Medium spins off Matter into new company owned by Ev Williams
The self-publishing service and social network Medium is spinning off a prominent web publication that it has owned and hosted for the past three years.
Matter, which publishes long-form, magazine-style articles, announced Monday that it is leaving Medium to become a standalone company called Matter Studios that will be wholly owned and funded by Ev Williams, the web entrepreneur who created Medium in 2012 following his success as a co-founder of Twitter.
As Matter Studios, the brand will produce content that can be distributed across a variety of platforms, like websites (Medium, for instance), magazines, digital video channels and podcasts.
Williams will serve as chairman of Matter Studios, with an advisory board that includes former MTV president Stephen Friedman, former Obama digital strategist Laura Olin and New York Times journalist Lydia Polgreen. On the editorial side, it will be led by Mark Lotto (Medium's head of editorial prior to the spinoff) and Hillary Frey (executive editor of Fusion until last week), who are married. Lotto will no longer be a Medium employee and Frey has left her full-time position at Fusion but will remain on contract with Fusion through the 2016 election.
"We want stories and projects that are timely, daring, form-breaking, that have genuine social value and cover topics of consequence, that offer unique and underrepresented perspectives, that will bend the zeitgeist and change the culture," Lotto wrote in a Medium post on Monday. "Essentially: Matter is going to be for digital storytellers what HBO and Amazon Studios are for TV makers, or what the best incubators are for startups."
Medium is a website that enables anyone to create a user profile and publish content that stands to be promoted across Medium's user community and wider online audience. (The site had 5.2 million visitors in February, according to comScore.)
Matter, which got off the ground in 2012 with a $140,000 crowd-funding campaign before Medium acquired it the following year, was one in a handful of in-house digital publications at Medium and arguably the most successful in terms of recognition.
Under Lotto's editorship, Matter was nominated for National Magazine Awards in 2015 and 2016. This year it won in the high-profile "reporting" category, besting The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and Rolling Stone.
Medium's commitment to investing in digital publications seemed to wane last year as it nixed or scaled back some of those sites and Williams, who once headed up Blogger, declared in a post published on Medium that "Medium is not a publishing tool."
At the same time, Medium has teamed up with a handful of outlets like MSNBC, Discovery News and The Billfold to have them publish content on Medium either occasionally or exclusively. The latest such deal to be brokered was with The Ringer, a forthcoming website led by former ESPN and Grantland chief Bill Simmons.