I began publishing on Medium in 2018, after ten years writing online. The following is one of my instructional guides for writers on Medium.
What Is Medium?
Medium is a platform owned by "A Medium Corporation" where writers can publish articles to share with a community of readers who pay for access. The idea behind this is that it avoids the distraction of advertisements. Revenue is received from paid subscribers rather than from paid ads.
Evan Williams, its CEO, created Medium in August 2012. Ev, as he calls himself, was born in 1972. He previously co-founded Twitter as chairman and CEO. He also founded Blogger, which he later sold to Google in 2003.
How Do Writers Get Paid?
Medium pays writers through their Partner Program, which is optional if you want to get paid for your content. Medium does not sell advertising. They rely solely on paid subscriptions to run the business and to pay authors. Without ads, articles are free of any distractions.
The Partner Program Dashboard shows the detail of how much is earned from each article every day. Medium pays earnings by the 8th day of the month for the prior month.
There is no 30-day waiting period. That’s because they don’t need to wait for ad agencies to pay them. They already have the money from the prepaid member subscriptions.
Writers in the Partner Program can choose to publish any article unlocked to give free access to anyone, or they can publish behind a metered paywall to collect revenue.
The term "metered" refers to the limit for non-members, who can read up tp three articles per month without a paid subscription.
Revenue is distributed from the pool of subscriber’s fees. The amount each author gets is calculated based on the reading time. The longer a reader spends actually reading, the more the author is paid. Therefore, quality is crucial.
If a reader's attention is not held throughout an article, authors don't get paid. The algorithm that determines reading time also detects valid scrolling, so no one can game the system by scrolling to the end without reading.
When readers like an article, they can applaud by clicking a clapping hands icon. Readers can click it as many times as they desire, up to 50 claps, depending on how much they like what they read.
Applause used to determine how much authors are paid, but as of October 29th, 2019, Medium changed the payment method to only go by reading time. I believe this is a better determination of quality.
Applause is still used for the purpose of distribution. The more claps an article receives, the more often it is distributed to a reading audience via email notifications and on the home page.
Medium Members Are Hyper-Engaged Readers
When I started reading articles on Medium to check it out, I found that many articles were locked. So I could only read three of them per month. I felt that I was missing out because there were so many quality articles that I found useful. I was wondering if I should become a subscriber so I could read whatever I wanted.
Read More From Toughnickel
While I was thinking about it, I began writing on the platform. You don’t need to be a subscriber to get paid for writing. You just need to sign up for the Medium Partner Program to receive revenue.
I found out that over time, writers develop a following of hyper-engaged readers. These are people who are willing to pay $5 a month to have unlimited access.
I made my first five dollars in the first month after publishing a couple of articles. So I decided that I might as well become a paid subscriber as a Medium Member since I was at least breaking even.
It was a great decision. Without the three-article limitation, I discovered there are a lot of great writers on Medium who put effort into writing educational and informative content. I became a hyper-engaged reader myself—reading, commenting, and applauding.
|Medium Membership||Partner Program|
Get paid for content.
How Does Reader Engagement Impact Authors?
As I mentioned, anyone who is not a subscriber can only read up to three articles per month. However, I see a lot of people get hooked and willingly pay $5 a month for unlimited access with Medium Membership. A discounted annual plan is only $50.
That money is used to pay the writers based on reading time, as I mentioned earlier. It does not cost anything when member readers applaud by clapping on articles to show their appreciation.
Claps simply give articles a push to distribution. If an article doesn't receive any claps, it eventually gets lost among better quality and newer articles.
If a writer has a lot of member readers, this can add up just as well as revenue from advertising such as Google AdSense.
Other Perks for Paid Subscribers
Paid membership has other perks besides unlimited access:
- The phone app saves content you save in your reading list so it can be read off-line in case you don’t have an Internet connection.
- Some articles have audio narrations that readers can listen to. When available, readers will see the following option at the top of an article to listen to the story:
Table of Medium Membership Perks
How many articles can be read?
