Can Vox become a better Medium than Medium?
Of all the horrible things the internet has brought us, the word “platisher” is among the worst.
That’s the word used back in 2013 when Medium first launched. The brainchild of Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, Medium at the time was one of the most beautiful things online—very much the opposite of the word used to describe it.
The company also launched with some of its own content, hence the portmanteau of “platform” and “publisher.” Medium would have a few in house publications, but its model would be to power others. If successful, Medium might operate the way some printing presses worked, servicing the needs of a variety of publications.
It didn’t work very well. Medium has closed pretty much all its publications, and recently moved toward a subscription model after laying off some of its staff. Perhaps we would be relieved of having to use the word “platisher” ever again.
Not so fast. On Tuesday, Vox announced a deal with The Ringer to power the company’s technology and advertising.
The Ringer, which had previously operated on Medium, is the sports and culture website started by sports media mogul Bill Simmons. After gaining a large following as a columnist at ESPN, he helped start Grantland and the “30 for 30” documentary series, before a falling out with the media company led Simmons to strike out on his own.
“Vox Media’s expertise is building strong media brands that go deeper with audiences. We’ve proven that empowering the most talented creators is a successful model for growth,” said Jim Bankoff, chairman and CEO of Vox Media, in a press release.
The move is bad news for Medium. The Ringer is undoubtedly its most high-profile independent operation. The company has struggled to figure out a way forward and has just about given up on an ad-supported model. It’s going to offer a subscription service, though Williams hasn’t sounded terribly optimistic lately.
The platisher, sadly, is not dead. Vox might just be able to succeed where Medium failed.
Have started from humble, bloggy roots, the company now reigns as one of the hottest startups in media. Vox Media now encompasses eight major verticals including the eponymous Vox blog focused on explaining the news, The Verge for tech, and SB Nation for sports.
But like any good, modern media company, the content is only part of it. Vox boasts about Chorus, its publishing platform. That’s what will power The Ringer. Bankoff told the Wall Street Journal that Vox will look at similar deals but be selective. In other words, it’s not going to become some open place for anybody to publish anything.
Sounds a lot like what Medium hoped to do. Vox has plenty of work ahead of it to make that into a real business (the existing Vox properties easily dwarf The Ringer), but the upside is there. And they’re not the only ones. The Washington Post recently licensed its web technology to Tronc, the publisher of a variety of major newspapers.
Can Vox be a better Medium than Medium? It might have already happened.