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Medius Ventures: Realigning the Incentives for Digital Media to Work for the People

Medius Ventures: Realigning the Incentives for Digital Media to Work for the People

Article written by Steven Li, Founder of Medius Ventures

Digital media has been one of the most interesting industries to me for a long time, and Buzzfeed’s growth story got me into the space. Its journey building out a variety of media and retail assets — including Buzzfeed.com, BuzzfeedNews.com, and Tasty, among others — is a great example of how unique business models can be in the industry. And then you’ve got companies like Group Nine that have found tremendous success verticalizing the niches in which they operate — and focusing on specific media formats like video.

So, to me, the possibilities in digital media were endless. But at the same time, the industry and its predominantly advertising-driven models and general nature of news coverage are on a downward spiral to death. Important stories are getting lost in the noise, and the deluge of content online gives readers no incentive to be loyal to select publications.

I started Medius Ventures because the media should be about equipping people with the information they need to be stakeholders in their own futures. But what media has actually become is an advertising machine driven by clicks and a system where readers are the product for advertisers, not the beneficiaries.

Our solution at Medius Ventures — and our first publication.

To make media about serving the readers again, Medius Ventures is building a portfolio of media brands, focused on subject areas that are conventionally too small for media businesses to make profitable with traditional advertising models.

Our first brand is The Rising, a publication dedicated to uncovering how changes in the environment impact business, politics, and people. Environmental sustainability is a topic that our team knows will become an increasingly important consideration, in light of climate change and global warming. In our first year of operation (having started in April 2019), we had over 300,000 users, which we are super grateful for. 

Now, we average about 45,000 readers per month — and this summer, with the support of iVenture and two full-time employees, we’re excited to demystify sustainability for more people. To make that happen, we are ramping up content production by 500% this summer. By the end of the summer, we are also going to have a digital sustainability education product ready to sell to colleges as an extension to their environmental science curriculum to help students learn more about how to make careers in the industry.

The future for Medius Ventures and a pattern we’ve observed

The Rising, to us, is just the tip of the iceberg. Once we prove the concept — with readership and subscribers — that we can indeed make niche publications a viable business, we will certainly expand and eventually hope to have 5-10 publications in different niche areas.

While selecting new niches to publish in, we will be mindful of important but unheard stories as well as the social impact we can have as a publication to bring awareness to those topics. We are also particularly interested in helping the underdog: for instance, students who have a passion in a field that doesn’t have a lot of career resources available to them.

What I wish I knew before starting a company 

If there’s one lesson I wish I learned before starting Medius Ventures it’d be that writing is an essential part of running any startup. Growing up, I was never really any good at writing, but I had always had at least some interest in startups. I wish I had known earlier how important writing and storytelling are in running a business.

As it relates to writing and strategic messaging, someone I really respect is Andy Raskin, who helps venture-backed startups tell compelling stories, often having their CEOs (as opposed to the conventional wisdom of having CMOs do this) drive those stories forward. I recommend his Medium column wholeheartedly.