Medium Doesn’t Pay Per View

How writers earn money on the platform.
Apr 2, 2023
4 min

“How much does Medium pay for X views?” Titles such as these annoy me because Medium doesn’t pay per-view. Instead, the platform uses a payment model based on paid membership read time. For more information, read “Calculating Earnings In The Partner Program”.

How Medium Earnings Work

Writers are paid a share of membership read time and membership referral fees.

Membership Read Time

You receive a share of each reader’s monthly membership read time. This share is calculated from 50% of the reader’s subscription that Medium doesn’t take. So if a member spends 25% of their monthly reading time on your story, you will receive 25% of that share.

What does this mean? Views are not correlated with payment. Reads are not correlated with payment. Not even read time is correlated with payment. Most important is the individual reader’s reading history.

What constitutes read time? A calculation of the reader’s time spent on the page in-between scrolls. This calculation likely involves window.scrollY or similar to determine where the client is scrolled.

“We calculate reading time based on the amount of time that a viewer spends actively reading on the page. We consider the viewer’s scrolling and activity, and then determine how long the viewer spent reading the story. We take care to differentiate between gaps in scroll activity versus long periods of time during which the viewer stepped away for a coffee break.”

— Medium

If you want to be paid per-view, don’t use Medium. Many other blogging platforms pay per-view via advertisements. You could even set up your own with WordPress.

If you want to be paid per-read, don’t use Medium. Many other blogging platforms pay “per-read” via advertisements and affiliate links. You could even set up your own with WordPress.

Membership Referrals

You receive half of the new reader’s membership fees minus payment processing for the purchase. So a referral of a member who paid $5 per month for a Medium Membership will earn you $2.27 per month. Similarly, a referral of a member who paid $50 per year for a Medium Membership will earn you $2.01 per month.

For more information, read About Referred Memberships.

An Optimal Earnings Writing Strategy

You shouldn’t write to make money. However, you must earn money to write for a living. So it goes without saying that a writer must factor monetization into their writing strategy.

What is an optimal writing strategy to maximize earnings on Medium? To figure this out, you must understand how earnings work on the platform: The amount you earn per story read is correlated with the individual reader’s read history.

When the amount you earn per story depends on your stories’ readers, you maximize your earnings by attracting readers whose reads are worth the most: This information lets you determine the ideal target audience for your stories. The writing strategy that attracts this target audience is optimal for maximizing earnings.

Writing Strategy In Theory

The following example is used to justify the current payment model of Medium.

“Imagine an author writes about fly fishing. She finds an audience of fly fishing enthusiasts who subscribe to Medium primarily to read her stories, meaning she receives a strong share of reading time from each of her readers. In contrast, an author who writes about a wide variety of topics might receive smaller shares from a broader audience of readers, who also read a variety of other authors. While the generalist will often earn a lot through the first total reading time part, the fly fisher is well equipped to earn through this share part — even with a smaller audience.”

— Medium

Each story read is worth a different amount of money, depending on the reader. So a reader who reads lots of stories is worth less than a reader who reads a few. That’s why Medium expects the specialist to earn as much as the generalist.

When are you paid the most for a single read? You will be paid the most for a story when a reader becomes a Medium member using your referral link, reads your story, and no other stories for the entire month. So the ideal writing strategy is to create stories that attract readers who only purchase a membership for your stories.

Unfortunately, this strategy is impractical because Medium isn’t the only platform you can write on. If you want to create stories that attract readers who only purchase a membership for your stories, why are you giving money to Medium? WordPress exists.

Not to mention the host of other platforms that let you use a business model centered solely around your content.

Writing Strategy In Practice

The ability to write on other platforms invalidates the optimal theoretical writing strategy because Medium takes a cut of your earnings. This cut is unnecessary when you only write to attract readers to your stories. So a practical writing strategy to maximize Medium earnings assumes that you write on other platforms to achieve this goal.

If you are not writing to attract niche readers to your stories, you must attract readers who read all types of stories. Doing so requires you to write popular stories that are distributed throughout the platform. To understand the implications of this distribution, read “How Does Distribution and Curation Work on Medium”.

According to Medium, read time is accounted for by “the viewer’s scrolling and activity.” This factor is likely implemented using a threshold: When a viewer has not scrolled for a period of time, that time isn’t counted towards a story’s read time.

Is a user who stopped scrolling for 5 minutes a slow reader or taking a break? The system doesn’t care. All that matters is that the reader didn’t scroll for the specified time. This disincentivizes stories on complex topics which require the reader to do further research.

Informative content is not popular due to its niche and straightforward nature. People don’t relate to most informative content compared to topics surrounding entertainment. This behavior is another factor that disincentivizes stories on complex topics.

This information produces a practical strategy that encourages you to create entertaining content for readers who read all of the platform’s stories. You must write stories over multiple topics that are popular and internally distributed. So avoid writing informative, “expert-level” content which requires the reader’s focus.

Medium won’t reward you for it.

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