Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post on this blog called “The Content Model of the Web is Broken”. My basic argument was that there it had become very difficult to make a viable business out of content anymore. Advertising is not a workable revenue generator - the only real solutions were to produce content that either had ulterior motives (i.e. my content is designed to market some other product or service) or relied entirely on unpaid authors, which devalued writing to a point that the quality is potentially suspect.
Now even that second model seems potentially broken. Don’t take my word for it - take the word of Medium CEO Evan Willams. He effectively repeats much of what I argued two years ago (so forgive me for quoting it in full here):
Medium CEO Ev Williams says his company’s ad-based business model isn’t working, and the startup is laying off 50 employees and closing its offices in New York and Washington, D.C., as a result.
That’s about one third of the company’s employees.
In a blog post shared on Wednesday, Williams said he wants to move away from ad-supported content, which is how most stuff on the internet generates revenue. Williams described that business model, which is almost entirely dependent on clicks and views, as a “broken system.”
“The vast majority of articles, videos, and other ‘content’ we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals,” Williams wrote. “And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get … well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.”
- Source: ReCode (emphasis mine)
Keep in mind that Medium had a level of traffic that most any other content site could only dream of (according to this site, it’s about 84.5 million visits per month).
The point here is that the situation is worsening. If you care about quality content, as I do, you should be concerned.