Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Medium CEO Ev Williams to step down as publishing platform turns 10

Kerry Flynn
Jul 13, 2022
Medium Founder & CEO Ev Williams speaks during the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal on November 8, 2018. ( Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ev Williams. Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The future of Medium, the publishing platform popular among startup founders and Barack Obama, is murky as co-founder Ev Williams steps down as CEO after 10 years at the helm.

Why it matters: Medium has raised millions in VC funding to change publishing and made two interesting acquisitions in audio and ebooks last year. It's unclear if the company can sustain ⁠— let alone thrive ⁠— amid increased competition.

Driving the news: Williams announced his decision to depart as CEO and become board chairman in a Medium post on Tuesday.

  • "To be clear, Medium's story is far from over. The team today is probably the most capable I've seen at this company," Williams wrote.
  • Tony Stubblebine, who worked at Williams' earlier startup Odeo, will take over as CEO. He is CEO of the online coaching company Coach.me as well as an active publisher on Medium.

By the numbers: Medium had 179 employees in June 2021, according to a TechCrunch report about staff departures at the time. It's now at 111 employees, per a Medium spokesperson.

  • Medium's last funding round was $31 million in November 2021 at an unknown valuation.
  • In 2016, it raised a $50 million Series C, reportedly at a $600 million valuation. Its total funding is $163 million.

Catch up quick: Medium acquired Glose, a Paris-based ebooks platform last year. As Williams told me then, he saw adding books as a way to encourage more writing and reading within Medium.

  • It also bought audio learning platform Knowable, expanding into yet another medium of storytelling.

💭 Kerry's thought bubble: Medium's minimalistic design and social sharing tools made it a desirable place to write. But its inability to focus seemed to allow competitors like Substack to supplant it.

What they're saying: Platformer's Casey Newton noted that Medium is stuck in a category that falls between higher-end publishers like BuzzFeed and lower-end platforms like Substack. "In such a world, Medium had no obvious advantage," he wrote.

  • Substack, meanwhile, has raised a little more than half as much as Medium. Its team now has fewer than 80 employees after layoffs last month.

What's next: "I'm joining Medium because I want to improve our publishing tools and increase the quality of our subscription. That's my main job," Stubblebine wrote.

Go deeper