Peeping at the Numbers of the Medium Partner Program

You can read this article on Medium too.

This is an updated and extended version of a previous article.


The Medium Partner Program is something most writers dreamt of at some point of their writing life. Since September 2017, it’s there, and it’s aimed at rewarding independent authors “based on how members engage with their stories.”

However, it’s worth giving a closer look.

Let’s start with the numbers that we can know.

The numbers

I gathered the program numbers from the Medium newsletters in a single table.

MPP stats

We can easily see that money averagely earned by authors are peanuts. Nearly half of the authors earned nothing out of their locked stories, and more than 90% of the authors earn less than $100. You can’t expect to make a living out of Medium, of course, but even to get something beyond $100 is not for everybody.

It’s interesting to note that Medium decided to change the provided numbers in July 2018. 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.

The huge difference between the average earned and top earned also tells that very few authors reached the peak zone, or somewhere nearby. Remember that 92% of the authors stay below $100, so it’s easy to guess that most of the remaining 8% is not much above $100. You likely can’t name more than a few authors who earn more than a grand from the MPP, and I’d bet that an approximated analysis would give percentages way below 1%.

It’s interesting that the low earnings of the top publications, provided only till July 2018, were much less than single authors. It’s pretty clear that Medium is not investing in independent publications, as we will later see.

The numbers for authors dance around a stable trend: the >$100 elite is constantly below 10%, and around 8% since months. It’s likely not a random trend, and I cannot imagine a much different future. Medium seems indeed at work to balance the numbers, and they obviously need to channel the subscription incomes according to their plans.

Can anybody earn money?

Even if being a Medium member is not required to earn money (everybody got the difference between member and partner initially in 5 secs, uh?), not all writers have access to the MPP, members included. Half the globe is out, since the payment partner – Stripedoesn’t support payments in all countries. No, don’t worry; Medium can receive money worldwide.

Payments partner?

By the way, I said “payments partner,” but then they ask you for taxpayer information, and you see that Tipaldi is another payments partner. How Stripe and Tipaldi are connected – or not connected – is not clear.

Given that our data are under more than a couple of eyes already, I wished that Paypal too was in the team. If nothing, they know how to handle money worldwide.

Visibility

Medium clearly states in the MPP FAQ that “Being a Medium member doesn’t influence how any work is published or featured through the Partner Program.”

It’s hard to believe that. You can earn money without being a Medium member, but Medium is also a social. Unless you’re active on the platform (aka “read and comment members-only stories”) it’s hard to let your members-only stories be visible. Or unless you’re in the good graces of Medium, and this doesn’t happen easily.

Only members-only articles are curated or even featured. You can happen to get promotion from Medium only with a star on your story, and being featured by Medium (not just curated) is the real game-changer.

But being featured is not that easy. So, the juice mostly goes to authors and stories (included commissioned stories from outside) 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. How “members engage” seems to depend first on how Medium let them see.

Medium affirmed more than once that the editorial team reads every members-only story. Then they say that you can pitch at tips@medium.com, as affirmed in an interview to two “Elevators” (so, is pitching necessary, recommended, or unnecessary?). But they also speak of a submission form, in the words of the Medium Staff. Choose the version you prefer.

Apart from being featured, the results of publishing behind the paywall may vary, as I experienced myself. The paywall may be a barrier, especially if you write for organic search or an audience outside Medium. The paywall can boost your exposure if you write for a regular Medium audience only. Mixed opinions from authors, mixed policies, and mixed results.

Certainly, the MPP attracted a lot of writers. However, how this translates into more readers who are not writers themselves, or bigger exposure for single writers, is yet to see. Experience seems to tell that stories outside the editorial line get more darkness than before.

Publications

Specific reflections have to be made about publications. While publications are still there, and most of the popular publication can benefit from the exposure gained in the past, independent publications are clearly no more supported.

Tools for publications are stuck since years. You can’t even write a decent newsletter. Nor any improvement has been made in the layout customization, the possibility of recruiting authors or manage the communication with them with native tools, the possibility of using mobile apps, and so on. Not to mention the direct competition from Medium own flagship publications/collections.

Payments to publications went from none, in first months of the MPP – when only a few publications were invited in the program –, to all-to-the-writer or all-to-the-publication. Then Medium didn’t show the MPP numbers for publications anymore. And now, it’s even not clear if publications (or some of them?) can earn money, but anything makes clear that publications have no earnings from the MPP at all. At least, from what I can see from the Medium help and the settings of my publications. However, no communication of changes across time has been made.

My personal experience

I’m not a productive writer and have only a few dozens of stories locked on Medium (and much more public). 1.5k followers and 9k average views per month. I’m usually under $40/month. In case it’s useful for your math’s.

TL;DR

92% of the writers make less than $100/month, on Medium, and that trend is stable.

Earning more is hard. If you think that the “under $100” team is made of lazy writers, you’re wrong by far. The MPP is an income opportunity, but don’t take the challenge lightly.

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