Thursday, July 15, 2021

On Medium: How “The Startup” Whitewashes the Exploitation of Content Creators

Read on about how the hype of Medium's "The Startup" serves as covert PR for neofeudal tech giants, and sustains the ruse of the creator economy.


  1. What puzzles me is why writers are making so little these days compared to the age of pulp magazines. The decline of unions & deindustrialization affected mostly blue collar workers, but why would writers & other artistic types be affected?

    Print magazines tend to pay per word & are far more discriminating in what content gets published while platforms like Medium pay per click & exercise very little editorial control over content. There are more writers than ever, but instead of the majority being able to scratch a modest living from their creations while a few go on to be famous, we have the majority making so little that they may as well be doing it for free while a tiny minority make a modest living.

    Imagine Charles Dickens, Robert E. Howard, or Lovecraft trying to make it on platforms like Medium. Would they have bothered?

    1. One answer I've given points to the change in demand. What kinds of media competed with writing a hundred years ago? There were nowhere near as many alternatives back then, including radio, TV, movies, streaming videos, podcasts, texting, Facebook, and on and on.

      So while there are still lots of people who read or this or that, the demand might be lower in that there are fewer readers who are willing to pay for what they read. They're not passionate readers since they could just as well be watching a video. They're intellectually lazy or tired, and reading takes more work than watching a video or listening to a podcast.

      The root of the problem isn't the change in the media landscape. It's how that transformation has altered the taste of consumers. And when the demand isn't there, the price for the product must fall.

      Alternatively, if the demand is still there, it may be a case of monopoly tech giants hoarding the profits. This would be like the robber barons that got wealthy by convincing lots of labourers to work their asses off for a pittance.

    2. Reduced literacy probably is the main factor. The kind of fiction that gets widely read these days has to be fast-paced, light on character development & internal dialogue -- cinematic in style.