Have you heard of Medium? You’ve probably seen their articles and occasionally clicked on one, then saw that popup at the bottom inviting you to become a member and get unlimited access to thousands of articles. But you can still go on and read for free…up to three articles per month. In a nutshell, Medium is a blogging platform that is presented very nicely. But it’s much more than that for writers and readers.
Medium is built to reward content for its quality, not for the pedigree or popularity of the author. This means that an article written by someone who doesn’t have a huge YouTube following or platform has close to an equal chance of success and payoff as the person with a huge following. They key is that as long as I’m publishing quality–meaning something readers judge to be useful and well-written–I can gain a following.
This doesn’t mean that there is no crappy articles on Medium. There are. But Medium works hard to guarantee that visitors only see the good stuff. Since Medium’s algorithm prioritizes quality over the date something was published, older articles can still be at the top of the feed. The article that is most visible is not necessarily the most recent, but it is judged the best for that particular topic or set of keywords.
Medium has a built-in distribution channel reaching 86 million unique monthly visitors. The home page list of articles draws in about 700K visitors alone. Um, that’s a lot more than the twelve thousand people on my mailing list. Of course that doesn’t mean 86 million people are seeing my article. Like all good content providers, people are seeing only what they said they wanted to see. Members fill out fairly extensive questionnaires to indicate categories of content, specific people or zines they want to get, and even a long list of keywords.
The Medium reader is someone looking for answers from someone with expertise and the ability to express themselves well in writing. Depending on the topic, the nature of that expertise is flexible. In the case of technology, certainly the writer better be solid in describing it or writing step-by-step how it works. On the other hand in the areas of culture or self-help, readers are looking for a writer who has lived experience and can express it well with emotion, wit, and/or research. Medium’s early readership skewed towards certain categories: Technology, Design, Marketing, Life Learning, Business, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Culture, and Politics. However, 2019 has seen some major additions to content and to new zines focusing on healthy human connection, life-work balance, and preparing for a different future than we might have imagined. As seen by this screenshot of the homepage today. The topics are highly varied and this is only a small selection of the range of content available.
I first discovered Medium while doing some research on new technologies for a science fiction series I started. I admit, when I saw the popup to become a member to get unlimited access I said: “Another paywall? I can’t afford to pay every time I find something good.” So, I tried to live without paying. You can get up to three articles per month for free. Whenever I got the list of articles that might be of interest to me, I had to pick and choose which three were most important. Frustrating, because I wanted seven or eight, or even ten on occasion. I thought maybe I could choose three and the next month do three more I didn’t get to pick. But then the next month had even more articles I wanted right then.
My budget is pretty tied down, so I kept telling myself: “There is no real reason to pay $5 per month (or $50 per year if you do an annual commitment) for content I could probably find elsewhere if I just put in a little more time and did good Google searches. And that is true, but it might be two hours of Google searches. And the Medium articles were mostly well written and on point and already sorted to my liking. They delivered on the promise they made in the beginning and I almost always learned something I didn’t know. I started to ask myself what that $5 per month or 16 cents per day was worth to me in saved time and search aggravation.
Then I hit the goldmine. I learned I could subscribe (at no additional cost) to top magazines and papers I no longer get, like The Economist and The Washington Post. Yes, the content is about a month old, but that’s okay. The things that interest me in those papers are not breaking news, but more in-depth reporting and well-researched opinion pieces, and analysis for the future. So, I sprung for the $50 annual commitment–gotta love the savings. It is one of the better uses of a little over $4 per month I’ve ever invested. And NO ADs, ever. No PROMO. Amazing!
Wait. No Ads? How is that economically viable?
Medium’s stated purpose in starting this online resource of content is: “The internet should reward quality thinking, not clickbait.”
Read that last word again, “Not clickbait!” Oh, thank you for that! I am so sick of clickbait. My local news now has a listener poll as part of EVERY newscast and 99% of the time it is a clickbaity poll over some celebrity or politician reaction to something. Or a recent event that clearly has only one answer. “Do you think child murderers should be held accountable for the actions?” Um…do I really have to think about that? Aackk!!! On occasion, they actually do one for a piece of legislation.
