Ev Williams on Medium: We’d rather be HBO than mass market programming

The fact that just a small percentage of Twitter users create the vast majority of content on the site is often raised as a criticism of the whole platform. But Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter and, more recently, The Obvious Corporation, thinks the site’s balance of content creators to consumers is just fine.

“If you look at content in the world in general, who is creating most of the stuff? Is it a better world if everybody’s creating? I think it’s a better world if everyone has the ability to create but I don’t think it needs to be that everyone is creating and gets equal attention because some stuff is frankly better than others,” he said today in a conversation with Om Malik at GigaOM’s Roadmap conference in San Francisco.

Since launching Blogger about a dozen years ago, he said he and his cofounder Biz Stone have been interested in democratizing the distribution of content online. But now, with both Medium and Branch, The Obvious Corporation-backed platform for hosting online conversations, he said, the focus is quality.

With Medium, the new collaborative publishing tool launched by The Obvious Corporation this summer, he said they want to provide a platform that enables anyone to create content but they don’t expect everyone to actually do it. And Branch similarly enables anyone to host an online conversation, but instead of opening it up to the masses, it lets users close it off to a smaller group to raise the bar of commentary.

He also said that while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms may satisfy users’ obsession with the new and novel with a constant stream of updated information, Medium — which displays content in Pinterest-like “collections” of contents — is designed to give preference to higher-quality, longer-lasting and potentially longer form content.

People will always be attracted to the new and shiny object — and he said much of Twitter’s value comes from its real-time nature — but not all content on the Internet needs to be fast and fleeting.  He acknowledged that they sometimes wonder if they’re being “naive” to think that people might want more than the “junk food” content on the Web. But Medium’s hope is that people will “eat their information vegetables.” And If the site only appeals to a smaller audience in the process, he said, that’s just fine.

“Our goal at Obvious isn’t to reach the entire world, it’s to create as much value as possible,” he said. “HBO isn’t the most popular channel on TV but they do really really great stuff. And I’d rather be HBO than whoever creates “Desperate Housewives.””

Check out the rest of our RoadMap 2012 live coverage here, and a video recording of the session follows below: