“red and white stop road sign” by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

What Has Medium Done?!

And what you can do about it.

In the past several months, Medium has changed a lot. You can see these phases coming in stages. In response to yet another post complaining about changes to Medium and how the indie author is nothing but crap to Medium these days, Frank McKinley had this comment to say in the group I’m in — Tribe Builders Network.

Those bullet points are the waves of changes Medium has made.

  • First, they started to push Medium membership. In the beginning, those behind the paywall were top tier writers on this platform. Before the Medium Partnership Program ever existed, I never saw a member post since I joined. This caused many of us to start delving into exclusive content. It was well worth sinking the $5 every month into getting these exclusive posts. It felt good.
  • Second, now that there are so many of us and the fact that locked posts are now rampant, Medium is starting to introduce more and more people into the mixture. This phase is what we are all experiencing now. We’re getting less pay because big-name artists are coming in, never been on the platform before, and get exclusive deals. This action is what I feel is dividing so many people, and it’s natural for us to feel like a victim in all this.
  • Third, Medium is driving this exclusiveness by getting more big-name writers onto the platform and really push the fact that so many people read the content that’s published on here.

While so many people think this spells the death of the independent writer, I honestly don’t think so. As Frank mentioned, it forces us to be more creative as writers. But before I get to the question of what we can do about this, I think it’s important to understand why Medium is doing what it’s doing.

After all, so many people think Medium:

“doesn’t care about independent writers”
“has moved to the dark side”
“is screwing over the livelihood of its community that helped them get to this point.”

I honestly don’t think it is, because all of this feels so familiar to me.

Remember Tsū

Credit: zdnet.com

Tsū (pronounced like tsunami) was a platform that existed several years ago that paid members based on views and engagement of posts to the platform. It was literally a social media site that paid members to engage with the content published.

There were no verified members, no subscriptions.

Simply people sharing posts, engaging, with others.

Sounds kinda familiar right?

The intention was good. It was a means of fighting back against social media who makes money off of our content and gives nothing back to us. However, the company crumbled after people started to raise issues. Some were struggling to make money while others were rolling in it.

While the money wasn’t going to make you insanely rich, there were still people getting monthly payouts on the platform of about $200 or $300 a month. Others though were complaining about how unfair the system is. People lacked the ability to put in the effort or got to the point where they used underhanded methods to ruin the overall spirit of the platform.

In the end, the site shut down and is being auctioned off. (Auction ended March 30th 2018)

The company didn’t provide much reason as to what caused them to shut the site down. Whether it was peoples greed and the site couldn’t keep up with the payouts, or perhaps the owners seeing that behaviour and decided to shut it down before it got out of hand, it’s hard to tell.

And we probably will never know.

But at the end of the day how this all ties into Medium is similar to how Tsū played out.

I believe if things stayed the way they were before Medium brought in larger writers, Medium would be paying out to us indie writers who would be reading other writers work.

Furthermore, we’ll try to milk the system by getting more writers to read our work. We’ll get greedy and Medium would owe us more money by generating traffic.

While that still is common today, Medium also wants to be bringing in not just writers to the platform but readers specifically.

In other words, if things stayed the way they were our efforts would focus on getting more writers to the platform and not readers.

Much like with Tsū, you had people posting content while consuming content as well. There was no single person looking to sit on a platform that paid someone to create content and decided to passively consume instead.

Everyone had the green in their eyes and leveraged the system as a collective whole as opposed to a small group making all the cash.

Medium can have their model set where a small group makes the money because they have a massive audience now. And their model is still offering something to each type of person too.

In this sense, for the survivability of the platform, the formula had to change.

Medium had to challenge its old way of thinking and try new tactics.

For writers, it pushed us to expand our thinking.

The old Medium prompted us to look at our craft and make comments on ours and others writing. I know from my own experiences I’ve grown as a writer by consuming content and then applying some techniques to it in my next piece.

Now, Medium is demanding something different.

Medium Isn’t Paying To Learn And Create

As the Medium Paternship Program opened up, indie writers were getting paid respectable chunks of money. The average writer on the platform making roughly $70–100 per month.

I feel during that time those who earned more were those pushing to create and create. From optimizing marketing strategies, to simply making more content.

I always earned below average but I stuck to posting one locked post per week. I would’ve earned more if I created more I’m sure.

But Medium wants us to move away from that model as the business is shifting.

Again, Medium now is looking more for readers. This is why they get big name artists on here featuring locked posts. This incentivizes people to visit the platform. And again, if people want to see it, then they’re going to need to pay.

This makes sense because, the underdogs of well established and popular writers are the lesser known indie writers.

While people certainly praise the underdogs of stories, the underdog is still someone well known. They’re not the most popular choice, but people have heard the persons name.

Unfortunately, a lot of indie writers aren’t in that level of popularity.

For sure there are some. I happen to see many of those individuals get featured on the front page. Those are going to be the ones thriving on this platform.

If Medium kept the same course as it was before it brought in big-name artists, the readership would’ve stalled. At least in terms of getting more readers here who passively read content.

We would continue to get writers reading other writers work — which still helps — but that’s not Medium’s goal.

They want their writers — new or established — to not only be learning from others and then creating content, but to do more than that.

The reason I think this is the case is that while I have been gaining a few extra dollars here and there by creating more and more content, one of my posts — a locked post — managed to gain some traction. This traction is out of the ordinary for me since I’ve had trends where my previous locked posts got very little attention, even after the post got past the 10 fan mark.