Up to 3 per month
Does author get paid when a reader claps?
Can reader reward authors who provide value without extra cost?
Yes. Author revenue comes from all the member fees.
Can one listen to audio narrations?
Can a reading list be saved to read offline?
Yes, offline reading is available with the app.
$5/month or $50/year
Optional Free-Access Friend Links
Writers can offer non-members free access to read any of their articles that are behind the metered paywall. These locked articles include a URL known as the friend link. Friend links can be used for posting on social media, or just when you want to give it to friends or family.
You can see how many views you received through Friend Links on the details page of the stats report.
|Feature||Non-Partner Writer||Medium Partner Program|
Get paid for reader engagement.
Can lock articles so non-members are limited to three/month.
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Can provide free friend link to locked articles.
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Is Medium a Blogging Site or a Content Site?
Rather than posting magazine-style articles that people find via search, Medium is more of a storyteller’s venue. I see everyone calling it a blogging site, although I consider a lot of the content to be individual articles.
Blogs usually follow a structure or a series. Articles that stand on their own merits provide information in a self-contained element. They don’t need to apply to one another. I see that with most of the posts on Medium, so I tend to not think of it as a blogging site. Nevertheless, I think I’m the only one feeling that way.
How Search Traffic and Subscriber Traffic Differ
It doesn’t help much to consider SEO when writing on Medium. That is because organic traffic from search engines does not bring any revenue. Writers only make money when paid subscribers read their articles.
An interesting feature that Medium introduced in October, 2019, is that authors will be paid retroactively for reading time if a reader subscribes within 30 days of reading one's article.
Things are different when you’re not writing with SEO in mind for organic traffic. This table should make this clear. The left column shows you what’s needed to succeed in getting search traffic. The right column shows the equivalent item when considering subscriber traffic.
|Search Traffic||Subscriber Traffic|
Write about any topic. People will find it based on their search query. New visitors will always come along if the article provides useful content that answers questions.
Write for specific niche and be consistent with your topics. Otherwise, your followers will be confused. Writing for a relevant publication will help readers discover you.
Titles need relate to search results and clearly show what to expect.
Titles need to capture attention with a meaningful but catchy statement.
Publish on a unique web domain dedicated to the niche to help Google figure out the topic.
Location doesn’t really matter, but specific publications can help readers discover you.
Publish evergreen articles anytime. Quality is more important than quantity.
Publish frequently so followers don’t forget you. But always provide quality.
How Readers Find What They Want to Read
Organic traffic from search engines will still occur, and the stats report shows the amount of traffic from each site or search engine. However, instead of attracting readers based on their queries in search engines, algorithms are used to determine a reader’s interests. It does that by analyzing the level of engagement with specific topics they have been reading.
Curators select great articles that meet Medium's editorial standards, that they recommend to readers based on interest. The stats report shows when a curator has chosen any of our articles.
In addition, Medium has an editorial team that curates writing by professional journalists and authors. They also license content from major publishers. That gives their subscribers outstanding stories to read in an ad-free environment.
Medium Has Partnerships with Top Media Magazines
Medium develops partnerships with media outlets to bring ad-free stories to their readers based on curated selections.
That attracts readers who want access to unlimited articles from other media, although I see a particular bias towards liberal selections. I find it interesting that Medium hasn’t curated more articles from conservative media, but that’s another matter.
Nevertheless, once readers are subscribers, they can discover quality articles written by independent authors as well, such as you and me.
Here is a sampling of media publications that Medium offers to paid subscribers:
- CNN Opinion
- Fast Company
- Financial Times
- The Atlantic
- The Economist
- The Financial Times
- The New York Times
- The New Yorker
- The Washington Post
- MIT Technology Review
- New York Magazine
- Popular Science
- Rolling Stone
Medium Niche Publications
Medium has many niche publications where writers can have their content hosted instead of being on Medium's home site. You have to apply to each one you want to write for and be accepted by the editors.
