Entrepreneur Office Hours: Issue #194
Get ready for yet-another beloved social media platform to get trashed.
I need to rant. Sorry, in advance, but I think you’ll want to know about this, too.
The specific topic is Medium (the social media platform where I publish most of my articles), and the broader topic is social media monetization.
As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of publishing on Medium, and I’m one of the platforms most read authors on topics like entrepreneurship, startups, business, venture capital, etc. The main reason I’ve loved Medium is because it encourages authors to focus on what readers actually want to read.
That was reflected in how Medium has always paid its authors. Medium has been paying authors based on a metric called “read time.” As the name suggests, the more time people spend reading an article, the more money an article generates for its author.
However, Medium recently announced a big change. Rather than prioritizing “read time” to determine author payouts, it’s going to start prioritizing how much engagement an article generates.
If that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it should. To understand why, read the following two sentences and then tell me which sentence is going to create more engagement:
Sentence #1: “Climate change is a complex issue that encompasses a intricate interplay of various natural and anthropogenic factors, resulting in shifts in global weather patterns, alterations to ecosystems, potential socio-economic disruptions, and the imperative for comprehensive, united efforts to comprehend, mitigate, and respond to the multifaceted challenges it presents.”
Sentence #2: “Climate change is a lie propagated by the woke, liberal elite to push their socialist agenda.”
Now do you see the problem? When social media platforms prioritize engagement, they inherently discourage the kinds of balanced, nuanced, and often lengthy discussion that’s necessary for thoughtfully engaging complex issues. That balanced content gets replaced with divisive content that outrages people, enflames their passions, and make all of us feel like the world is a burning cesspool of hate and anger..
One of the main reasons I’ve loved Medium is that, unlike other social media platforms, it didn’t seem as interested in rewarding creators who were good at bating people into engaging. If you like what an author wrote, and you read it, that was good enough. But now, Medium’s decision to encourage engagement makes me worry it’s going to become yet another burning cesspool.
In principle, I hope Medium’s changes won’t impact my content too much. Unlike other writers who rely on Medium to pay their bills, I’ve never prioritized Medium as a way to make money. But, I’m also human, and incentives work on me the same as they work on everyone else. Will I start becoming more inflammatory just to make some extra cash?
I guess we’ll see. In the meantime, I ran an experiment this week to see what would happen if I wrote one article with a topic that encouraged lots of comments and one that didn’t. The first, more “controversial” article, discusses the proper age for a startup founder. In its first two days, it generated 15 comments and ~$130. The second, less controversial article, gives advice on how to effectively find high quality startup ideas. In its first two days, it generated 0 comments and ~$2.50.
So… yeah… do with that info as you will. Or, maybe go add some comments to my second article and help me make enough money from it to buy a cup of coffee.
All the data says there’s a perfect age, but the data doesn’t seem to match people’s behavior. Why not?
The best entrepreneurs have a very specific process, and it’s not nearly as exciting as you’d hope.
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Office Hours Q&A
I am writing, first, to thank you for your newsletters and articles. They are some of my favorite readings each and every week and I have learned so much.
It is with this in mind that I am interested in writing to ask your opinion. What would your advice be for the best way to choose a job with a startup?
I am considering joining three different startups but I cannot decide which offer to accept. I understand from your articles and others that startups are risky. What is the best way to choose a startup to work for with the biggest chance of success?
By the way, I mean they are all small startups. I would be among the first five employees in each case.
Thank you for your kind response,
To be fair, if I had a certain way of knowing which young startups are most likely to be successful, I’d be a wealthy VC, and I’d probably be lying on a beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais and not bothering to write these newsletters.
With that caveat aside, choosing which startup to join is, first and foremost, a case of fit. How do you fit with the founders? How do you fit with the other team members? How do you fit with the product? How do you fit with the vision for the company?
Those factors, more than anything, should drive your decision because, whichever startup you choose, you’re going to be working hard. Might as well enjoy it, right?
However, I’d be lying if I didn’t also mention the importance of your compensation package. If one startup is going to pay significantly more money, it’s hard for that larger salary not to factor into your choice. Also, for what it’s worth, I always encourage early startup employees to prioritize salary over equity. Equity sounds great in theory, but, as the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. More $$$ now is almost certainly better because the chances of equity becoming valuable are very slim. Just as importantly, there’s a reasonable chance a later round of funding for a company could completely wipe out early equity holders (this happens more often than people realize).
The last piece of advice I’ll add is to think long and hard about which founders you’re most interested in working for. That’s especially true when you’re considering taking a job at such a small company. So much of a company’s future (and, as a result, your future) is going to depend on its founders. Do you trust them? Do you believe in them? Do you feel like you can learn from them? And do you genuinely feel like you can help them?
Simply put, if you have any misgivings about founders, stay away.
Got startup questions of your own? Reply to this email with whatever you want to know, and I’ll do my best to answer!