Earlier this year, Ev Williams’ Medium roped in veteran Wired writer Steven Levy to start a technology hub. Levy, even though at times (frustratingly) glosses over the tough & important questions as part of his always engrossing narratives and lovely (if a tad gushing) prose was the perfect choice to lead this effort. He has an eye for picking topics that last longer than the 30-second news cycle. Today that tech-hub launches under the name: Backchannel.
If stories like a profile of Zephyr Teachout (by Virginia Heffernan) and Adam Pittenger’s If NFL teams were tech companies, are going to be part of the Backchannel’s offerings, then it is a welcome addition to the technology media ecosystem. I will cheer it enthusiastically — though I find the team at Medium has done itself disservice by giving it a geeky/insidery name. The Verge and Quartz are two examples of tech-centric pubs where names are more neutral.
Nevertheless, from my perspective, Medium Pro (aka where writers are paid) is a good development. We badly need more story telling — not more news — in the technology ecosystem. The voracity of the web monster means it needs to feed often, so we can perhaps see fresher and younger voices emerge. The focus has to be on a new generation — as old timers we need to educate the young ones on the past of technology, so they are trained for the future. Technology writers of tomorrow need to know the past intimately. I think Levy has the right background (and enough gray hairs) to do that. As traditional media outlets have had to deal with grim reality of webonomics, the slack is being picked up by non-traditional and newer platforms.
Yesterday, my friends at Longreads (an effort which I support with membership) announced that it not only will it take all its membership dollars it collects and give them to independent writers and publishers, Longreads’ parent company, Automattic will match the amount raised by Longreads memberships. In other words, there are more writers that can write about topics that matter. They don’t have to commercially viable. They don’t need to be driven by clicks and hits. Instead, they are about writing things that need to be written. As a reader, I see that as a net positive.
Congratulations Mark (Longreads), Ev & Steven at Medium! May the words flow forever!