Why write for Medium publications?
- The benefit to writers: Your articles will be found by readers who are already interested in the subject.
- Benefit for readers: Those who follow any particular publication get to read articles of their interest.
The best way to attract readers is to publish in publications that relate to your niche. Beside some articles in Medium’s home domain, I also have published in The Writing Cooperative, The Ascent, and The Junction.
You can even start your own publication on Medium to develop further ideas you see as needed but under-represented. I found some people who have done that and they are the managing editors of their publication.
Some publications have their own URL domains, but there is no consistency since many of them are in sub-domains under medium.com. Generally, this is not good for Google ranking since mixing unrelated content might be seen as a content farm based on their earlier Panda algorithm. However, since Medium’s readers are mostly subscribers and other followers, this shouldn’t be an issue.
The following is a table of publications that I’ve compiled for you. This is not a complete list, but I’ve included the most obvious ones.
Listing of Medium Publications
The Writing Cooperative
People helping each other write better.
Short Stories, Poetry, Humor, Memoir, Culture, Fiction, and Essays.
People’s journeys creating a better life for happiness and success.
Writers sharing their thoughts on life, living, and of course, on writing.
Life Lessons, Love, Parenting, Personal Growth, and Writing.
Life, Mental Health, and Social Media.
Comics, art, and illustrations.
The Dad Hammer Publication
Fatherhood and parenting. Building the lives of their children.
The Post Grad Survival Guide
Traveling, Freelancing, Entrepreneurship, Blogging, Life lessons, and Relationships.
Little Tales, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.
The Story Hall
Fiction, poetry, life, art, photography.
Art + Marketing
Stories about how it's made and how it's distributed.
Ecommerce Analytics and Online Marketing.
Direct Selling Times
Stories about network marketing.
Stories for entrepreneurs.
The Sensible Soapbox
Content focused on political and social discussions.
Stories by and about hackers.
Stories and ideas about mindfulness, career, creativity, business, and communication.
Lifestyle and technology of blockchain for trade, business, and commerce.
News, insights, and education from leaders in the blockchain industry.
Artificial intelligence, crypto, Blockchain, futurism, big tech, space, and China.
For people who want to learn and learn better.
Expanding the influence of literature.
Human potential and self-improvement.
Live Your Life On Purpose
Health, Life Lessons, Finance, Productivity, Self Improvement
Artificial Intelligence and robots for humanity.
Stories and lessons for entrepreneurs.
Dialogue & Discourse
Opinion articles regarding political or controversial topics.
A Few Words
Articles under 500 words about Motivation, Self-improvement, Relationships, Mental Health, and Productivity.
The Brave Writer
Self Improvement, Motivation and other tips for writers.
Mental health awareness.
Medium’s In-House Publications
In addition to publications serviced by volunteer authors and editors, Medium began creating their own in-house publications for curated articles.
Stories about Love, Life, Poetry, and Writing
Stories focused largely on self-improvement.
The Partnered Pen
Stories about Relationships, Psychology, Poetry, Writing, and Life Lessons.
Scientific, technological, social and medical advances that are changing how we live.
Exploring the human condition through experimental and personal writing.
Explores 30 perspectives about the state of trust.
All about kids and their future.
Does a Subscription Reading Service Really Work?
Online content publishers who write to earn money do not generally worry about having a following. That is because they get their traffic from search results when they offer high quality, useful information, and answers to the questions people are searching for online.
However, writers publishing on Medium have a different agenda. They need to focus more on attracting a following. Even though search engines do index Medium articles, the only revenue comes from subscribers who pay for unlimited access.
If a reader comes from a Google search, for example, and they are not a Medium member, then they will only be able to read three articles within a month. Then they get blocked from further reading. Also, their claps will not count towards author revenue.
That may entice some people to subscribe, especially when they see the quality of what they read. It got me hooked!