Don’t even get me started on Facebook and Google sponsored ads and all of that clickbait to gather your demographics and send you more clickbait ads with the sole purpose of getting you to a product site that has something even less wanted for sale. Snake oil salesmen have returned in large numbers on social media.
Here’s the second part of Medium’s purpose that I REALLY love.
“That’s why we’ve created a better home for writers, journalists, and experts. It’s simple to use, free from ads, and connects you to curious, avid readers, so you can focus on what matters: putting your best work out there.”
And guess what, writer’s can get paid based on READERS rewarding them for quality thinking. If you are already a Medium member you know this and you are my peeps. If you are holding off because $5 per month seems like too much but you you’ll try to stick with the three freebies, I get it. I really do. Times are tough. Budgets are tight. Just remember I warned you: quality articles are addictive. At least they have been for me.
Me and Medium — Yes, I’m writing on the platform
I have writer friends who have Patreon sites. I even support a couple of them because I really value their advice and what they are doing to give back to the writing community. But these same writers also have staff and people to help them produce these quality content items (from videos to articles to books) week in and week out. I can’t keep up that pace and still get books out, run a publishing cooperative, have time for church and volunteer commitments–oh and let’s not forget maintaining a great relationship with my large extended family. So, I’m going to do the next best thing for me. Write for Medium, and for specific publications on Medium.
So if you ever thought to yourself, if Maggie did a Patreon account I’d support her, think about getting a membership at Medium instead and support me that way. The best part is for your $5 per month, or less on the annual plan, you get a lot more than just me and all ad free. If you are already a Medium member, I hope you will stop by and check out my articles. These will be primarily about the writing life, technology and writing, and lessons I’ve learned about productivity, running a writing business, and maintaining balance (I’m still learning that one), as well as anything else that comes to mind. I doubt I’ll make a fortune, but even a couple hundred a month will provide some stability in my income stream.
I feel very fortunate that PUBLISHOUS has invited me to be a writer for them. That doesn’t mean they’ll take everything I write. But it means that I can submit directly to them. I don’t have to be found among the thousands of authors who are writing about their journey. The articles they aren’t interested in, I’ll still put up. In fact my first article went up today: Writer’s Block: Diagnosis & Prescription.
An author gets paid when a member-reader engages with an article. There are three primary ways for readers to engage with an article.
- To “clap” for the article. Member’s can clap up to 50 times. I tend to save my claps for articles that warrant at least 20 claps. Some get 20 or more from me. I haven’t found one to expend ALL my 50 claps on yet. You choose to clap by clicking repeatedly on the clapping hand for as many claps as you want.
- To highlight one or more things in the article that really stood out to you. Medium tracks those highlights as proof that the reader is finding it useful. Anyone who follows you can also see what you highlighted.
- Of course, like all blog platforms, they value readers who take the time to make a comment about the article, offer additional insights, or thoughtfully talk about how they agree or disagree with pieces of the article. In fact, medium members can clap for someone who asks a question or offers an opinion, and can respond to them. If you are a writer, those claps and responses can also earn you money as well.
The best part is the money comes from the membership fees (that $4-$5 per month). It doesn’t cost the reader any more than they’ve already paid.
For those of you who find what I write interesting, I hope you’ll check out the articles. I’ll be sure to post them here on my blog (probably in monthly batches as I’m planning to write at least two per week) and will highlight them in social media–primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn. My other social media is geared more toward the fiction side of my writing.
If you are a Medium member and find my writing helpful, interesting, or just plain good content, I hope you will engage. Give me a few claps, highlight those things that speak to you, and definitely leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or have questions I can answer. It costs you nothing beyond your membership and it helps me.
If you are not a member, I hope you choose to use one of your free reads for my article and just let me know if it’s helpful. You can still comment and clap and highlight too. I love knowing if it helps someone.
I’ll Still Be Blogging Here Too
I’ll continue to blog here too as I have time. It will be primarily about my books, my author friends, and general life choices as I have before. I haven’t blogged about author updates in quite some time because I know that most of you just enjoy reading my fiction.
As always, thanks for being here and supporting me. I’m happy to answer questions.
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