Why A Medium Investment Has Super-Sized Potential

Lots of chatter, of course, about Medium today and it’s first and very large round of institutional funding. As someone who writes online, uses Quora often, has dabbled with Medium (and love the product), I thought I’d jot down some brief thoughts about why this product can grow into a big company and potentially remain independent and go public:

  • To date, Medium content has been written by individuals, but expect it to expand to all kinds of brands. All sorts of brands, from media to CPG and beyond, want to put ads in front of consumers, of course. They currently do this on Facebook or Twitter or Yahoo or Flipboard. In those cases, they often don’t control how the content looks nor how it’s delivered to the end viewer. As this shift continues to happen, Medium is positioned to take bigger slices of this ad spend, especially as other properties stop growing and/or lose attention.
  • Medium poised to explode on mobile devices. So far, Medium has grown on the web, the old-fashioned way. It’s so easy to use the software and write — I hate the phrase “beautiful experience” for consumer software, but even I’ll admit, on Medium, it is — that when it expands to phones and tablets, people will use it to create more content. The lack of a keyboard presents a big hurdle to writing on a mobile device, but Medium’s design could help assuage this.
  • More about discovery, less about a destination. When Quora started to grow, it achieved that rare feat — it was a destination you just went to. Medium, while offering some recommendations for related content and hooks to go back to the site, has largely used other social networks (Facebook, Twitter) to power discovery of its content. The result is that consumers stumble upon Medium links more easily and, if presented with the next right piece of content, or collections, that user will stay around and enjoy the experience for longer. We should expect the ability to subscribe to people, brands, and collections, as well.
  • Leveraging other social networks as “smart” distribution pipes. Despite the success and scale of Facebook and Twitter, there aren’t many other properties which have gotten enormous on top of these graphs. Airbnb has, and Instagram has, among a few others. Medium has that chance given Ev William’s presence and the way the site is designed to share content into social networks, especially Twitter. (Incidentally, Jelly has a similar structure for routing questions through these pipes.)
  • “It’s the team, stupid!” Very few people like Ev Williams around, and going for #3 in the arena he knows best is a VC’s dream. A no-brainer. And, from what I’ve heard of friends who have directly worked with Ev (I have never met him), they all say he’s one of the best people in tech, period. They love him. This type of loyalty is infectious, and in turn greases the wheels for recruiting top talent and brokering game-changing partnerships that can change the arc of a product.
  • WordPress is a target, and mobile is a frontier. I love WordPress. This blog is built on WordPress. And, much of the web is, too. It’s got a big private valuation and has empowered many people to create, share, and earn. That said, it’s woefully behind on mobile, on easier-to-use interfaces, and overall responsiveness. They own a big piece of the market, and a team led by Ev can snack around the edges before going after the old land (on the web) and expand into new territories as the world shifts to phones and tablets.

For these reasons, Medium has the chance to go big, the chance to capture the old magazines, consumer writing, and new types of media on phones and tablets that tie into social networks. It has the chance to be an independent, public company, and stand on its own.

 

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2017 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus