Five Things: March 25, 2021

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The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012–present

“‘A beautiful space for reading and writing’ and pivoting.”

You might think I’m burying the lede when you get to the next article, but Medium’s latest pivot isn’t the real story, it’s just the latest episode in a shitshow that should have been cancelled years ago. Laura Hazard Owens excellent history of Ev Williams’ solution in search of a problem clearly lays it all out. That Medium keeps sucker-punching people is Exhibit A for “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Read this first and bookmark it because she’s in the process of updating it to include the latest round of nonsense covered in the next link.


Medium Editorial Team Update

Setting aside rumors that this latest pivot was potentially related to Medium’s editorial team pushing for unionization, Ev Williams’ email is insulting on so many other levels. It insults the communities he’s attempted to leverage and is now abandoning; the industry he believed he could disrupt while demonstrating every step of the way doesn’t understand; the staff and contributors who bought into his “vision” and are effectively being shown the door as he changes his mind yet again.

Williams is a billionaire dilettante who built a nice blogging platform and has no idea how to make tons of money with it, and it’s long past time to stop taking his media aspirations seriously. There’s nothing there but hubris and vanity multiplied many times over by basic capitalism.

Medium itself is a well-dressed digital zombie. The internet would be much better off if we collectively delivered a long overdue double tap and moved on.


The Road to Reality

This is a solid manifesto spotlighting the flaws in modern marketing, specifically related to consumer advertising and brand engagement. It’s a variation on Williams’ ideas about brands vs. individuals, but where Williams grossly overstates his argument because he only thinks in terms of massive scale, Hoffman zeroes in on the folly of dedicating massive budgets to creating “relationships” between brands and consumers.

I agree with most of it, but I don’t think it applies to most B2B and niche marketing where relationships are actually possible and can be effective. Context always matters.


Beverly Jenkins: The WD Interview

I love Jenkins’ casual flexing in this insightful interview from my alma mater, Writers Digest. The romance genre is huge and highly engaged; one where brands AND authors have intense, meaningful relationships with consumers—and yet it often gets dismissed as a niche. Meanwhile “literary” darlings with a fraction of its sales or engagement are treated like the flagships of the publishing industry. Make it make sense!?!?!

I’m not a romance reader myself, but some of the smartest, savviest people I’ve met in publishing work in the genre and/or are active members of the community, and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.

Romancelandia forever!


Outriders Is Officially Coming To Xbox Game Pass

Speaking of huge niches, despite my long career in publishing and generally being known in a book and magazine context, I’m a much bigger gamer than reader these days. I started with the Atari 2600 and have owned at least one gaming console of some sort ever since.

At $15/month, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is arguably the best subscription deal in entertainment right now, and the addition of Outriders, a brand new game I was looking forward to but on the fence about dropping $60 on, makes the subscription a no-brainer. I’ve already played and enjoyed a bunch of games I’d never have gotten around to if I had to buy them individually, and also avoided wasting money on a few that turned out not to be as good as I’d hoped.

If/when Microsoft offers the combo deal on a new Xbox One X with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate again, I’ll jump all over it.

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