How Will Medium’s New Payment System Change the Platform?

Some first thoughts from a writer who really doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about.

Earlier today, Medium sent an email announcing a new system for paying writers in their partner program.

There are two really big changes:

  • Earnings will be calculated daily (instead of weekly)
  • Payments will be based on reading time (instead of claps)

Whenever Medium makes any kind of change to their program, writers here tend to start recklessly speculating on how things will play out. So, here’s my reckless speculation:

Medium says they’re changing the payments “to better reward quality stories that resonate with readers”.

My guess is that Medium is specifically trying their best to promote stories that read like articles from magazines.

Medium has consistently shown their preference for magazine-style articles. This writing style is relatively uncommon on the platform as a whole, but it dominates the hand-selected “feature” stories on Medium’s frontpage.

These stories are longer and less skimable than most written-for-the-internet types of articles. That translates to much more time spent reading.

It’s going to vary, writer by writer.

The cynical, conspiracy-theory side of me wonders if the change is a way to pay less to writers overall. So far though, there’s no evidence this is the case, so I’m going to give Medium the benefit of the doubt.

I think that writers who have a lot of “magazine-style” articles (long paragraphs, long read-times, not easily skimmable) will see an increase in payments. Writers with short, skimmable, blog-post style writing will likely see a decrease.

So what can readers expect to see now that the payment system is changing?

In the short-term, expect to see writers experimenting with all kinds of different writing formats to see what works best. Now that earnings are calculated daily, it’ll be easier than ever to figure out how to perform well under the new system.

In the long-term, my guess is that there will be an increase in longer, more thought out articles, and a decrease in listicles and blog-post-style articles.

Unfortunately, I think there will also be an increase in articles designed for “hate-reading.”

Under the new payment system, writers are rewarded for reading even if the person reading the article disagrees with the entire thing. This is likely going to encourage writers to make articles that are purposefully controversial, just to get more readers.

Hopefully, the biggest change will be that writers finally stop begging for claps at the end of every post.

Medium has actually had rules against this for as long as I’ve been a writer here, but it never seemed to be very strictly enforced.

Every time an author ends their post with a request for claps, I can’t help thinking of Jeb Bush.

I’ll be glad to see this trend finally end.

I want to end by reiterating that I’m really just giving my best guesses here. The truth is that I don’t know how the changes will play out, and neither does any other writer on the platform.

Fortunately, the changes are rolling out at the end of this month, so we won’t have to wait long to see.

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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