9 Crucial Changes to Medium Partner Program (for Writers)

9 min read

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Medium changed things again. Now what?
Yep! Medium switched things up once again. As I often say, the only constant on Medium is change. And also, never build your business on someone else’s land.

WordPress all the way!

LOL.

But no, the changes are actually pretty good if you are, for example, a personal essayist, or a subject matter expert wanting to share your opinions and thoughts about a topic, issue, policy, etc.

From what I can tell, the top brass on Medium wants to make the platform more of a magazine than a content mill. At least, that’s my interpretation of the new changes.

There’s a lot in the recent announcement (which you should read), but here I’ll highlight only the crucial changes that you’ll do well to remember.

But before going into the highlights, here are some words of comfort:

It may appear that a lot has changed, and they have, but for us writers, our goal remains the same: Write helpful, useful, informative articles that readers are compelled to engage with and take action. As a blogger, this is always the goal no matter what we write or where we write.

Now, let’s unpack:

FYI: These changes take effect on August 1, 2023.

Also, if you’re new to Medium, make sure to read this beginner’s guide to all things Medium; this guide has been updated to reflect these recent changes.

9 Crucial Changes to the Medium Partner Program

  1. No more 100% AI content
  2. More personal stories, written by real humans
  3. No more 100-followers requirement for joining the Partner Program
  4. Earning criteria: reading time (original) + engagement
  5. Boost bonus
  6. Existing follower bonus
  7. Publication follower bonus
  8. All writers on the Partner Program must be paid Medium members
  9. End of the referral program

1| No more 100% AI content

Earlier this year, Medium said they were fine with AI as long as they were useful and informative. But things have only gone downhill from there and by now, most of us know that AI is notoriously incorrect and presents false information with confidence. The term tech folks use to describe this phenomenon is “hallucination.”

So, now Medium is changing how it treats these AI content. Although there are no fully accurate AI detectors out there, Medium’s internal team of editors and curators are pretty good at telling when something sounds like AI. And when they detect these stories, they’ll limit their distribution.

I highly recommend that you read the latest from Medium’s Scott Lamb about how Medium will deal with AI content.

How does it affect writers?

When AI was first introduced, way before ChatGPT, I was fascinated by it. I even reviewed an AI tool in this blog. But this technology has only gone downhill from there, and honestly, as a writer, I cannot stand how the tool is being used.

It’s one thing to use technology to make life simpler, but some so-called writers seem to think it’s OK to get an AI tool to write a whole dang blog post and publish it as is.

Let’s just say that if you’re that writer, Medium isn’t the place for you.

But if you’re a real writer? Then, by all means, continue to use the platform 🙂

2| More personal stories, written by real humans

Along with a strong position against 100% AI content, Medium also seems to want more real stories written by real people. Think: personal essays, opinion pieces based on subject matter expertise, etc.

From what I’ve seen in the past few months, Medium has been Boosting more and more of these types of essays. For example, one of the recent Boosted stories was this personal essay from Loren Kantor about a homeless guy on her lawn. Another recent Boosted essay is about extreme heat and how it affects our health, by the health and wellness journalist Rober Roy Britt.

As you see, Medium is really upping its game when it comes to quality writing.

Here’s what Medium’s product team’s Buster Benson said in the announcement article:

We’ve also heard from many authors that they don’t like how the Internet incentivizes quantity over quality. They are tired of the creator treadmill. The changes to our incentives below are big, and we hope that they give authors an alternative to the opportunities they get on the rest of the Internet. Tell your story rather than churn out content. Take the time to go deeper, research longer, edit more. We will always be shifting our payment and distribution incentives for this type of writing.

How does it affect writers?

It’s still too soon to tell. But my assumption is what I’ve already said toward the beginning of this post: Medium perhaps wants to be more like a magazine of quality writing than a content platform.

Medium remains open to all writers, so you can still write there and try to grow an audience, and maybe that’ll work just as it has up until now. But if you’re trying to make money from the Partner Program with content, then maybe Medium isn’t the best place for you anymore.

But in any case, it’s still just an assumption. These changes are new, so we’ll see how things turn out in a few months.

3| No more 100-followers requirement for joining the Partner Program

Pretty self-explanatory. All writers should be able to join the Partner Program and start making money as long as they’re from one of the eligible countries, which, by the way, will increase from 33 to 45 starting August 1. So, YAY! Correction: Total 42 supported countries. (It was later announced that there will be some delay in support for India, Brazil, and Thailand.)

The new list of eligible countries is: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States.

How does it affect writers?

You can stop engaging in questionable follow-for-follow BS and apply for the Partner Program right away. A big thumbs up to Medium for recognizing that the minimum follower count requirement doesn’t help the writers.

4| Earning criteria: Reading time (original) + engagement

This is great!

It used to be that writers made money based on how long readers read (or listened to) their stories. But now earnings will reflect how readers engage with a story as well. So, basically, all those claps and highlights and comments and new followers from a story? They’ll now affect how much a writer earns.

How does it affect writers?

Nothing has changed. As a writer, your job has always been to write great stories — useful, entertaining, actionable, educational, or a combination of two or more of these. If you write good stories, the engagement part will take care of itself.

5| Boost bonus

Medium recently introduced a thing called “Boost.” It’s similar to some versions of the same thing Medium used to have in the past, such as curation and distribution.

Basically, Medium’s internal team of editors can use the algorithm to show certain [high-quality] stories to more users/readers.

