There was a story the other day about how 400 publications have reportedly expressed interest in going all-in on Medium, using that platform to house their site’s content and sell memberships and ads. That follows the move by a number of publications to make a similar decision a few months ago, something that heralded Medium’s official coming out as a platform and not a publisher, a question it had been struggling with for years since launch.
Now you might be tempted to think that migrating to Medium is no different than making the same move to WordPress , for instance, or Drupal But that’s very wrong.
Medium is unique in that it’s owned. It’s a “smart” platform in that it comes with its own terms of service and is subject to acting in its own self-interest. That’s very different from software like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, which is “dumb” in that you download it and use it as you see fit, without having to rely on the platform itself to do anything. So you don’t have to conform to the whims of Automattic, the organization that manages WordPress, to use the software. (I’m discounting WordPress VIP here, but even then they just help you get up and running and manage the site, they don’t pull the rug out from under you with little warning.)
It’s understandable why publishers are looking help here. Signing on with Medium means they don’t have to worry about their web infrastructure and they get some help with ad sales, including being able to offer a membership subscription tier. That’s attractive to many in the media who don’t have the resources to build their own CMS like Buzzfeed, HuffPo and many others and who are having increasing amounts of trouble selling ads against content that reeks of viral sameness, as everyone chases the same stories. It’s similar to the mindset that has them using Facebook Instant Articles.
But the circumstances, terms and conditions for usage could – and likely will – change because, as I said, Medium is a “smart” company. They’re in it not for the good of the open web, but for themselves and their own operation. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it means that the foundation can shift under these publishers at any moment and for a reason that may not continue to be in their best interest.
This isn’t a situation where lambs are lining up to be slaughtered. It’s not that dire. But it is a case of companies lining up to put the future of their infrastructure – essential to their continued health, vitality and operation – in someone else’s hands, which is never the key to long term stability.