In addition, a good number of people may appreciate the fact that they don’t see ads all over the page and might be willing to pay for the privilege.
The method does work. Medium reported paying nearly $5 million to its writers in 2018, and this money came from paying subscribers. On average, 9.2% of active authors earn over $100 per month.1
The only problem is that writers creating content on Medium need to understand that they don’t make money from organic traffic (such as Google).
To prove it, I have been analyzing the details of revenue in my stats. I have one article that gets 82% of its views from Google. That article makes no money. Another article, that gets 90% of its views from Medium referrals and curated recommendations, is earning money for me monthly.
That makes it clear that a subscription service can work, but it involves the extra effort of acquiring a following.
Comparing HubPages With Medium
They Have Entirely Different Business Structures
- You would write on HubPages when you create evergreen magazine-style content to provide search-friendly information. HubPages is not a blogging site.
- You would write on Medium if you have a specific audience you want to attract and you stay focused on writing for that niche. Most people write about their ideas and personal stories. It’s more like a blog.
Each Platform Requires Different Efforts
- With HubPages, you have to write in a way that answers people's search queries. That requires an understanding of SEO to be successful. Titles need to relate closely to search arguments, and the article needs to provide what the title has promised.
- With Medium, you have to write what people want to read. You need to write in a way that people are willing to pay for it. Titles are done differently with Medium. Rather than making titles relate to what people are searching, titles need to be catchy to attract attention.
- Medium requires constant attention to keep earning from paid readers, which is quite different from receiving ongoing revenue with organic traffic.
Remember that it’s a different audience on Medium. Readers are generally people who want good things to read, and they pay for it. They are usually not people who were searching for something specific through a search engine.
Advertising Vs. Subscription Based Business
As a comparison, magazines and newspapers make an income by selling subscriptions to readers. So we know that works.
Placing ads on content, such as HubPages is doing, works exceptionally well to produce revenue for content publishers. I can attest to that with over 100 articles.
It works with HubPages for one reason—they place quality articles on individual niche sites, combining content that relates to a single specific topic category. Google likes that. Google doesn’t like websites that combine unrelated content under one roof. These types of sites are considered content farms and most of them have gone out of business.2
Medium does a similar thing with their publications, allowing writers to publish where related content exists. However, writers on Medium get to choose where they publish as long as it's accepted. HubPages lets us suggest niche sites, but it’s up to the editors where it ends up and only if it's good enough. Google notices that and ranks accordingly.
As I mentioned, Medium writers are free to decide where to publish. Many just publish on Medium's home domain. In my opinion, getting into the right publication is the key to success with Medium.
It's clear that HubPages and Medium don’t compete with one another since they each focus their revenue stream on a different method. It all boils down to what writers wish to concentrate on, receiving revenue from ads or making money from subscriptions.
- Medium’s November 2018 recap from the Partner Program
- The Demise of Writing Sites: Bubblews, Persona Paper and Niume | toughnickel.com
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 23, 2020:
Liliane - When writing on a platform that works best with followers, as is the case with Medium, followers might get confused when they find unrelated topics that they were not initially interested in when they decided to follow you.
Like you, I also write about many different subjects. A solution is to separate them by publishing in specific niche publications on Medium.
You might also consider creating your own pub, but that will take time to build a following. However, it could be a worthwhile thing to consider. I have two of my own pubs for their specific niches. I'll admit that's slow going.
By the way, I also publish articles on HubPages where niche categories are curated into specific niche websites. That solves the problem too, and is paid via ads, so organic traffic works well.
Liliane on July 23, 2020:
Very useful and information article. Why do we need to stick to one niche? My primary niche is yoga but I have also went on vacation to an exotic place, had a surgery and other life experiences that I can talk about.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 18, 2020:
Cholee - I've completed the article with the answers to your questions. Look for "A Writer's 20 Questions About the Medium Publishing Platform" in my profile. You gave me a lot to work with that should be useful to anyone else considering Medium. Thanks for your questions and for your patience.
