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Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Medium's abrupt change of course announced Tuesday came as a surprise to editorial employees; many of whom now need to decide in upcoming days whether to take a buyout offer or a different job at the company.

Why it matters: This isn't the first time Medium has abruptly cut in-house editorial operations after heavily investing in and hiring journalists and editors, though it's given a different reason each time.

  • "Everyone at the meeting was surprised," said a Medium source in a Tuesday meeting with CEO Ev Williams and editorial employees.
  • Some senior staff were briefed before the announcement, another source told Axios.

By the numbers: The company currently has around 725,000 paid subscribers. According to one source, the company had roughly 400,000 in 2019.

  • Digiday reported in 2019 that Medium was hoping to attract at least a million subscribers by 2020.
  • Williams on Tuesday announced buyouts for all editorial staff and suggested the future of the company's editorial ambitions be built around individual voices rather than editorial franchises.

The big picture Medium has spent the last two years investing heavily in bringing on highly-experienced editors and writers to launch high-end digital publications.

  • In a blog post, Williams said that "in aggregate" the publication did not produce enough blockbuster stories to make the economics work.
  • "We have published many stellar stories that found a wide audience and more than paid for themselves. But our hit rate has been low, and we’re not near where we need to be to make it work economically," he wrote.
  • One of the problems with the current model was that Medium struggled to attract wider audiences for stories that they could then use to funnel into subscriptions, a source said.
  • The changes come less than a month after a failed unionization effort by the editorial employees.

What's next: Editorial staffers have to decide in upcoming days whether to take the buyout, which includes five months severance and six months of paid healthcare.

  • Buyout decisions are somewhat tricky because sources say there's no clear understanding of what's next for Medium's editorial ambitions, other than focusing more on "individuals."

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Peloton stock tanks on report of production halt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Peloton stock fell by as much as 25% on Thursday, following a CNBC report that the connected fitness company will temporarily halt production on its bikes and treadmills.

Why it matters: Peloton is viewed by many as a proxy for consumer behavior in the pandemic era, as its popularity surged when gyms closed and people wanted to exercise at home.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.