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Medium wants you to pay $5 a month to join its Mastodon server

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Popular publishing platform Medium is now fully embracing the Twitter alternative Mastodon by opening up its new me.dm instance to paying Medium community members. Joining the Mastodon server requires a subscription to Medium for $5 per month (or $50 per year) which enables perks on the site like ad-free browsing and offline reading. Mastodon instances are generally free to join.

Medium is one of the first notable tech companies to utilize Mastodon as a premium social media experience, which is interesting given the publishing company’s historic connections with Twitter. Medium co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone also co-founded Twitter back in 2007. A great deal of Mastodon’s recent success was born out of ongoing turmoil with Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform.

Medium CEO Tony Stubblebine believes there is value to be added by paywalling access to me.dm. “We want Medium to be the best place to read and write on the internet,” Stubblebine said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We want to do it under a single subscription — I think people are tired of having dozens of subscriptions. And I think we’ve also found that ad-driven models have their own kind of corrupting influence. I think that’s why a lot of social media ends up toxic — because people are focused on engagement, rather than substance.”

“So, in order to have the best place to read and write, you have to build the whole thing around an economic model for substance,” adds Stubblebine. “For us, that means a subscription.”

Medium has streamlined Mastodon’s complex onboarding process for me.dm users

There are a few small perks available for those that join Medium’s me.dm Mastodon instance — and that extends to the joining process itself. Following a recent exodus of Twitter users in the wake of Musk’s meddling with the platform, numerous users have complained that joining Mastodon’s similar short-form message platform is needlessly complicated and confusing. Medium, recognizing the deterrent, has streamlined onboarding by integrating its Mastodon instance with Medium member accounts, making it easier for Members to sign up to me.dm and auto-populating profile information on Mastodon with information from Medium accounts.

Existing Medium usernames have also been reserved on me.dm until March 20th to prevent other users from registering under the same handle. After this reservation expires, Medium members will be allowed to register any available me.dm username. Additional perks include access to hand-picked account recommendations for users to follow, and the “professionally-operated” stability of the me.dm instance. TechCrunch reports that Medium has its own Trust and Safety team directly handling moderation, and is running the instance on its own infrastructure.

Medium has also teased additional features and integrations that could be added in the “coming weeks,” such as adding a “Share to Mastodon” button to story pages on the Medium website. But, aside from streamlining Mastodon’s sign-up process, it’s not entirely clear how the Instance could entice non-Medium members to sign up. Several of the benefits listed by Medium are just functions of the Mastodon platform, such as having a “great local feed” (something you can curate yourself by manually following Mastodon accounts). There’s also no mention of access to exclusive content or other perks we’d typically associate with paid subscriptions.

Nevertheless, free services are never truly free, and, as the adage goes, usually make you the product that’s for sale. Medium’s subscription offering has found at least one tentative fan: 

“I am very uncomfortable with the fact that nearly all Mastodon servers are free-to-use volunteer efforts, funded by voluntary donations,” said reputable Apple blogger John Gruber commenting on Medium’s Mastodon subscription requirement. “That’s not sustainable. I suspect a lot of Mastodon servers that seem to be thriving today won’t be around in 5 years, taking all of their posts with them.”

“Twitter is free to use and look how that’s gone.”

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