And now, stories that get Boosted will also earn more money for the same kind of engagement that a non-Boosted story would. Think of it as a bonus based on how good of a writer you are.

How does it affect writers?

Again, nothing has changed. Your goal is, again, to write great stories and hope that your story gets picked up for a Boost. There’s no guarantee of it. All you can do is hope. And also, pay attention to the Boost guidelines and make sure you write more of these Boost-worthy stories.

But that has been the case since this Boost was introduced. So nothing has really changed for us writers. Only how much money we might make if our story gets Boosted.

Review the Boost criteria here and if your goal is to make more money on Medium, then try to write stories with the potential for a Boost.

6| Existing follower bonus

As mentioned above, if a story gains new followers, it counts towards engagement, which will affect how much a writer earns from that story.

But what about what happens when an existing follower reads a story?

Turns out, under the new rules, Medium will reward writers when their stories are read by their existing followers by way of adding a multiplier to the earnings from engagement.

How does it affect writers?

Again, nothing has changed. Man, I’m tired of typing “nothing has changed” over and over, LOL.

But yes, think about it. At first, I thought this may give rise to some other form of follow-for-follow tactic which I hate with a passion, but on a deeper level of thinking, I realized that’s not the case.

Yes, having more followers will mean more people will see your stories. Technically. Which means more people will read and engage. Right?

But if you go for follow-for-follow BS then at the end of the day you’ll just have a bunch of followers who do not care about what you write. So, they may be your followers in theory, but not true followers who actually read and engage with what you write.

So, it’s still better to focus on writing awesome stories so that people follow you not because they want a follow in return, but because they truly enjoy the stuff you write. Those are the followers you want, and they’re not followers you can buy or trade. They grow organically based on your merit alone, and nothing else.

7| Publication follower bonus

Uhh… now’s when I DO NOT write “nothing has changed,” LOL.

This is something I’m excited about 🙂

Here’s what changed. In the last section, I mentioned that you’ll earn more if your existing follower reads and engages with your story, correct?

Under the new rules, you’ll also earn more if you publish your story in a publication and the story is then read by the publication’s existing followers.

How does it affect writers?

Now here’s something you can actually do to make more money.

If you’re brand new on Medium, I highly recommend you join some good publications and publish your stories there instead of writing on your profile or starting your own publication. Not necessarily big, but good! A publication that, historically, focuses on publishing high-quality stories which get engagement (by way of claps, comments, etc.)

Now, a word about starting your own pub: I’m not discouraging you from doing it, especially if you plan on growing it organically. But know that it’s not easy to grow your publication as a brand-new writer on the platform. It will take work and effort. So, if your primary goal on Medium is to not only share your ideas and thoughts but to also make as much money as possible, you should focus on publishing on established publications, at least until you have a decent number of followers of your own.

8| All writers on the Partner Program must be paid Medium members

This is the only change I didn’t like as much among all the rules: All writers who wish to join the Partner Program now must become paid Medium members.

I know $5 a month is nothing to most of us, but if there’s even one person who cannot afford it and wish to make money on the platform, then we’re preventing that one person from doing so, aren’t we, Medium?

Most of us become paid members anyway, so why can’t we show a bit of compassion to those who can’t? I mean, sure, a few might take advantage of it and even abuse it, but still, how big would that number be anyway?

Oh well, whatever.

How does it affect the writers?

Well, it doesn’t affect the vast majority of us who’re already paid members. But the few who can’t afford it? Well, now they won’t be able to make money on this platform because they’re too broke for Medium.

9| End of the referral program

Meh. I don’t care much for referral bonuses. On my other, older Medium account, I was making 20-something from referral bonuses. It was nice, but let’s face it. Those 20 bucks weren’t making that big of a dent in my wallet anyway.

Now if I were Zulie Rane who makes several hundred from referral bonuses every month, then I might have been a little sad. But there aren’t that many Zulie-Rane-level writers on Medium, so folks aren’t losing much.

How does it affect writers?

For most of us, it doesn’t really affect us in any significant way.


And that’s it. Well, there’s more to it, but these are the highlights from the recent announcement post from Buster Benson.

According to Buster, Medium has already tested the changes and at the end of the day, these don’t really affect how much writers make already. Here’s exactly what Buster said in the announcement post:

We’ve modeled this new approach to payment calculation across past months. Looking at earnings in June across all authors, the distribution of earnings across authors will not be changing significantly, even though the kinds of stories that earn the most will change significantly. If we look at all authors earning $10 or more, about 65% earned between $10 and $100, 29% earned between $100-$1000, and 6% earned over $1000. When the new Partner Program logic goes into effect, these breakdowns will remain pretty stable, moving only a percent or so in any given bucket.

So, what I have gleaned from Buster’s words is this:

These rules won’t affect writers that much. They simply make the payment system more… transparent. And fair. Well-written and well-told [Boost-worthy] stories that resonate with readers will make more money. That is all.

I highly recommend you read the announcement post as it has a lot more useful nuggets throughout:

In conclusion:

Consider how you use Medium and for what.

If your goal is to make more money, write the kind of stories that get boosted.

If your goal is to build an audience for your business and brand and you don’t care about getting a Boost (or scaling your Medium income), then just do whatever feels right for your growth and your specific goals.

But if money is your concern, then yes, as I’ve already said, write Boost-worthy stories, and write more for publications that can nominate your story for a Boost. Focus on quality over quantity because Boost is all about the quality of your writing and its utility to readers.

Good luck!

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