Eclectic Notes
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Eclectic Notes

Fishing for Revenue Streams

A poet patiently tries to find revenue

Photo by Sebastian Hans on Unsplash

Poets on Medium are a wonderful bunch. But increasingly, they are voicing their discontent. Not in words, that they have done generously since the changes to the Medium Partner Program (MPP) revenue calculation system in 2019. No, this time they are shuttering their accounts. Because, since the change to the MPP, poets aren’t earning on the platform. Their work is, as poetry always has been, too niche-y. Not enough people spend real time on reading poetry for poets to earn a decent amount of money on Medium. Before the MPP change, the income for content creators was dependent on the number of claps. Still, people clap up to 50 times for a story. That is indeed the same as clicking the like button on a Facebook post 50 times. They do that because each clap had a monetary value. So giving 50 claps would mean giving as much as you can give, without paying more than your monthly subscription fee. That all changed. I think the system now is fairer, and less prone to the noble art of system-gaming, but it also means that less popular types of content, which poetry is and always has been, have a lower revenue potential on this platform

I’ve tried it. And will keep trying to build a revenue-streaming home for my poetry on Medium. But to make that stream worthwhile, it takes a lot of other, promotional work. So, I’m also exploring other avenues. With that, I would like to build on the principle that content has a value that justifies a direct reward system. Sounds a bit vague, maybe, but it’s not that complicated. Most of the internet-related revenue models are based on selling advertising targeting. That means that as a consumer, you get content for free, but have to give up part of your privacy so companies can better sell their products and services to you. I don’t think that is principally wrong. However, it has led to a culture in which content is seen as something that has no value, because everybody can get it for free. The price of privacy is invisible and often perceived as worthless. In a system of direct rewards, people pay for content. Now, the question is how. On Medium, you can pay for a membership that gives you unlimited access to every story published on the platform. Part of your membership dues is divided over the writers of these stories, based on the time you spent on their articles. In general, people tend to spend more time on stories that promise them a road to riches in only 5 or 7 or 9 steps, than they do on poetry, and Medium is no exception. That means, that only a very tiny part of the big pot filled with membership fees is paid out to poets. An additional downside to this model, is that officially, the MPP is not available in every country in the world. Only in a limited few. If you are based in India or an African country, you will have to do some magic tricks to make a payout possible. This has an effect of suppressing non-Western voices, which strengthens the cultural influence of Western voices. This leads to an echo-chamber effect that improves the chances of stories that fit a monocultural set of expectations. It makes Medium a bit more boring than it used to be.

Revenue Streams from Roman Times

So, if you are a poet looking to make an income online with your work, Medium might not be the right place. But what is, then? Well, I don’t know yet. I see several writers run newsletters, too. I like that idea. It’s like the magazines of yesteryear, but then in a digital form. You can do a lot with that, especially on a platform like Substack, which is geared towards pay-for-content. Obviously, with this form, there still is a limited pool of people willing to pay for poetry. But on Substack, which gives content creators the option to ask a subscription fee for the newsletter, you might stand a chance. What I have seen so far there, is basically about two types of willingness to pay for newsletters. On one side, people are willing to pay for content, when that content brings value to them. Industry or professional information can do great. Maybe sports. For poetry, it’s more a Maecenate-model: patrons of the arts willing to support (emerging) artists. Like poets.

This brings me to a third potential income stream for struggling poets: patronage. Also known in the micro-form of coffee donations. This is a crowdfunding-type form where poets ask their audience for a donation. The audience donates to make the poetry they enjoy possible. You can do this as a crowdfunding campaign of the go-fund-me sort, or use one of the many sites that are specifically built for this purpose of art-funding modern-day Maecenae, such as Patreon, Ko-Fi and Buy me a coffee (this is the one you can find me on).

Patiently Fishing On

So far, in my experience, none of the above are proving to be a single source of income one might hope to find. Those days seem to be gone for everybody but a happy few. These are just three potential avenues to pursue revenue on. For me, one is minimal, and the other two are, let’s say, not-yet-existent. But I keep exploring, prospecting, digging for gold. Until I find it.

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Arjan Tupan

Arjan Tupan

I help small businesses to find their story and tell it through new services and stories. Dad, poet and dot connector. Creator of the Tritriplicata. POM Poet.