📚 node [[details of how this subscription model will work seem scarce]]
📕 text contributed by @enki

Details of how this subscription model will work seem scarce.

I love Medium right now. I love writing for it and I love reading it (despite some problems with keeping content quality consistently…


Details of how this subscription model will work seem scarce. I can hardly make a decision based on them.

I love Medium right now. I love writing for it and I love reading it (despite some problems with keeping content quality consistently high). But, the service Medium provides isn’t one that’s difficult to implement: I expect that, as soon as Medium locks itself up, five or six slightly-crappier competitors will pop up from people who didn’t take ill-advised loans from VCs and who decided on a revenue model early, because we’re essentially talking about a blogging platform with minimal customization, and reinventing that wheel is done all the time. Whatever model Medium decides upon will need to benefit me more than switching to a competitor will.

Let us consider some possibilities:

  • It may be that Medium will require subscriptions from all registered users, and not provide any revenue redistribution. (This will probably eliminate some casual users and change the cost-benefit analysis of people who currently use the platform for marketing purposes. If this gets rid of low-quality self-help spam, it may be a good thing, but if it scares away people who are currently writing high-quality content — as it probably will — then that may lower the value of a subscription even more.) I’m assuming, under this model, that unregistered users may still read medium posts, but that recommendations, posts, and comments are premium.
  • Perhaps everyone pays for subscriptions (as in the previous possibility) and there’s no paywall for readers, but authors get some direct payout (from subscription fees) based on number of reads. This would make a lot more sense: Medium is just a platform for distributing user-generated content, and making the users pay to generate content is nearly offensive, but making Medium a subscription-based marketplace for content cuts down on low-quality/spam posts and brings back authors who write high-quality content & are likely to more than break even on what they write. (There are some complications here. Like, DMCA takedowns become a lot more important, and fraudulent takedown requests might start becoming an issue. What happens if a user from Australia posts an extensive quote from Lovecraft, whose works are public domain in Australia but under copyright in the US? Medium presumably already has good lawyers and policies on this, but the stakes are higher when you’re paying authors.)
  • Let’s say that not only do registered users subscribe, but readers are also shown a paywall (perhaps after a certain number of monthly reads, like on newspapers). This is basically a no-go: the number of people who would put up with this is tiny, and discovery and PR goes down the toilet. Unless Medium officially states that this is what they’re doing, we should assume this is a straw-man version of their model (even though theoretically intelligent people like those in charge of the New Yorker also do this).
  • Consider a freemium model with multiple tiers. The free version would be what we normal users are used to; higher tiers are optimized for publications, with features like configurable publication pages and configurable post themes, promotion in the newsfeed, and placement in a special list in the sidebar. This might work out for Medium, and might work out better than the various alternatives, if they got the prices right. (After all, some publications are funded essentially with marketing budget for something else in print — How We Get to Next, for instance — and they would be willing to pay a pittance to look better on Medium because their revenue stream is from elsewhere.) But, if the prices are too low, current spammy posts will dominate everyone’s feeds (and regular users will leave), while if the prices are too high, Medium will continue to not break even.

I think subscriptions are the second-weakest business model (after advertising) for Medium, but there are ways to make it work. If they make it worth my while, I’ll subscribe. But, for the current levels of content quality, I probably wouldn’t pay more than a dollar a month.

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By John Ohno on February 15, 2017.

[Canonical link](https://medium.com/@enkiv2/details-of-how-this-subscription- model-will-work-seem-scarce-196b4adcb17a)

Exported from Medium on September 18, 2020.

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