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Medium offers publishers an alternative to paywalls, with revenue shares and minimum guarantees

“We are looking to fund more great editors, writers, and publishers,” announced Medium yesterday, revealing its plans to fund and launch new publications.

The ad-free digital publishing platform—started by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams—issued a clarion call to publishers, saying “in an incredibly crowded and noisy media environment, it makes sense to join forces with others who are aligned.”

We are seeking partners to create new publications on Medium, which we will help fund and distribute. If you are a current (or aspiring) editor-in-chief, an expert in your field, or an existing publisher with extra capacity, we’d love to hear from you.

Medium

Based on available stats, the site currently has over 90 million unique users each month, and publishes more than 20,000 articles per day. In 2018, Medium paid nearly $5 million to writers, with $8,745.25 the most earned by an author, and $2,203.91 the most earned for a single story.

The platform is raising the stakes this time, promising to pay a revenue share based on readership, and also offering a minimum guarantee (in certain cases) of $5–50k per month to help publishers get started and lessen the risk. This would also be applicable for existing publications who would like to explore a business relationship with Medium.

While the publishing world is moving to paywalls, there is likely to be a relatively small limit on the number of subscriptions most consumers will tolerate. By working together, we can offer people far more flexibility and value, which will get and keep them subscribing.

Medium

In its call for applications, Medium emphasized that it is looking “for quality publications,” to develop long-term, sustainable partnerships, with contracts that range from three to 12 months. While more specific details are not available currently, the company says the partnership model will be straightforward and as predictable as possible.

The announcement might trigger a sense of déjà vu for many publishers, given that Medium had previously partnered with third-party publishers, many of whom—like ThinkProgress and The Ringer—have since parted ways.

“We have done deals with third-party publishers in the past. We fulfilled those contracts but did not end up renewing them,” confirmed the Medium staff. “At the time, we did not have our subscription offering and were not able to make the numbers work.”

In addition to the mea culpa, Medium reminded about the risks involved with any business deal, while expressing confidence that this time, things would be different.

We are in a much different position, with a proven model, and we’re excited to enable a new breed of editors and quality content to thrive on Medium.

Medium

The types of publications Medium is looking to fund include quality publications—not those with ads or that are really thinly disguised marketing—that help people understand the world more deeply and find worthwhile ideas they can apply in their lives, across all areas of knowledge and human experience.

“When we say quality, we mean more than good writing (though we like that a lot). We also mean information quality — accuracy, insightfulness, and offering something uniquely valuable to the reader,” the announcement said. “If you’re able to own a conversation, that’s better than offering a soon-forgotten rehash on the biggest news of the day.”

Medium is now focused on producing original publications. Last month, Digiday reported Medium is launching four of its own subscription publications, with more to come. Just yesterday, former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman launched Salty—a food magazine—on Medium. “It’s a really good thing that the market is being retrained to pay for quality content,” Mr. Williams said.

“We’re optimistic that there’s a better way for creators and consumers of information,” he told the Times. “Once the market breaks its addiction to advertising, that will be better for everybody.”

I like their attitude. They don’t promote stupid stuff. They really promote good things. It’s like someone is awake there.

Mark Bittman, about Medium to NYT

Publishers looking to partner with Medium can find more details and submit their applications here.

Download WNIP’s comprehensive new report—50 Ways to Make Media Pay—an essential read for publishers looking at the multiple revenue opportunities available, whether it’s to reach new audiences or double down on existing super-users. The report is free and can be downloaded here.


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