Although on a much smaller scale than Medium, I have been trying everything I can think of to monetize my healthcare media site (thedoctorweighsin.com) over the last few years. The only consistent source of revenue that isn’t related to consulting or speaking, is ads. But the revenue is paltry, the ads are intrusive, and reader experience is diminished (except for those who are using ad blockers). Sometimes it seems to me everyone is making money off of content producers, except for the content producers.
The interesting thing is that despite my own experience, I still balk when I am asked to pay for content. I love Washington Post stories, for example, but I didn’t pop for a paid subscription until they lowered the price dramatically in a special one-year offer — and I will probably unsubscribe when the price goes back up. My hesitancy to pay for internet news has taken root despite having subscribed to multiple newspapers back in the day when they were actually paper.
I hope you are able to craft another, more equitable business model for content production that actually benefits the producers (the writers, editors, film-makers) and allows them to make a decent living while continuing to educate and entertain us. I can’t imagine a world without access to high quality, reliable, well-written stories.
Good luck! A lot of us are hoping that you can figure this out. Meanwhile, I wish you and all of your staff, particularly the ones just laid off, the best and hope they quickly find new positions.