the cash incentive, brands get access to thousands of consultants at the same time, the questions add value to overall community of Quora. All in all, everyone is happy, and brands are (and will be) willing to pay a few hundred dollars for each question. It is cheaper for them. A good consultant would charge them $500 per hour, this is definitely cheaper. Quora can (or is already) add a markup on the cash incentive and that is the net cost to the brand.
Nowhere does the user experience gets fucked and yet Quora starts making money. Maybe medium could learn a thing or two from them.
PS: This is a long chain. Let me help you follow the white rabbit.
- Ev Williams and the team at Medium decided to launch (or test out) a subscription model for Medium. The story was covered by Techcrunch and countless publications.
- Dakota Shane expressed his views on the techcrunch story in the publication “The Mission”. <Link to his story>
- Thibaud Herr expressed his thoughts on the story by Shane. <Link to his story>
- I stumbled across Thibaud’s comments, and from there, here we are.