How one platform is claiming its identity as a forum for sharing ideas with the public to change the way people think about content.
Publishing platform Medium has relaunched its subsidiary Matter as the focus of its publishing efforts, admitting for the first time that it is a publisher as well as a publishing platform.
The original version of Matter, a British science and technology journalism startup acquired by Medium in April 2013, has been quietly closed after the relaunch. Its former editor, Bobbie Johnson, previously a Guardian reporter, remains involved with the project and still works at Medium, but Matter will now be edited by Mark Lotto, formerly a senior editor at GQ.
Founded by the Twitter creator, Ev Williams, in August 2012, Medium has long confused commentators with its hybrid nature. While it resembles a blogging platform like Williams’ first start-up, Blogger, it also commissions and publishes paid-for content. That led the tech CEO Jonathan Glick to coin the term “platisher” to describe firms like Medium.
Announcing the relaunch of Matter, Williams tried to “clear things up”, under the heading “Yes, we’re a publisher.”
“Medium is unquestionably a platform,” he said. “We have a top-notch product team working hard to make Medium the best place for people and organisations to publish their stories and ideas to the world. More than 10,000 were published just last week.
“One of the publishers on the platform is Medium, the company, as we have been from the beginning. Sometimes we find a writer we like who has a story we think should be told and commission them to tell it… The relaunch of Matter is our most ambitious publishing effort to date, but it’s likely not our last.”
Matter was formed after a successful Kickstarter campaign in March 2012, with the goal of launching a new journalism startup featuring readers paying directly for long-form reporting on technology and science. It was acquired by Medium in April 2013, and initially Matter founders Bobbie Johnson, a former Guardian and GigaOm journalist, and Jim Giles, formerly of New Scientist and Nature. “We have no immediate plans to alter the team, the places we publish… or how much we charge for each article,” they announced at the time.
Under Mark Lotto, Matter’s focus will expand to cover topics “from science and tech to pop culture and politics.” Lotto adds that “what we’re doing is hard to explain: We’re not a news site, but we’ll cover the news, often, and in provocative and playful ways. We’re not another longform publisher, but we’re going to be publishing a lot of longform. We’re not going to be Wikipedia-broad, but we’re not going to be niche either.”
“Mostly, Matter is going to try stuff.”
GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram praised the boldness, saying that “while there’s a natural tendency to want to fit Medium into a specific kind of box, or to get it to answer the question of what it is once and for all… I think it’s sort of admirable that the site is experimenting with a bunch of different models – not just for finding or publishing content, but for compensating writers and tracking metrics around how that content engages readers.”
The relaunch of Matter follows an insight into the workings of the site from editor Arikia Millikan, whose LadyBits blog became one of the first high-profile collections on the Medium. Millikan described the experience of putting together a publication on the site as “frustrating”, but said that “what they are developing is still, sadly, leagues beyond almost every other online publication.”
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