Publications Don’t Matter

A response to “Medium in Disarray” articles

We’ve all felt it. Whether you’re an editor, reader, writer, or someone involved in media, the power of a publication or media brand isn’t what it used to be. Some entities like The New Yorker or HBO still have mighty brands built up over decades. But starting a media brand from scratch? Forget it.

No one reads Vice, they read articles on Vice that come up in their newsfeeds. No one watches NBC, they watch shows on Netflix that they hear are good, and some are from NBC. No one reads blogs anymore, but some bloggers have the quality and exposure to consistently deliver hits. The brand doesn’t matter as much as it used to, and individual pieces of content have never been more powerful. And that extends to indie writers too.

I read The Mess at Medium and it all made perfect sense. Casey Newton’s article can be summed up as “Medium tried to go big on publications, saw they weren’t viable, canceled them (with generous five month buy-outs and six months of health insurance) and people asked to build the publications are upset about it.” Of course everyone wanted the plan to succeed. In hindsight, of course it didn’t. Of course this sucks, and of course people are upset.

If you’re reading this article, it’s 1% likely you’re here because you love my writing and will eagerly consume anything I publish. That’s where blogs, Patreon, newsletters, and Substack (a mashup of all three) succeed, and it works for some people. But the 99% of you are here because you’re interested in this topic, or someone online referred you to it. And you won’t pay for it. So you’re here 1% because of my brand and 99% because of how people consume media today. It’s not good or bad, it’s just how things are now.

And that’s not a media environment where new publications can succeed. It’s disappointing and a bit scary because it means more upheaval and change. But it’s anything but surprising. All we can do is build something new. If we’re lucky, we’ll look back one day and call it better.

I love building things.

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