Medium’s payment structure is similar to YouTube Premium: Content creators must earn a specific number of followers to monetize their content. When an author on Medium achieves this goal (100 followers), they become eligible for Medium’s Partnership Program. Upon acceptance, the author can gate their content to earn revenue.
How are authors paid? Similarly to YouTube Premium, a percentage of a reader’s Medium membership fee is split among the authors they read. This split is calculated using the reader’s Read Time for each story. So a reader that reads many stories from different authors brings each author less money.
Readers benefit from the variety of stories on the Medium platform. Writers benefit from Medium’s algorithms, which recommend stories to a larger, diverse audience. Writers also benefit from the ability to earn money from their writing. Publications can publish stories from these writers, which also helps the publication grow.
Starting From Scratch
I decided to pursue Medium to raise funding for numerous purposes. However, I must make it clear that — contrary to the previous statement — I don’t write for monetary gain. My pleasure in writing stems from self-expression, which I engage in due to several circumstances I will explain elsewhere. So I write because I want to, but I can also earn money from it.
Out of courtesy, I must clarify that I’m NOT a new writer. I have been creating music with lyrics for seven years, public-facing for five, with 16 songs released. I established the SwitchUpCB Blog in December 2021, with 40 articles published. I have never expected monetary gain from my writing, and I charge for access to my personal experiences rather than to increase profits.
This information is significant because you may be reading this story in your self-interest. As a reader, you are curious to learn how much I have earned from 30 days of posting on this platform. As a prospective writer, you seek justification or motivation to start your writing career on Medium. As an established writer, you look for insight into what I’ve done thus far, so you can increase your success on this platform. In any case, I am using this <series> to track my progress and determine “is Medium worth it?”
In an MMORPG, each money-making method requires a certain skill level, which determines the scale at which a player earns rewards from various activities. However, it’s not uncommon for “other skills” to act as multipliers that affect the player’s rewards. When it comes to writing in real life, other skills — such as marketing — are also required to reap a reward from the craft. So you must consider a person’s context before evaluating their progress for yourself.
In other words, don’t try this at home.
An Imported Problem
I posted my first Medium story on August 23rd, 2022. However, the first story on my profile shows a publish date of December 15, 2021. What happened? Well, instead of creating new stories right off the bat, I imported six articles from my existing blog: The Medium import tool let me do this quickly, but there were a few problems.
Platforms need to make money and develop algorithms to further this cause. So “the algorithm” rewards people who make “the platform” money. How does Medium make money? That’s explained at the start of this story: People buy memberships to spend more time reading stories that they find valuable.
Medium uses Read Time of each story to measure the value it provides. So while shares, views, and all of that other stuff may factor into your story’s ranking, it’s not as important as read time. Sound familiar (to YouTube Watch Time)? There we go. We figured the Medium algorithm out! Wrong.
With machine learning, even a platform’s developers may fail to understand the algorithm. Instead, “a number of the metrics (statistics) of an input (such as a piece of content) are fed into a system(the algorithm) which finds a pattern (model) in relation to the content’s output (results)”. Over time, the algorithm can predict what will be successful based on specific metrics and recommend content accordingly. This algorithmic implementation is how you end up with an algorithm that promotes videos containing white people over minorities (on TikTok) because people view white people’s videos longer (since white skin fits the modern standard of beauty).
What’s the point? When you import a story on Medium, it uses the publish date of the original post. Using this date might be problematic as most algorithms negatively weigh the time since a piece of content has been posted. So if the Medium algorithm weighs older stories negatively, the chance that my imported stories were recommended is near zero. In fact, the results of these imported stories (< 100 views total) show that they haven’t been recommended.
Solving The Algorithm
The screenshot above includes the stats of multiple stories and their views, reads, and read ratios after 30 days of being on Medium. The imported story — What Is Having Aphantasia Like? — contains views from 100% of external referrals (373 from Reddit and 286 from Email, IM, and Direct). The published story — Uber Was Hacked— contains views from 78% of external referrals (677 from Reddit and 867 from Email, IM, and Direct). The difference in referral sources shows that Medium recommended the story about Uber’s breach but not the story about Aphantasia.
Besides the publish date, the only major difference between those two stories is that the Aphantasia story maintains 0 minutes of Member Reading Time, while the Uber story maintains 403 minutes. Using the theory about algorithms above, the difference in internal referrals (from Medium recommendations) for each story indicates that Member Reading Time is important for the algorithm.
