When Medium acquired Talkshow Industries last week it left some unanswered questions. 

Talkshow is a social messaging app that closed its doors in December 2016 after founder Michael Sippey insisted he, “[doesn’t] see it getting big enough to have the impact we had hoped for.”

The deal, for an undisclosed fee, includes Sippey taking the title of Head of Product at San Francisco-based Medium — which leaves one question: is this a straightforward talent acquisition, or is there more to the deal than meets the eye?

Medium’s Monetization Muddle

By carving out its own unique niche in the publishing and social networking space, Medium enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity amongst publishers and blog lovers alike. But — much like Snapchat — Medium’s uniqueness simultaneously worked against it, forcing founder Ev Williams and his team to think long and hard about how to monetize the platform without totally ruining it in the process.

Medium previously experimented with an ad-based model, but that path to monetization didn’t lead to the desired destination. Instead, it led to the closure of two US offices and the departure of 50 employees (one-third of Medium’s workforce) in early 2017.

In the wake of that crisis, Williams confessed the ad-based model wasn’t serving content makers or consumers, adding that, “[an ad-based model] causes increasing amounts of misinformation ... and pressure to put out more content more cheaply—depth, originality or quality be damned. It's unsustainable and unsatisfying for producers and consumers alike ... We need a new model."

That new model came in the form of a paid membership option, which the company launched in March 2017. Paid membership appears to be working — but with this Talkshow acquisition in mind, perhaps it’s not working well enough.

The Next Wave for Medium Monetization?

As Head of Product, Michael Sippey will help Medium, “build and evolve a new model of funding for original writing is both compelling and important.”

Learning Opportunities

Sippey, like many in the Medium team, is a former Twitter employee, serving as VP of Product for two years. Medium looks to be pinning its hopes on Sippey to steer the company's monetization journey into calmer and more profitable waters.

But as Sippey thanks his old team for their efforts (indicating they won’t be joining him at Medium), it’s important to note that talks between Talkshow Industries and Medium began when Sippey contacted Ev Williams about Talkshow's latest project, Episode, which aimed to give podcast listeners a way to share their favorite podcasts. That project also came to an end following Medium’s acquisition, but Sippey’s obvious love for content sharing apps is hard to ignore.

To get some perspective on this acquisition, and to hypothesize about what Medium might gain from Sippey and his past projects, CMSWire spoke to Director of Digital Marketing at LRG Marketing, Adam Miller:

“It seems that Medium may be making a prediction on how content will soon be shared. [If they are to integrate Talkshow’s features] users could easily share content to a small tight-knit group of friends, colleagues or connections within the Medium platform,” he said.

“As we're seeing with the increased interest in messenger apps, more content is gaining traction through peer-to-peer sharing rather than a post to a general audience. If Talkshow is going to be part of Medium's premium model, it indicates that publishers may need to prepare to pay for certain distribution features.”