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Medium’s struggle is the perfect illustration of Silicon Valley’s weakness

(BUSINESS NEWS) The reason for their success could be the very same reason they implode like a dying star. Where can Medium go from here, and what broader lesson does this serve for Silicon Valley?

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Smokey warned you

Though it’s been around for about for years now, I just discovered Medium. So it’s a shame to hear this awesome self-publishing site might be dying a fiery death soon. Or maybe just a slow burn, like that campfire you forgot to put out but then it turned into a forest fire.

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See, although Medium has a rockin’ platform, it seems they didn’t really establish a contingency plan. They invested a whole bunch of money, but as co-founder Ev Williams posted (to Medium, of course), “in building out this model, we realized we didn’t yet have the right solution to the big question of driving payment for quality content.”

Lacking a safety net

As a result, Medium cut a third of its staff, and it doesn’t look like they really have a solid backup plan yet. Williams notes they have introduced some ad products, but “to continue on this trajectory put us at risk—even if we were successful, business-wise—of becoming an extension of a broken system.”

Medium was designed to move away from traditional ad-revenue driven sites where the focus is on money making “content” rather than enriching information.

Now they have to find a way to make money off of their readers without alienating them.

Readers and writers flocked to Medium for its creator-focused platform. Introducing popups or banner ads will only serve to turn the site into the corporate wasteland its users were trying to avoid in the first place. Plus, most of us are using ad blockers anyways.

Punk’s kind of dead

Medium’s struggle perfectly illustrates Silicon Valley’s weakness. The problem with Silicon Valley is that despite its richness for innovation, there is an intense pressure to disrupt. As Signal v. Noise notes, “in Silicon Valley, you can’t merely make a better typewriter and sell that at a profit. No, you have to DISRUPT. You have to REINVENT.”

Disruption for its own sake is admittedly pretty punk-rock. However, although punk isn’t dead, businesses relying solely on disruption may be on that trajectory. Medium certainly introduced disruption with its platform, but that’s not enough to keep it afloat.

While the Valley has multi-billion dollar companies, cities like Austin favor a more “lean startup” method. This means less frequent game-changing companies, but also significantly less embarrassing failures.

When there’s not a billion dollar beginning, companies must focus on effective strategies for long-term growth, not just an impressive start.

Here’s to hoping Medium doesn’t burn in the corporate flames of ad-driven content.

#Medium

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

Wal-mart can’t keep up even with fresh online technology

(BUSINESS NEWS) Wal-mart had hoped to keep online retailers from encroaching on their turf with AI assisted shopping start up Jetblack, but unfortunately that didn’t work.

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Wal-Mart’s exclusive delivery service, JetBlack, is no more. What’s the deal?

Wal-Mart’s acquired start-up, JetBlack, had an interesting challenge: getting affluent New Yorkers to purchase goods from Wal-Mart, instead of other places. Now, about two years after its initial launch, JetBlack has been shut down. So, what’s the deal?

JetBlack was a delivery service with an interesting twist: it utilized AI to respond to text message requests. For instance, users could send a text like “I need more toilet paper” and drawing from initial information input into the system, past experiences, and the occasional “professional shopper,”, JetBlack would hook the user up with a delivery.

The AI could also give suggestions if users asked questions. Don’t want to shop for your niece’s birthday present? No problem, JetBlack would give you ideas of what to purchase and then deliver the gift to your door, gift-wrapped and everything.

By increasing the convenience of the shopping experience, Wal-Mart hoped to use JetBlack to lure wealthy households back to buying from Wal-Mart. Membership fees were $50 a month, which seems steep, but Wal-Mart asserts it was actually losing about $15,000 per member on a yearly basis. Awkward.

So, what went wrong?

Part of the problem might be just how much work went into a small percentage of customers. For instance, it took effort to get new users onboarded. Best case scenario, this was a phone call to tackle basic needs and interests, but users could also opt to have employees visit their home and assess their preferences in person. (It’s also incredibly creepy, but hey, at least there’s additional convenience?) Point is, these personal touches aren’t exactly sustainable for a growing market.

It also might just be that Wal-Mart wasn’t really skilled at putting this newly acquired start-up to work. An interview with Business Insider reveals that the ordeal, while expensive, also served as a massive learning process.

While JetBlack has ended its current run (and lost a number of employees in the process), the technology developed by the company will live on. In fact, Wal-Mart is going to try to strengthen their infrastructure and hopefully integrate JetBlack’s texting and AI capabilities in a wider release. Who knows, maybe in the future, more of us will be able to send off a text to have someone else take on the challenge of purchasing our niece’s birthday present.

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Business News

How remote work has changed over the last decade

(BUSINESS NEWS) let’s reflect on how remote working and telecommuting has changed in recent years and look to how it will continue to change in the 2020s.

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As someone who often works remote, it’s interesting to see how much that means for work has evolved. The increase in commonality has been steady, and shows no signs of slowing down. Go Remotely has developed an insightful graphic showing the changes in trends regarding remote work over the years.

“For decades, the established economy dictated that you should pick one job, visit the same office for the next 40 years, and then retire,” reads the graphic’s intro. “However, recent remote working stats suggest the working world might be in for some revolutionary changes.”

From there, the graphic is broken down into five facets: Flexible Workspace Policy, Entrepreneurial Minds, Telecommuting is a Growing Trend, The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World, and The Future of Telecommuting.

With Flexible Workspace Policy, its suggested that telecommuting could be a solution for costly issues including lack of productivity caused by employee distractions, health problems, etc. It is said that employers lose $1.8 trillion annually due to these issues.

The end of 2018 found 35 percent of the US workforce working remotely. This is only expected to climb. Ten percent of employees don’t know if their company offers flexible work policies (this is something to check into!)

Bills and laws for virtual jobs passed by governments reflect the need for accessibility, economic stability, and emigration concerns. Companies with flexible work policies have reported seeing increases in productivity and profits. (Funny those both start with pro, no?)

With Entrepreneurial Minds, a few interesting things found include: remote workers are less likely to take off if they are sick, the majority reports better productivity when working alone, the majority reported lower stress levels. However, there is a problem with not being able to unplug after work which is an issue for some.

Telecommuting is a Growing Trend finds that there has been a seven percent increase between 2012 and 2016, with the majority (80-100 percent) reporting they work remotely. Industries seen embracing remote work include: transportation, computer/information systems/mathematical, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, finance/insurance/real estate, law or public policy, community/social services, science/engineering/architecture, manufacturing or construction, healthcare, education/training/library, and retail.

The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World finds that the pros to hiring remote workers includes: finding talent outside of your geographic area, improves retention on work/life balance, increases productivity by decreasing commute time, and saves money by requiring less office space. The cons include lack of timeliness when it comes to receiving information from employers.

Finally, the Future of Telecommuting suggests that in 2020 the US mobile worker population will surpass 105 million (and will account for 72 percent of the US workforce). Hiring managers predict that telecommuting will increase tremendously, most skills will become even more niche over the next decade, and many think that 38 percent of their full-time workers will be working remotely in the next decade.

How do you feel about the increase in remote working and telecommuting?

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Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.

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Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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