Medium offers entire editorial staff buyouts


Editorial staff at the self-publishing platform Medium are being offered buyouts and its vice president of editorial content is leaving the company as it once again retools its approach to creating its own journalistic content, CEO Ev Williams announced Tuesday.

“I also want to give an option to those who would rather get off this crazy ride,” Williams wrote in a blog post, after detailing some of the changes. “To that end, we’re offering to everyone in editorial a voluntary separation program (VSP).”

Staff members that decide to leave, Williams said, will get a lump sum payment equal to five months’ salary and six months of health benefits. The staff has until April 2 to make a decision.

Williams also announced that Medium’s VP of editorial, Siobhan O’Connor, “has decided this time of transition is her time to move on.” The company is working out when her last day will be.

Jermaine Hall and Scott Lamb are now in charge of content, Williams said, and they both report to Karene Tropen, who has been given the new role of SVP of marketing and content.

The buyouts come less than a month after an attempt to unionize Medium’s editorial workers failed to win enough support. Neither O’Connor nor the representatives from the Medium Workers Union immediately commented on William’s post.

The buyouts are just the most recent of several shifts the self-publishing platform has made in its approach to producing its own content, Williams acknowledged.

“Though Medium has been an open platform since day one, we’ve had an editorial team almost as long. The original thesis was that we wanted to establish that Medium was both open and high quality,” he wrote.

“We wanted to set the bar high. We were successful in doing that, and, since then, the editorial part of our company has gone through many iterations as we’ve strived to find the right way to integrate it. In 2014–16, we published great original content but we didn’t have the right business model to support it,” he added.

However, he added, the most recent iteration wasn’t financially successful.

“We have published many stellar stories that found a wide audience and more than paid for themselves. But our hit rate has been low, and we’re not near where we need to be to make it work economically,” he wrote.

While the overall customer base for Medium grew, he added, the audience for the company’s publications did not, reflecting a trend that media brands matter less now than individual voices. 

Williams did not say how the platform will approach publishing its own content from now on, only that it will have to “experiment more efficiently than we have been to date.”

“I can see more focused, high-affinity publications working well as part of the Medium bundle,” he added. “And I can also see the editorial team being great at conceiving and executing those types of publications.”

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