When Medium founder and CEO Ev Williams co-founded Twitter back in 2006, he had no idea how powerful — for better or worse — the platform would become. Now, the man who helped coin the term “blogger” is worried about the digital landscape he’s helped create.
That’s something Vox founder and editor-at-large Ezra Klein will discuss with Williams on stage at Recode’s Code Conference this year.
In recent years, Williams has expressed regret about his time at Twitter. He apologized if the platform helped elect President Donald Trump, and said he should have done more to take abusive content seriously when he was CEO. He also wondered whether the company would have fared better in these regards with a more diverse leadership team.
*And*, yes, we (Twitter) should have invested more heavily in abuse before. I think we did more in the early days than we often get credit for (and they are doing way more today). *And* I personally underestimated the looming problem during my brief tenure as CEO.— Ev (@ev) May 22, 2019
Still, Williams is far from a social media cynic. He remains a firm believer in digital platforms’ potential to help humanity — calling the internet “the most amazing invention ever” for sharing knowledge.
“I think there is a better version of social media to be invented,” said Williams in a recent interview with Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode podcast, adding, “I don’t know if that will happen incrementally, because there’s lots of smart people trying to evolve these systems at these massive companies. Or if it will happen with just completely new paradigms and new ideas that come along.”
Williams recently stepped back from his role on Twitter’s board to focus on Medium, a digital publishing platform for longform content that he co-founded in 2012. Recently, he’s been trying to grow the company’s paid subscription base — a tall order in a time when media giants, local news outlets, and digital media startups alike are increasingly asking readers to pay for content.
A pescatarian, Williams is also an investor in plant-based meat substitute manufacturer Beyond Meat through his venture capital firm, Obvious Ventures.
We’re excited to talk with Williams at Code this year at 6:30 pm PT on Monday, June 10. Among other questions, we plan to ask Williams more about what went wrong with social media, where he sees its future, and what he’s up to at Medium.
For more background on Williams, listen to Kara Swisher’s Recode Decode podcast with him from May, read our coverage of his recent departure from Twitter’s board, and see the changes he’s making to Medium’s business model.
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