Medium’s Partner Program Just Slapped Publications In The Face

Photo by Grace Madeline on Unsplash

Medium recently announced that it was allowing writers to submit their stories to the Partner Program inside publications. This is amazing news for writers. Not only do they get paid, but now they also reach a wider audience, which will pay them even more.

Publications receive zero compensation in this arrangement, except for the chance of being featured by Medium’s editorial team — for increased exposure.

This strongly disincentivizes publication editors. I’ve been waiting for years to see a return on the huge amount of time I’ve invested into making Entrepreneur’s Handbook the best it can be.

Now, I receive nothing.

I can understand, from Medium’s perspective, that it was a hard choice.

There are 4 main user groups on the Medium platform:

  • Members — users who pay $5/month for full access
  • Readers — users who have limited access to Medium for free
  • Writers — users who publish on Medium
  • Editors — users who own a Medium publication

In Medium’s current direction — aiming to become the Internet’s largest open content publishing + membership platform — editors are the smallest group. They matter the least. The easiest to sacrifice. The smallest amount of pain the quietest outcry if something were to go wrong.

If the decision was different — let’s say to compensate publication owners with a percentage of the writer’s earnings in return for exposure to a larger paying audience — then the writers would have complained. They’d be receiving less payment. Not good! This much larger, louder user group would have delivered a devastating slam to the platform for slighting them.

Or, Medium could have raised its membership prices. But the backlash from members and readers — an enormous group of users — would have been jarring, possibly in a fatal way.

Or, lastly, Medium could have sacrificed its own revenue and gone deeper into the cash hole it’s in. Nobody wants this. For the sake of everyone, Medium is better alive than dead.

So, who sacrifices? Publication owners.

At first, Medium allowed publications to create their own paid memberships. I tried this and at $8/mo, it got up to 19 members. I gave it my best shot, but it turned out to be too much time and work for one person to scale it to a worthwhile revenue generator, so the opportunity cost became unbearable. I shut it down in 2017.

But at least I had an option to monetize. At the time, I thought about experimenting with a much higher priced premium membership. But Medium pulled the plug before I had a chance and launched their own paid membership.

Medium’s paid membership evolved to takeover all other publication memberships. Soon it became the only one.

Medium’s path has zigged and zagged as they have toiled to figure out how to turn the internet into a higher-quality, less fake and more trustworthy place for content. They’ve innovated boldly. They’ve made great strides forward in digital publishing. But they’ve also made some mistakes and scraped people over the rocks. This latest one hurts publication owners — and it hurts a lot.

Unfortunately and understandably, exploration into new territory comes with collateral damage. When you go where no one else has gone before, and you don’t know exactly where you’re headed, you eventually work yourself into a position where you can’t move without hurting people.

This latest move by Medium — to borrow a Jordan Peterson word — dispossessed publication owners. God knows I’m not leaving Medium and it’s been a deep, roiling pleasure to bump along the Medium journey with everyone, but I wanted to write this because I know there are other publication owners out there who are feeling the same thing I am and I wanted to give a voice to what happened, even if most people don’t care. This one’s for the smallest group of users on Medium.

Ali Mese Justin Cox 🍩 Tiffany Sun David Smooke Lincoln W Daniel Tom Kuegler Steve Campbell Tim Rettig Jonathan Greene Stella J. McKenna Jonas Ellison Jake Mike Fishbein Abby Norman S Lynn Knight ~ 🇺🇸🏳️‍🌈 Adelaide Eleanor Dupont Neil Miller Nicolas Cole Dan Moore Sam Duboff Siobhan O'Connor Tom Mitchell Matt Higginson Chad Grills