This column is bittersweet: It’s my last one writing for Medium as part of the program in which I was a founding writer. It’s also about not putting all of your content eggs in one single content basket.
As a person formerly of “working in a classically volatile industry” experience, I am all too familiar with the highs, lows, and pitfalls of digital journalism, which has come to rely heavily on platforms as a survival mechanism. I survived the notorious Facebook “pivot to video,” I survived the period after “pivot to video,” when internal documents that Meta (nee Facebook) had that were made public by a lawsuit suggested Meta massively overestimated the average viewing time for video ads on its platform, but scared publishers into changing their editorial strategies anyway. I have survived Google rejiggering SEO updates, sometimes arbitrarily punishing news outlets who had come to rely on traffic from Google. I have seen newsrooms become reliant on funding from VCs, scour the earth for alternative revenue streams, and sometimes sell themselves to private equity vultures. I have watched as Substack poured money and resources into freelancers’ pockets, luring them away from the grind of freelancing for journalism outlets, only for that money to disappear when VC funding for things like newsletter startups dried up.
Two years ago Medium, another platform and one that has been through myriad pivots, mass layoffs and iterations of its own, came to me to ask me to write for them. It wouldn’t be exclusive — I could continue writing elsewhere — but the deal was they would pay me a handsome, fixed amount of money every month and in exchange, I would blog on Medium’s platform. In this way, I thought, they were trying to compete with Substack as a home for independent writers, and I was a writer and a name they could use to make their platform an alluring place for people to write for free. This arrangement seemed to suit everyone. I had access to a great editor who cleaned up my posts for me after I hit publish; I gained a huge following because Medium said it would promote my stories; Medium got some nice consistent writing from me. Win win!
But things started changing at Medium a few months into my contract. My editor, who was actually an editor at one of Medium’s really lovely homegrown publications which I wrote a few stories for, who edited a story I wrote in 2019 that I remain very proud of, got laid off, along with pretty much all of the staff of those publications. The company continued…