Cholee Clay from Wisconsin on January 08, 2020:
Do you still find writing for Medium beneficial? I saw your comment from 5 months ago about some of your articles going viral which I totally understand and get the disappointment from that, since like you've said there is no way to get compensation unless some of those readers happen to have a subscription. Do you think you still create a good following to earn enough to make writing/subscribing worth while to you? Do you have outlets you can share on that Medium members can find or do you have to rely on Medium to share and other members finding your work and wanting to follow you?
I'm also curious if you have found that some niche's do better than others? I saw you mentioned poetry would do better there than it does here, and I know you've talked about using their publications, do you find that it's easier to get your articles accepted by their editors, compared to HP's niche sites? Is it better to keep your articles on their home page even though they will eventually disappear? I'm assuming you publish on both of Medium's "platforms" (is that even the right term?).
Could you explain a bit more about the paywall. I don't know if I missed it or am just not understanding it properly. Do you use the paywall? Is there a benefit to having it be on or off, does it depend on the type of content? From my understanding the only reason to have it on is to keep non-members from reading your content is that correct, or am I missing something else?
Last question I promise! Do you find that article length is important? I've only spent a few minutes on Medium, as I remembered some members here are or have tried to write there so I came back here to find some user experience I knew I could trust :) All the articles I currently saw on the home page were under a 10min read with the exception of one. I'm honestly not sure how that equates to how many words an article has, but since you've been on the site awhile I thought you might have some insight into this aspect as well. I will say, I do love knowing how long approximately I can expect to spend on an article before reading it.
I have a very specific niche that I'd like to start writing for again, but I know HP is not the site for it. It sounds like Medium might be worth a try, but I was curious about how you like the site now compared to when you first wrote this article.
I appreciate any more insight you can offer! As always this was a great read and I will definitely be coming back to reference this article as I set up an account.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 31, 2019:
Liz Westwood - Thanks for your comment Liz. Here’s more food for thought.
Medium has a completely different business model that focuses on revenue from traders who are members, as I mentioned in this article. The problem I’m noticing since writing this review is that we miss out on revenue from organic traffic.
Although that was understood, it became clearly a detriment for me when I had a couple of articles go viral with Google traffic. And, of course, I received no compensation for it.
Liz Westwood from UK on July 31, 2019:
There is much food for thought in this thorough and extremely informative article. You have clearly explained how Medium works.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 31, 2019:
lgnmendes - Medium has hundreds of publications covering many unique niches. You'll discover them as you read other people’s articles. Then you can apply as a contributing author to the ones that are right for your content.
lgnmendes on July 30, 2019:
This article is very informative. Thank you. I'm actually looking for other publications beside The Writing Cooperative to submit what I've written. I am unable to join the Medium Partner Program because of my geographical location. I'm still writing on it anyway to hone my skills.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on May 05, 2019:
Barbara - Thanks for the shout out. I have to correct one thing you said about Medium. The Partner Program is mutually exclusive from the Membership. You can pay to be a member so that you can read unlimited stories. Or you can join the partner program to earn money from other members. Or you can do both.
Joining the partner program alone does not give you membership privileges. The reason why you are able to read more than three stories a month is because you probably are selecting stories that are not behind the paywall or you are following friend-links that bypass the paywall.
Some authors don’t lock their stories behind the paywall, either because they never joined the partner program, or because they write a subject that does not qualify for payment. An example is if one asks for claps, or if one includes a self-promotional link.
You are right that people have found payment to dwindle over time. That's why I mentioned the difference between HubPages and Medium.
HubPages gets organic traffic that continues to grow as search ranking increases. But Medium requires building a following of paying members. If the latter is done successfully, then Medium residuals should grow. I see mine growing. And you contradicted yourself in your last paragraph where you admitted you see your residuals growing too.
As long as you write stellar articles that offer something of value to your readers, get curated, and are evergreen, you should continue to grow a following on Medium and see increased payments month to month.