Medium: WTF is going on over there? And other stories.
Are you following the rollercoaster that is Medium?
Anytime that anyone—institutions, new ventures, individuals, communities—take on the issue of making media sustainable financially for those who create it, I'm all ears. If we can't fund and distribute the conversations we're having about how we're living our lives to those who can't take part in the moment, we're in trouble. Especially since corporations *can* fund those conversations, and they're doing it through what I'll call shell companies, like Bustle. (Yes, you can be upset with me for calling out Bustle. I don't mind. I'd rather have your anger and stand up for trustworthy media than be complicit in the systematic destruction of our boundaries between advertising and sincere reporting. Also, read this before you rant.)
That's why even though I'm going to be hard on Medium for abruptly cancelling its membership program for 21 publishers with literally two weeks notice, I want to say up front that I appreciate the effort to offer innovative tools for publishers, individuals and businesses alike, to fund themselves at low cost. Clap for that. And then head over to Drip to support Electric Lit, because they need your reliable monthly support.
The issue here isn't so much that Medium can't afford the confusion that having membership programs (subscriptions) to its platform *while also* allowing outlets to offer their own memberships. The issue is that these publishers, The Establishment and Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism included, trusted Medium on its promise to provide: (1) a stable, editorially autonomous platform and (2) access to funding tools that would pay for that freedom. Of course, the flags were all there—but you have to take risks in media! The entire industry is one giant bet on the endless curiosity of all humanity.
So where am I going with this? A couple places. First, that if you're a reasonable person working to fund your media organization or your own work, and you think there's someone out there who knows more than you do about how to get money, you don't. You hold all the keys. (You can also literally Google it, and now you know that I love puns.) The things that work are the things that have always worked: Develop a strong, authentic, sincere voice. Figure out who is reading your perspectives—don't forget to check your Google Analytics! Talk to your readers about why they can and how they can support your work in any way possible, but always with a much transparency as you can. If you have time, consider building a newsletter with even more intention and routine than your site. (I have no idea why I trust MailChimp to deliver on its Forever Free promise, I just do.)
You probably won't rake in $50 million in revenue in your 3rd year, but then again, you aren't in this to capitalize on views, are you? If you're reading this, it's more likely that you're in this to build better media, and by extension, more meaningful and informed day-to-day lives.
If you're here looking for recommendations from me as to what tools you can use instead of Medium *to fund your work* rather than to network with your readers, I'd say this: You can still use Medium to publish, but you should consider integrating Drip. If you fall into the large, undefined category of progressive nonprofits, check out the fundraising tools at ActBlue Charities. And of course, there's always Patreon.
Know your story, trust yourself, and keep testing your assumptions. The favorite bumper sticker I've ever seen simply reads "Don't believe everything you think."