The Coffeelicious
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The Coffeelicious

My Take on the Whole Medium Membership Thing

Let’s all just take a breath

First, a little timeline.

Last week, I got an email from someone at Medium inviting me to pitch a story idea for the new premium content portion of the platform. It involved being paid for writing, so I was like . . . cool. I pitched something.

About a week later I got a second email. This one invited me to apply for the Partnership Program. It had a link to the page where I could pay a fiver and join the Medium Membership community.

I like being paid for my work, when possible, so I applied. I have zero idea if my application email came as a result of my pitch. There was no mention of the story I pitched. It was a form email, addressed to me, but not specific to me.

Someone told me in a message on another post that they got the first email, but not the second. But that’s not enough evidence for me to say definitively, one way or the other.

Once I applied, I paid my five bucks. This was an absolute no-brainer for me. I’m all about supporting the communities that support me. I ❤ Medium. It’s biggest traffic driver to my blog, one of the leading ways I build my email list, and also, it feeds my need to read.

That’s us, caught up.

So, here are some observations.

The new dashboard is worth the cost of admission.

For real, if you can swing the $5, do it just for the new dashboard.

It’s beautifully subtle, how awesome it is. For the first few minutes, I was confused. Where were the top stories? Where were the editor picks? Where was the tool bar of topics I follow? How in the hell was I supposed to find what I wanted to read?

That lasted just as long as it took to me realize that what I wanted to read was RIGHT THERE. My favorite writers are right on top. My favorite publications. My favorite topics. Every single post offered to me on my dashboard was something I wanted to read.

And then, way down at the bottom, was an invitation to come back at noon for another round of awesome stuff to read, and the links to the things that used to be at the top: the top stories and editor picks, etc.

You have control over that dash.

You are the curator here. If you follow a bunch of people on a ‘you follow me and I’ll follow you’ type thing, you might not have the reader experience with the new dash that I did.

The new format, though, will encourage paid members to follow their favorite writers and publications, which is brilliant if you ask me.

ETA: I only see the new dash on my computer. My mobile app is the same as it has always been.

Lots of things will stay the same.

This is just my understanding. I’m not in a position to say any of this for 100 percent sure. But here’s my take:

It looks to me like very little will change for non-member readers. They’ll have the old dashboard. They’ll have access to the same writers they always have.

Because it was very obvious to me from both emails I received about the Patnership Program that Medium only wants to pay me occasionally. I’m guessing, very occasionally. I post on Medium everyday and I don’t think Medium will want to buy everything I write.

So, most of what I write, I’ll post like I always have. And it will show up on your dash if you follow me or in a search.

Some paid stuff will also be free.

There was a post behind the paywall from Ev Williams that said that really important paid posts — the kind that all of humanity would benefit from — will be published on the free side. He hoped the paid members would understand. (This one does.)

I like this, because some people just can’t swing the $5. I appreciate that Medium realizes that some work should be shared widely AND paid for. Thanks, Medium!

This is not a pay-to-write situation. (I think.)

I do not believe that being a Partnership Program writer depends on being a Membership reader. I’m not 100 percent on this one, but that’s the impression I got.

I hope I’m right about this. I know that I was invited to apply for partnership without a hard sell to the membership program. There was no mention of a requirement to be a member.

One little hiccup (maybe) is that if you’re not a member, I’m not sure how you’ll see and be active on your own post. How will you read and respond to responses? Hopefully there’s some answer to that I just don’t know.

Writers will be paid a flat fee.

In that same behind-the-wall post (it really should be outside the wall), Ev Williams said that all of the money collected from members will go to writers. And that writers will be paid a flat fee.

So, we won’t be paid based on hearts or reads or percentage of the story read. Which is good, if you ask me. It keeps things a little more fair for the little guy who doesn’t have a personal army of fans ready to recommend the shit out of our posts.

It also means we get paid, even if our stories don’t go viral.

I have zero idea what that flat rate will be. $5? $20? $100?

I got the impression that Ev Williams doesn’t quite know yet, either. I could be wrong.

I don’t know if I’ll own my paid pieces the way I own my free ones.

One thing that I’ll keep in mind is that when I post on Medium for free, I own my work. I can cross post to my own blog. I can let HuffPo or the Observer or whoever might want to pick up my work, pick it up. I’m not sure if the same will be true for paid Medium stories. I’ll be paying attention to whatever contract might show up.

If I’m paid a very nominal fee (say $5 or $10) for my work, but I don’t own it anymore, I might decide it’s not worth it. It could be that I benefit more from the wider readership. But I won’t know without trying.

I don’t know how this will affect readership.

My feeling is that, maybe, we don’t have to panic.

Medium readers who pay for membership could be the readers who are most likely to follow a writer or click the heart. They’re sophisticated Medium readers who will know (or figure out) that recommending what they like and following the readers they enjoy will make their awesome new dash even more awesome.

Medium has found a way to reward readers for clicking the heart or following a writer

Can we just take a moment to think about how awesome that is? Paid readers will have better dashboards if they respond to what they like. More hearts and/or followers = more exposure = more readers for all of your posts, paid or otherwise.

Paid members are also being given incentive to come back later in the day, when new stories will be on their dashboards.

And paid members’ dashboards will have paid and free posts. I think mostly free and some paid. (Right now, its only free.) So when your post shows up on their feed, it will have less competition from work they’re less likely to want to read, if that makes sense.

They’ll, at the very least, have to scroll past your story to get to the ‘top stories’ link.

So, I think it’s at least possible that readership will go up for quality work.

If you don’t become a member and you’re not a partner writer, it looks like status quo wins out for you.

It really looks to me like not very much is changing if you don’t buy into Medium Membership, so I don’t see how the change will affect readership from non-members at all. (This is one of those things I might be wrong about. Just an impression.)

And if you’re a writer who either isn’t invited (yet) or chooses not to become part of the Partnership Program, it looks to me like you’ll just keep on keeping on the way you always have.

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Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and the original Ninja Writer.

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Shaunta Grimes

Shaunta Grimes

Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org. Reach me at shauntagrimes@gmail.com. (My posts may contain affiliate links!)