So while Medium still encourages us to create, that something more is actually quite simple.

Medium Does Want Us To Grow

Medium is giving a lot of writers harsh realities. It’s to the point that so many think Medium is crapping all over us and not caring.

But I don’t think that’s the case.

Especially since I’ve gotten a few outlier posts over the year I’ve been on this platform. Even in the event of all of these changes.

I also don’t think Medium has gone to “the dark side” because we still have indie writers making hundreds or thousands of dollars on this platform. Tom Kuegler is selling a course on how he netted $900 last month.

I’m pretty confident he’s an indie writer.

And sure, 24K followers does help a lot in that, but then there is another writer I know who made $1.4K a few months ago who had an even smaller following (2K at the time of writing this). Her name is Shannon Ashley.

I’m pretty sure she’s an indie writer as well.

But when you look at their actions, and even what is featured on Medium in the first place, you can begin to see what sort of challenges Medium is giving us.

Instead, we’re too focused on our stats dropping, or that we’re making less money that we’re missing something.

It all comes back to what Frank mentioned at the very end of that comment I posted above.

“…Forcing us to be more innovative to work the system in our favor.”

If you’ve read any of Tom’s work or listened to his videos he’s shared strategies about making great headlines and creating work that moved people.

How do you think he managed to get 24K followers?

He didn’t buy followers or buy views. He wasn’t just consistent.

He’s innovative with his content. He throws videos in there. He does things that I honestly don’t see other writers pull off.

And he does it pretty fucking good.

For Shannon, it’s a lot different. She’s still finding her niche but is still going out of her way conveying and talking about things that aren’t that common.

She’s being creative but also getting us to think intensely about issues revolving around relationships, love, being fat, being single, and more.

There’s also the sheer number of posts she publishes regularly on these issues. While the quantity is large, the encompassing themes are still relevant in every post.

She is still making us think as she explains her stories.

Even going back to my most recent post that did exceptionally well I broke the mould. I did some research, I spent a little more time on the headline. I paused and looked at a topic I was interested in.

But I also presented in such a way that was still my own. It was still unique. And I presented an idea that not others may have considered before.

These were all examples of being innovative.

So How Can We Be Innovative?

At the end of the day, the name of the game has been to this point that we were writing for other writers. For sure there may be some readers on this platform, but they were a small group at the time.

To this point it’s been writers reading other writers work and supporting them. It’s been a bit of a group effort of us feeding off of one another and helping one another out.

Much like with Tsū so long ago.

It’s still the same case right now, but what’s changed is where the money has been going. Instead of people passively clapping and reading here and there, Medium encourages us to read more.

It’s why featured articles have those big name artists. People already know who they are.

People also use fancier and custom images. Not to mention taking their own photo shots. People have built brands around it but also they are appealing.

And if that isn’t enough they’ve got killer headlines as well that make you curious and want you to click on them.

The attention has shifted from writers attracting writers, to writers attracting readers.

There’s a huge difference.

A writer will read through an article, look at the style and maybe learn a few things.

Readers are here to consume information.

While some writers certainly are consumers the amount of learning is smaller than someone who’s purpose is to actually read.

When we buy a book, we’re reading for the knowledge. We don’t care about how the person wrote their book. Even if we happen to be a writer.

That attitude shifts when we are on this website. After all, Medium wants us to create. So we jump into writer mode as opposed to being a reader.

As such, being innovative is going back to what we do on our sites.

How do we attract actual readers?

We go the extra mile to get good pictures. Some of them we shoot ourselves.

We respond to comments, and engage with the community.

We make compelling headlines that make people want to read through it and share it at the end.

And above all we create our own little audience of readers who keep coming back and we give them a reason. Whether that’s our unique form of writing, the fact we do a shit tonne of research, or something else.

We are innovative with our traffic for our blog and now Medium wants us to do the same here.

Medium Created A Survival-Of-The-Fittest Challenge, But Not Really

The closest thing I can say Medium has created for us indie writers with these changes is a survival of the fittest challenge. But not necessarily in a battle of strength.

But a battle of wits and willpower.

Medium is weeding out those who are giving up. These are the people who see their lackluster earnings and are complaining about it:

“Medium has gone to the dark side.”
“Medium doesn’t care about indie writers.”

While I will admit Medium is doing a shit job taking care of writers who do works of fiction and poems, that treatment isn’t directed towards every single writer on this platform.

At the very least Medium should be more open to presenting poems and works of fiction. Particularly those that have more deep meaningful morals behind them.

But those who make those complaints are outside of that sphere too and write about politics, business, faith, and more.

That is a dead sign that someone’s will power is shaking. Even if they think they’ll stick around and “fight the system” they’re doing it in a roundabout way.

They’re still scratching their head and doing the same thing over and over again. And if that doesn’t work, they complain and thus they knock their will to fight down another peg.

Then, Medium “shits on the indie writer some more” and all hell breaks loose. People start to feel scared, angry, frustrated and more.

But at the end of the day, this is all a lesson. Medium doesn’t need to tell us the system is changing until the day the change is made. Medium is doing that because the platform is expecting us to be innovative. To not just attract writers to our post who’ll read them, but to attract the readers that Medium is bringing to this platform en-mass.

Medium wants us to create something that gets people to think and see things in a new light. But also something that is uniquely us.

So are you willing to do that? Or are you going to complain some more?

The choice is yours.

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