Nearly 400 Publishers Have Applied for Medium's Plan to Help Them Make Money

Publishers Try Out Membership System on Medium

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Bill Simmons's new sports-and-pop-culture site The Ringer is one of the most prominent to run entirely on Medium's system.
Bill Simmons's new sports-and-pop-culture site The Ringer is one of the most prominent to run entirely on Medium's system. Credit: The Ringer

In early April, Medium, the platform founded by Ev Williams, made a pitch to the publishing community: come to Medium, and we'll help you make money. There's not a publisher these days that isn't looking for new revenue streams, so it's not surprising that nearly 400 publishers have applied to participate in the beta version of Medium's revenue program, according to figures provided by a spokeswoman for the company. (She declined to say how many applicants have been accepted.)

There are both advertising and consumer revenue opportunities available for publishers that either put their entire site on Medium, as The Awl and Bill Simmons's new The Ringer have done, or publish a Medium edition of their publication, like far more companies have done.

Medium aspires to play a big role in the publishing ecosystem, offering publishers both a technical lifeline (in the form of a sleek, easy-to-use platform, and back-end support) and a set of options to make money. Whether Medium is able to become the power player -- and journalism savior -- it seems to want to become depends on how many publishers actually take the company up on the offer its making.

Participating publishers can run links to promoted posts from advertisers at the bottom of articles and share a cut of the revenue with Medium.

Publications are also free to sell sponsorships on their own. The Ringer has a deal with Miller Lite, and there's a "Presented by Miller Lite" banner at the bottom of article pages.

A handful of publishers have also been testing out Medium's membership program, in which certain pieces of content are locked, available only to paying readers.

Serious Eats (a food site), Femsplain (a community for women) and Film School Rejects (movies and television) are the earliest three brands to experiment with membership on Medium, and all report being pleased with the early returns.

The default price for a publication membership on Medium is $5 per month, but Amber Discko, Femsplain's founder, said her members are allowed to give as much as they'd like beyond that. (Film School Rejects starts memberships at $3 per month.)

Serious Eats Chief Content Officer Chris Mohney said "a little north of 100" readers have signed on as members. Ms. Discko said Femsplain is at 190 members, just short of the 200-member goal she has set to be able to fund writing on the site. Neil Miller, publisher, said Film School Rejects is "comfortably in-between" Serious Eats and Femsplain.

"We set a fairly modest goal for our first month after consulting with Medium and getting a sense of what other publishers had achieved with the same program," Mr. Miller said Thursday. "Within the first two weeks, we'd hit our first-month goal easily. Since then, sign-ups have been steady. Today actually marks the exact one month mark and we've doubled our goal. It's very encouraging, especially in these early stages, allowing us to fund some great exclusive content."

"We really had no expectations, treating this an an experiment from the beginning," said Mr. Mohney, who had nice things to say about Medium as a partner. Serious Eats is using the membership money to pay for exclusive stories.

Edward Lichty, who oversees content development and revenue for Medium, told Ad Age in April that the platform would only get a cut of membership money if publishers hit a specific revenue threshold.

While bullish on the potential for consumer revenue from memberships, Mr. Miller said advertising is still No. 1 for Film School Rejects.

"Medium's doing very well with the Sponsored Stories links at the bottom of each article, delivering CPMs that are much better than networks we've worked with in the past," he said. "So I expect that to be our primary source of revenue for a while." Film School Rejects also plans to dabble in sponsorships.

Asked when Medium's revenue program will go wide, the spokeswoman said there's no date yet to announce.

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