You could also argue that the publish date of a story is important, but there is not enough evidence here.
The Reddit Ramp Up
Every other story I published has less than a few hundred views (from external sources). What happened with the Aphantasia story? Well, on August 28th, 2022,I posted the Medium post to the Aphantasia subreddit, where it sat on the front page (of that subreddit) for a day. Despite the post containing multiple comments praising my work, no one converted: I still had 0 followers.
The lesson to learn here is twofold: On one hand, making “good” content isn’t enough. Those comments meant nothing since no one was inspired to engage on the platform. If you want to grow, you must spark a reaction. On the other hand, Reddit conversion is sh*t.
In a similar manner to the above, The Music Industry stories failed to bring sustainable growth (read: followers required for a medium partnership) because most musicians (in the 99%) don’t care about the business aspect of the industry... or because I don’t actively market the list. It doesn’t help that the best and rather simple strategy to pursue music full-time in 2022 for a person in the general population is still getting signed to a label, contrary to what consumers may tell you.
Community Engagement on Medium
Every platform has a culture that rewards certain actions more than others. When I started to research Medium, one of the “most successful” writers I found was Shannon Ashley, who creates stories about dating (from a woman’s perspective). It’s no surprise that this content is popular since a human’s existence only occurs through evolutionary reproduction. Yet this has already been duly noted.
Another important feature of Medium is publications, which serve as story aggregators. I have already explained the value of an aggregator in Why Most Artists Rely on Luck, but the gist is that groups are more likely to succeed than individuals due to the number of opportunities a group receives in the aggregate. As a result, one of the best ways to grow organically on Medium is through publications. In my first 30 days on the platform, I applied to many publications but only got accepted to a few.
Getting a story published is just the beginning: Readers still have to find its title and featured image compelling, then its content must also be interesting to read. So I had been published on Medium, but it didn’t matter: My imported submissions weren’t even appearing in the feed. I was stuck.
This led me to plan a variety of content that has yet to be completed.
An Uber Event
Uber Was Hacked. Here’s What Happened. I recently moved to an apartment whose managers failed to inspect the apartment before and during move-in. The place was NOT well maintained. As a result, there were humongous American and Brown Cockroaches, one of which I found on my electric toothbrush. FUCK! Not to mention that the walls are extremely thin… I couldn’t sleep.
So imagine my surprise when, while scrolling HackerNews, I discovered that Uber had been hacked. What? The news wasn’t even posted on Reddit yet. So I sat around for a while — due to the roaches — before realizing I could be the first to provide an accurate report on this news.
Sure, the New York Times and all of these other news stations can report on what happened using algorithms and reporters. However, these people aren’t software developers: They have no idea what’s going on. Wait, these people are not software developers…
I finished my story, submitted it to Illumination, and then went to sleep. I woke up in a new Buggati what I can only describe as a state of restlessness. My emotional expression modeled the physical state of Hans Niemann after he beat Magnus Carlsen: “The story speaks for itself”, I’d murmur. It had only been 5 hours, but it felt like an entire week had passed. At least I still had my dignity intact… Then I promoted the story a bit more.
It was worth it, I guess…
What a Response
I went around responding to some people’s content. I found a post by a crackhead (or chain-smoker or whatever) and told him to stop because “it would destroy [his] lungs”. Then he coped. I told him to “give me [his] money if [he] was going to waste it”. Then he seethed (blocked me). Of all my responses, the one with the most engagement started along the lines of, “Uh oh. Someone on the internet is wrong.” This is what gets people going.
Loot From 30 Days on Medium
What did I gain from posting 11 stories and 9 responses on Medium in 30 days?
3,454 views (1,915 reads).
13 out of 100 followers (required for a Medium Partnership).
Going forward, I’ve devised an enhanced strategy for posting on Medium. However, I also have a lot of work to do, both on and off the platform. Streamlining the posting process must be done to increase my efficiency and organization. I must also spend more time creating content to build upon the minor success I already have. In other words,after 30 days, I learned that I have the potential to make money on Medium.
I have also found that it’s not in my best interest to post Medium-exclusive content, so I won’t. Every story and list I create on Medium must be copied to SwitchUpCB. Every article from SwitchUpCB that I CHOOSE to copy to Medium must be optimized for the platform. This workflow has led to increased complexity I must deal with through an upcoming overhaul. Once this occurs, I will begin posting again.