The screenshot above shows what my Medium stats looked like for the week that started on October 7, 2019, and ended on November 5, 2019. This blog post shows what happened to my stats – and ability to earn money on Medium – after Medium changed its criteria for how it pays writers.
This blog post will never appear on Medium, as I have learned that they do not curate any piece of writing that discusses Medium itself. There’s no point in posting this one over there!
I started posting some of my writing on Medium in March of 2018. To me, this was an experiment. My main gig is working as a freelance writer, and it was never my intention that Medium would replace any of that. My hope was that I could make a reasonable amount of money through the platform.
In other words, I viewed Medium as my “side gig”. I knew better than to assume that the platform would reliably result in earnings every month. My priority was – and remains – my freelance gigs. Each of them come with already negotiated amount of pay per blog post, and all of my clients are good at paying me for my work in a timely manner.
Since then, I’ve had some successes on Medium, with a total of five posts being curated into Medium topics. The first one was in February of 2019, followed by one in March of 2019. I got lucky again with curation in May of 2019 and August of 2019. There was one more curated blog in November of 2019. That’s where my luck ended.
Each of the posts Medium thought were good enough to be curated earned some money. A few of them earn a little bit of money almost every month. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is impossible to predict what the Medium curators will decide is interesting enough to be selected for curation. It feels like a gamble that few Medium writers can win.
The screenshot above shows what my Medium stats looked like starting on October 7, 2019, and ending on November 5, 2019. It was probably the best week I had on Medium since I started. At the time, Medium was determining how much to pay its writers based on how many “claps” each of their posts got. The only “claps” that counted were the ones coming from people who had paid for a Medium subscription. The rest did not.
On October 22, 2019, Medium posted a blog titled: “Improving how we calculate writer earnings“. The key paragraph in that post is this one:
Instead of paying based on claps as the main signal, we will now reward stories primarily based on reading time, which we’ve seen to be a closer measure of quality and resonance with readers. To increase transparency and provide richer insight to our writers, we will also introduce new stats so it’s more clear how a story’s earnings were calculated.
The change from claps to reading time would start as of October 28, 2019. Claps would “remain a great way for readers to support the stories they love. When your readers clap, they’ll boost your stories to a wider audience.”
Medium would start calculating earnings based on the reading time of Medium members. They will include reading time from non-members too, but only after those non-members pay for a Medium subscription. Stats would be updated daily instead of weekly. That’s the only part of this change that I happen to like.
The screenshot above shows my Medium stats starting on November 6, 2019, and ending on December 5, 2019. As you can see, there was a noticeable difference difference between how much I earned on Medium through the “claps” criteria, and how much I earned through the “reading time” criteria.
Here are my Medium stats from December 4, 2019, through January 4, 2020. It may look like more reading time than the previous week – but that’s misleading. In the previous week, the best day had 114 views, and the worst day had 22 views.
This week, the best day, the tallest bar in the week, had only 44 views. The worst day had only 7 views. What happened? I had no idea. So, I started reading Medium blogs that were specifically about the writer’s earnings before and after the payment criteria change. In short, nobody seems to have a clue about why this change hit many of us so dramatically.
That said, there were writers who quickly posted blogs that I considered to be “click bait”. You know what I mean. Blog posts with formulaic titles: “The [number of things] you need to do to make money on Medium”. Personally, I found many of these to be repetitive and without any actionable advice.
There were also well written, but depressing, posts from Medium writers who saw their stats (and earnings) drop and who desperately started making changes. The overall feeling I got from those blog posts could be summed up as: “I hope this works because I made Medium my job and don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills now.”
My first impulse was to delete all of my Medium posts that hadn’t earned at least one cent. Clearly, Medium valued those posts at zero – so there was no good reason for me to continue to allow Medium to have that content. I put them on my own blog instead.
They won’t make any money here, either. I’d rather have those blog posts make no money over here than over there!
There was other advice from Medium writers, that may have helped some people, but wasn’t for me. In short, the advice was to start writing Medium posts every day, because apparently readers like consistency.
Make sure you put a link to those blog posts on all of your social media! The flaw with this advice is that in order to have a Medium post have the potential to result in payment – you have to put it behind the paywall. That means that the majority of people who view the social media post about your daily written articles can’t access it because they don’t have a Medium subscription.
Sure, you could post the “Friend’s link” so more people can read it. But, as I mentioned before, Medium doesn’t count the reads from people who haven’t paid for a Medium subscription. This cannot possibly result in more payment.
I’ve seen some advice that says the way to earn money on Medium is to follow x number of Medium writers every day. Then, make sure you go read their posts, and comment on them. This, in addition to all the extra effort you do on social media (which, as I pointed out, has flaws).
To me, all of that sounds like a whole lot of work for little or no pay. There’s no guarantee that all that effort is going to pay out. I’ve already got writing gigs that pay me without requiring all that extra effort. Two of my chronic illnesses have symptoms that make me exhausted. I can’t do this.
Some of this advice reminds me of when SEO was big. All of a sudden, a not insignificant portion of my clients wanted me to “use SEO” in the blog posts I wrote for their websites. It’s not difficult to do at all, so I complied. The purpose of SEO, as far as I can tell, is to trick Google’s algorithm into boosting your blog post instead of the ones that didn’t use SEO.
Later, Google changed its algorithm, and there went that one simple trick that would make your blog get more views. I feel like that situation is a metaphor for what has happened on Medium since the payment criteria changed.
I didn’t post anything at all on Medium in January of 2020. One of my clients had a big project for their writers that month – which I knew from years of experience with this client would absolutely result in payment. So, that’s where I spent my time and energy.
Here are my most recent Medium stats. This week started on January 5, 2020, and ended on February 3, 2020 (the day I wrote this blog post). The tallest rectangle in this week’s stats got 23 views. The smallest rectangle only got 1 view.
I don’t have a hopeful ending for this blog post. There is no reason for me to expect that Medium will go back to its previous payment criteria. I expect that this will result in more and more writers leaving the site, or greatly reducing the amount of content they put on Medium.
It’s sad. I started writing on Medium because I believed it was a place that not only understood, but also valued the work of the writers it attracted. I know better than to believe that now.
Here is What Happened After Medium Changed the Payment Criteria is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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