The Awl leaves Medium, turns off the platform’s lights

In a post titled ‘Something’s Different’, Awl editor Silvia Killingsworth has confirmed that The Awl and other sites in The Awl network (The Hairpin, Billfold) have moved back to WordPress.

In April of last year Medium announced that several publications would be moving to their platform. Back then The Awl confirmed its participation by saying that:

“Medium is offering a tremendous suite of services that makes sense for where we are right now. This extra network effect is extremely positive. Being on Medium makes the process more efficient, and from an [a]esthetic point of view, it’s a good place for it to live.”
— That’s our publisher, Michael Macher, explaining why The Awl and The Hairpin will soon be hosted on Medium. (Learn more here, including some of the other names making the move, and then Our mission remains the same, and if anything we’ll be bringing a brand new energy to the things that you’ve always expected from us and that we’ve always tried to deliver for you. In many ways, the partnership gives us more room to stretch out and do things we’ve never been able to do up to now. We know that this might seem frightening and strange, so remember: Change is always scary but that never keeps it from happening anyway. A few tiny adjustments here and there and after a while you won’t even remember the way things used to be. You know, like life. We’ll get through it together, we promise. Thanks for being the kind of readers who are so fond of their publication that a note like this is necessary; it makes a big difference in what we do.

So why the change? According to Silvia Killingsworth:

The move to Medium was a cool experiment, in my opinion, but the year is up and personally I missed the ads.

With Medium experimenting with ‘innovative’ new revenue strategies, including the unprecedented concept of a pay-wall (wow, what a concept), Medium no longer serves ads, and therefore has no ad-revenue to share with publications. Founder Ev Williams pompously described ad-driven media as “broken”, before providing no meaningful alternative in a January post on the website. Publications were given little to no heads-up about Medium’s shift away from actual revenue.

Medium later launched a subscription offering, with no actual offering apart from audio versions of select stories. While it would seem obvious for Medium to try and keep publishers like The Ringer and The Awl on its platform, apparently it wasn’t obvious enough.

The Ringer, Bill Simmon’s sport and culture site, also announced in May that it would leave the platform for Vox Media’s Chorus, while most other major publications have also reverted back to in-house or WordPress-powered sites. Condé Nast’s Backchannel was converted into a category on the WordPress-powered Wired.com site back in June.

I look forward to Medium discovering that the paywall model is also somewhat “broken”, at least at the scale the company hopes to achieve. Perhaps by that point Ev Williams will actually have a plan for the glorified blogging platform.