More Ectoplasm

medium-logoOne of the core ideas of B3TZ that we still haven’t shaken is that our predictions need to live inside a context. When you predict that “Jurrasic World will gross over $150M on its second weekend” or “Russell Wilson will throw for 300 or more Yards vs. Arizona this weekend” whoever puts that prediction out in the world benefits from a framing story.

A single POV prose graf combined with a prediction is an information unit we think is interesting — like a Newser bite or a Buzzfeed listicle.

In previous versions of B3TZ we’ve looked at having our game publishers — in-house, affiliated, or even un-affiliated — using publishing platforms like SBN or Reddit or Tumblr or Technorati, and we’ve done most of our test posting on Blogger or WordPress. Last week I had a conversation where Medium got floated as a possible fit, so I did a little dive to see what the pros and cons looked like for B3TZ purposes:

Pros —

1) the editing experience is super simple — sort of like Tumblr, the time to get a paragraph and some links put up is short and sweet.

2) the promise of traffic — the theory is that if your opinions and writing is interesting enough it catches the attention of an editor? or algorithm? and floats to a more prominent status.

3) looks multi-channel lovely — the site comes with mobile apps so delivery is everywhere.

Cons —

1) narrow audience — the design and content choices lead me to think this is aimed at aging hipsters, which is fine, but will sports or movie box office scores matter to this audience?

2) the promise of traffic — unlike Stack Overflow or Quora, two sites I still have confidence in their “democracy” — Medium seems to have a very opaque selection process. It involves editors and hidden algorithms, which is fine I guess. That seems to work for Reddit and Facebook etc. It just means to get the traffic we want we’d need to find the back door.

Takeaway —

I’m not seeing much original with Medium — just an updated version of the user-gen’d content promises that have been floating around for a couple decades now. Overall I have a very dim view of user-generated content as a strategy for reducing publishing costs. If non-pro content is good, it eventually demands payment, and if it isn’t good you don’t want it. I see UGC as a relatively in-efficient technique for recruiting writers and community developers. After watching the thrash with Technorati and HuffPo over the years, I don’t see how Medium will fare much differently.

And I’m not seeing signs of a revenue model for these guys either. Maybe they’re trying for the Tumblr-style deus-ex-Yahoo exit, but I doubt it. Looks more like a vanity project. All content roads lead to subscriptions or ad-networks, and after watching media genius John Battelle take 10 years to turn $60M of investor money into a $22M ad-network media asset I have to conclude that the advertising fork in the road is pretty rough.

That said, I think B3TZ is still shopping for a good home for the “prediction content unit” and until B3TZ makes the decision to become a publisher it its own right (not likely!!) I’m willing to try Medium along with every other place that will have us.

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