It’s time to panic about another social network.
Last week, Medium CEO Ev Williams announced that the company was laying off 50 staffers, closing its offices in New York and Washington, D.C., and ceasing its ad-sales operation. In Williams’s estimation, the company’s Outbrain-esque ad structure to push advertorials on people contributed to a “broken system” of ad-supported media.
The move sent shock waves through the media industry, mostly because people who work in media account for 95 percent of the people who care about Medium, but also because it reportedly caught Medium’s publishing partners, like The Ringer and The Awl, by surprise.
So what happens now? Williams titled his announcement post, “Renewing Medium’s Focus,” but that focus still remains extremely unclear. My best guess is that Medium will pursue some Patreon-style system that lets followers tip writers for their work. Or maybe the company will turn its user base into a giant freelance network and try to steal Contently’s business. We’re all staring into the great unknown.
After several pivots over the past few years, Medium is in trouble. This sucks because I love Medium. But it also means I have an excuse to baselessly speculate about which companies might buy it. Let the arbitrary rankings begin!
Salesforce kinda almost bought Twitter last fall. Why not settle for another social network that’s hemorrhaging money and beloved by media people in New York? While Twitter is priced anywhere between $10-30 billion, Medium raised $50 million last year on just a $400 million valuation. Though traffic to the site has tripled since, I doubt the valuation has gone up much.
The purchase would let Salesforce add an intriguing CMS to its end-to-end marketing solutions. Plus, it’d be fun! Salesforce already spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to turn San Francisco into the world’s dorkiest boat party, so what’s an extra $400 million?
6. American Express
An interesting wildcard. Amex has made bold moves in the past (it helped start MTV and Nickelodeon), and Medium would add a whole new element to OPEN Forum, its popular small business site. Medium’s 60 million-person audience likely includes the type of affluent people Amex wants to reach. It’s already responsible for the two most impactful TV channels of my childhood; why not save my favorite blogging platform?
(Full Disclosure: American Express is a Contently client and should probably not take acquisitions advice from me.)
Microsoft paid $26.2 billion for LinkedIn in hopes of dominating our professional lives. But that doesn’t fix LinkedIn’s problems. Its publishing platform, Pulse, is still clunky for writers and readers alike. For some reason, companies still can’t publish articles directly on Pulse, which means you have to bug your VP of marketing to post the article you ghostwrote for him on his personal account.
One of LinkedIn’s biggest problems is that it still doesn’t do a very good job of getting users to stick around. Medium’s superior technology could help LinkedIn finally catch up to Facebook and Twitter in the race for user attention.
Facebook has tried to buy every other social network, so why not scoop up Medium for a price that wouldn’t even register on its quarterly report? I feel like Zuck would just make Ev Williams hang out with him all day and play Hacky Sack at lunch.
Deep down, it has to irk Google’s parent company that Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Oculus, and Instagram, and came out on top with every deal. Since Evan Spiegel isn’t selling Snapchat, there are only so many social networks left to scoop up. I have no idea what Alphabet would do with Medium, but I could just see it swooping in to piss off Facebook—and overpaying as a result.
In the words of Dillon Baker, our tech editor, “The company already has its tentacles in everything with WaPo, Twitch, Direct Video, and Prime.” Indeed, Medium would be an interesting complement to the suite of tech tools The Washington Post is building. It already licenses 18 different tech products. Why not add a high-brow publishing platform—already favored by politicians like Hillary Clinton—to the mix? Bezos can afford it.
I dreamed of this end result last night. There’s a black stage. Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams emerge from the shadows, dressed in candy cane jackets, holding acoustic guitars.
“We bought Medium,” Dorsey says.
“This is for all of you,” Williams adds.
Suddenly, they begin playing. The Decemberists’ drummer comes out of nowhere, and they start strumming the song of my childhood. The song of 2017. The song that would capture their merger.
“And oh, my love, my love,” Dorsey purrs. “And oh, my love, my love. We both go down together.”