Who’s Making Money on Medium Right Now?
With the possible exception of Tim Denning, the Medium heavyweights of yore are watching their earning crater under the new system. Shaunta Grimes is making 90% less than she used to. Shannon Ashley notes that her stats are worst they‘ve been in years.
I was doing fine, too—after just a few months on the platform, I had a $2,000 story and another $800 one, and most of the rest earned in the $30 range—but none of my more recent articles are gaining any meaningful traction. Even the ones in big publications are getting less than 200 views.
So if the people who used to earn the big bucks on Medium aren’t earning them anymore, who is that money going to?
I have two theories.
1. Commiseration writing
My feed lately has been filled to the brim with mediocre to bad writing on some theme of “poor me.” I read and write a lot about parenting, so most of the ones I see are along the lines of “my husband isn’t helping enough.” (I have thoughts about that.) Or, on the better-written end, ones like Tara Blair Ball’s very popular piece about her dissatisfaction with her post-partum body (I have thoughts about that, too). I’ll admit, it’s a tough time, I’ve written some pity pieces myself, but I do think they can be lazy, and I don’t generally enjoy reading them.
I think these pieces are rising to the top because the draw a lot of comments from people who feel the same way, or who have advice. It’s a misery-loves-company sort of thing. I get it, but Medium’s focus on the engagement/relational piece of the algorithm here is making me want to cancel my membership because I’m no longer learning anything meaningful from my feed.
2. Medium keeping a bigger cut
Medium has never told their writers what percentage of the membership fees they keep for the company, and what percentage they divvy up amongst the writers. If I were running Medium, I would consider a new algorithm and rebrand the perfect time to increase the company’s cut of the revenue; everyone will blame the algorithm and themselves, and no one will think to blame Medium for just keeping more of the money. They have a big enough community now—largely of writers who aren’t really trying to make a living here, anyway—that they could definitely keep enough memberships while drastically cutting their payouts.
Medium could also be keeping a greater portion of the profits by keeping more of its traffic in-house with the major Medium publications. The quality articles that do show up in my feed are invariably from Level, Zora, Gen, and OneZero. Even as independent writers struggle more and more on the platform, the Medium writers seem to be having an easier time getting my attention.
If you’ve checked out the “trending on Medium” section lately, you might have noticed that it’s now 70–80% programming advice. If I wanted to know why Java is in decline, or how to scrub my datasets more efficiently, I’d be in luck! However, I do not at this time.
I suppose this isn’t surprising, since a large number of the members of this site are in the Bay Area and they find this sort of content really valuable. I think Medium will become more and more a site for them, and less and less a site for the rest of us as other types of content writers flee.
Are you making money? Let us know below!
Disagree with any of these theories? Have your own? Are you suddenly making a ton of money that you weren’t before? Let the community know below in the comments!