Digital Conference

Medium Unveils Tools, Monetization Options for Publishers

CEO Ev Williams Made Announcement at Ad Age Digital Conference

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The Awl's new home on Medium
The Awl's new home on Medium Credit: Medium

Medium CEO Ev Williams has written in the past that "Medium is not a publishing tool," and is better understood as a network. But, he'd like professional publishers to participate in that network, and to set up shop on the platform Medium has created.

On Tuesday, at the Ad Age Digital Conference, Mr. Williams unveiled a set of new tools intended to lure publishers onto the Medium platform, which is free to use. The Awl, Pacific Standard, and Above Average (from "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels) are among the first group of publishers to take the plunge. Time Inc. brands Fortune and Money, as well as the forthcoming Bill Simmons digital property The Ringer, among others, are slated to operate fully on Medium in the future.

"The whole idea of the platform makes sense from our perspective," said Michael Macher, publisher of The Awl Network.

As a selling point, Medium is allowing publishers to generally maintain their visual identity when transitioning to the platform. The company also is offering one-click migration, in an effort to ease the laborious process of transitioning content and multimedia assets to a new system.

In addition to providing a gratis content management and publishing system, as well as content distribution and promotion capabalities, Medium has introduced new opportunities for publishers to make money.

Publishers that make Medium's platform their home will have a designated "slot" to run so-called "promoted posts" from brands, including Bose, Intel, and SoFi, a financial technology company, at launch. "This is the first step in how we bring brands together with publishers," said Edward Lichty, who oversees content development and revenue for Medium. (Publishers will keep a "substantial majority" of the revenue derived from these branded posts.)

Mr. Williams said at the conference that these advertisements, the first on Medium, will be "completely native."

Medium is also allowing publishers to create membership offerings, and to make their own decisions about how much to charge and what content to restrict. Publishers will only share subscription revenue with Medium "if they hit a certain level" of financial success, according to Mr. Lichty. He said "the large majority of revenue" will go to publishers, and that, initially, Medium will only collect transaction costs.

Mr. Macher said "the terms of the deal are favorable." The Awl Network has already been able to test-drive the Medium platform. The company's personal finance publication, The Billfold, switched over to Medium in mid-December, and Mr. Macher said the early results have been very positive.

The Hairpin, The Awl Network's female-focused site, is also coming over to Medium, but comedy site Splitsider is remaining on Wordpress. Mr. Macher said the company has sold banner advertising and sponsorship deals for Splitsider "that don't make sense for Medium."

Medium, going forward, will support Facebook Instant Articles, allowing publishers to seamlessly publish content through the popular distributed channel, as well as Google's AMP program.

Summing up the appeal for publishers, Mr. Lichty said: "We want to create an environment that allows them to focus on what they're good at, and hopefully make them successful."

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