On September 2017 Medium opened its Partner Program to virtually everybody, aimed at rewarding independent authors according to the “engagement” of their stories.
Useless to say, the news fed the wildest dreams in many writers.
After a long false start, excluding the publications, and most of the writers outside the US, the Partner Program is now a milestone of the platform, so that all is now centered on it, especially the featured content.
But reality seems so different from what writers hoped for. The juice mostly goes to popular authors and to stories pushed by Medium itself, according to their editorial line. In my experience – and that of most of the writers active on Medium – what remains is the small change.
Beyond impressions, let’s gather the program numbers from the Medium newsletters in a single table.
There’s a lot to see in those numbers.
Useless to say, money averagely earned by authors are way fewer than what writers needs to buy food. Unless they eat very moderately. More than 90% of the authors earn less than $100. Not that you can expect to make a living out of Medium, but you’re even lucky if it pays your Internet connection and the Medium subscription.
Pay attention, nearly half of the authors/publications earned nothing out of their locked stories.
It’s also interesting to note that Medium decided to change the provided numbers in the last months. Average earned was constantly under $100 (pointing at around $50), so they decided to switch to the “authors who earned more than $100”, an apparently more positive metric. Data by themselves didn’t seem much attractive. Average earned is still obviously way less than $100.
But we see things in the top numbers too.
The huge difference between average earned and top earned – by single authors or stories – tells that very few authors reached that peak, or even are in a nearby zone. Remember that the 90% of the authors stay below $100, so it’s easy to guess that most of the remaining 10% is not far from $100.
What’s even more interesting to me, it’s the low earning of the top publications, much less than single authors. It’s pretty clear that Medium is not investing in independent publications. Poor tools, no promotion, a crazy payment logic (all to the publication or all to the writer, with nothing in the middle), direct competition from Medium itself. No surprise that Medium decided not to show that number anymore.
But the most worrying observation is that the low numbers for authors dance around a stable trend: the >$100 elite is around 10%. It may not be by chance, and I cannot imagine a much different future. Medium is surely at work to balance the numbers, and they obviously need to channel the subscription incomes according to their plans.
My personal experience
Numbers are clear. And if you’ve been here long enough, your experience is telling the same.
Unless you have 20k followers, and your writing is amazing, and Medium regularly features your stories, and you get a six any time you roll a dice, you’re very likely to remain stuck at few dozen bucks per month.
My average monthly income on Medium has been $26.19 – with peaks around $40.00 -, after 45 members-only stories and 70 public stories over the 11 months of my period in the MPP. In that period, my followers ranged from 200 to 1000, and I was active on Medium even before my membership.
You need much more than that, to go above $100.
I wasn’t the most productive guy out there, nor the most interesting writer, of course. Yet, I’ve been pretty active. And I had an average of $6.40 per locked story. You may want to write it on a post-it near your display, for the moments you dream about earning a living here. You’ll surely do better than me, but just a reminder.
90% of the writers make less than $100/month, on Medium, and that trend is stable.
Earning hundreds is damn hard.
If you need money to write, consider other options. Seriously.