How To Clap On Medium

And why it even matters.

Shannon Ashley
Jun 6 · 6 min read

It’s my opinion that writers have needlessly complicated the clapping system. I constantly hear, “Don’t clap 50 times because that will make your claps worthless.” And many writers insist that small amounts of claps are weighted higher, so they encourage everyone to “clap low.”

Here’s what Medium actually says about clapping:

“You can clap up to 50 times per post, and you can use it to show the author how much you like the story.”

So right away, Medium is clear that claps are a reward system to show writers and Medium how much you like a story.

But a lot of writers get bent out of shape discussing claps because claps (along with reading time), are the primary indicator for payment.

Clapping does matter.

On a basic level, clapping tells Medium along with the writers that you enjoyed their work. That you’d like to see more from the writer, or more stories like it. Clapping on a story can help help other people see the story too.

If you’re new to Medium, you might not even know that writers can be paid for their work. Stories receiving pay are indicated by a gray star.

Per Medium, writers receive pay according to the claps and reading time of members. You can identify members pretty easily by the green lines around their profile picture:

As far as we know from Medium, writers are not paid per view or comment or highlight — no matter how many writers insist upon counting these as proof that their earnings should be higher. All engagement isn’t all about money.

And about clapping “low” being better?

Why do writers keep arguing over the “right” way to clap?

Yes, we know that in a monetary sense, all claps are not created equal. That’s not a bad thing. It simply depends upon a few factors. Like how many other stories a member reads and claps for.

Writers are often arguing amongst themselves about how to clap, but only from a monetary view, and when they do so they completely ignore the spirit behind clapping at all.

Clapping is supposed to be stress-free.

It’s true — take it from somebody who earns her income on Medium. Telling readers that there is a right way or wrong way to clap and pay writers goes against the entire ad-free and pressure-free spirit of Medium.

The platform already tells readers how to clap:

“You can clap up to 50 times per post, and you can use it to show the author how much you like the story.”

That’s pretty straightforward and pressure-free. Yet too many writers are complaining that a reader needs to sit there deciding how whatever unknown portion of their $5 is going to be divvied up each week? Seriously?

Please stop.

Claps are not all about the money.

When you argue about there being a right and wrong way to clap on Medium — suggesting that readers need to be savvier about how they use their applause, you put undue pressure on the process. You limit the pleasure of reading.

In case you missed it, claps do more than indicate how much compensation writers receive. As Medium has stated, they can tell a writer how much you enjoyed their work. In the writing industry, encouragement is pretty damn important. They can also help a story get more attention because let’s face it — many readers do notice when a story receives high claps.

If someone looks at your Medium profile online, they can see the clap counts on each story. Regardless of how you tell people to clap, every writer knows it looks good to have many 1K, 2K, 3K+ stories. There’s no way around that conclusion.

Clapping is personal.

No one owes anybody an explanation about why they clap the way they do. Medium has put clapping into place for readers to have a 0–50 scale available.

Some readers look at it like grading schoolwork — A, B, C, D, F. Others see it as supporting a favorite writer on a collective level, clapping 50 every time. Some look at it as a pass or fail. And others are completely random.

You are arguing over pennies.

Members pay $5 a month or $50 a year. We don’t know how much of the membership goes into paying writers in the Partner Program. And personally, we don’t know how many other stories our fans typically clap for.

Ev Williams does a lot of fundraising for Medium. So we don’t know if some of that money trickles down into the MPP. Hey, we don’t know if any of our memberships pay for Medium salaries, columnists, or anything else.

What we do know is that even if every $5 monthly membership goes exclusively into the Partner pool, A reader could only clap for 5 stories a month in order to reward each writer with a dollar.

Clearly, we expect most Medium members to clap a lot more than 5 times a month. If they did it once a day for 30 days, we’d be looking at an average of $0.16 a story.

Sure, dispersement varies depending upon exactly how many claps a reader gives each story. Yet there’s no way to say the argument isn’t over pennies.


Hey, I know how much those pennies add up — I sometimes earn over $2,400 in one week. That’s more than I’ve ever earned weekly in my life, so I am by no means devaluing those pennies. But I’m also not getting palpitations according to the way readers clap. To be fair, I don’t even look at how they clap because that’s really their business.

I’m too busy writing, rewriting, and reading.

There IS one way to devalue your claps.

I have a policy to only clap on a story if I’ve actually read the whole thing. THE. WHOLE. THING. See, there’s a reason why Medium pays by claps and reading time rather than claps alone. Reading time helps prevent the system from being rigged.

Clapping without reading is not the heart of Medium at all. Anybody with a massive following on any other social media platform can tell their followers to clap for their stories. But if they don’t actually read those stories, why should Medium pay for little more than popularity among non-readers?

The right way to clap is easy.

You should clap however feels right for you. If you want to give out a lot of 50s, go for it. If you prefer single-digit clapping, that’s your perogative too. You don’t need anybody telling you how to clap — myself included.

If there are certain writers you want to support, you might ask them what kind of claps they prefer. Honestly, the only real bummer is when folks highlight and don’t clap, or (worst of all) comment and don’t clap.

But at the end of the day, any writer worth their salt is simply pleased that you read and clapped at all. And ultimately? There’s really no right or wrong way to clap, as long as it works for you.

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Med Matters

Stories about all things Medium from an all-in Top Writer.

Shannon Ashley

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Single mama, fulltime writer, exvangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer.

Med Matters

Stories about all things Medium from an all-in Top Writer.