No Garbage Fires Here: Medium Advances its Quest to Gentrify the World of Internet Publishing

  • 2016-04-19
  • Nieman Lab

WordPress, to steal a phrase from Marie Kondo, does not spark joy. When I log in, I see a series of modules that I never use and 11 plugins that need updating.

Medium wants to free us from this unsightly digital mess. At an event Thursday in New York, CEO Ev Williams and other Medium executives repeatedly referred to the company as a city — a new one, built from the ground up. “It’s a simplistic view to say go where the people are,” Williams said. “You need to go where the right people are.”

So who are the right people? The language of real estate listings has always been veiled — certain phrases, including mentions of, say, a school district, can be considered discriminatory by law (though real estate startups like Redfin are going right ahead and letting you search by this info). The “right people,” in this instance, are not — of course — white people, or men, or representatives of the old publishing guard, though all of those groups are amply represented in Medium’s list of launch partners. Rather, this week’s announcements are laden with dog whistles for a certain kind of Internet elite, the kind that hates trolls and Trump and wants Twitter to do something about harassment and requires a certain level of thought from its bloggers. We are the ones who hated on the New York Times Gay Talese Twitter storyand mocked Mashable’s LinkedIn firing announcement.