Instead of crushing your confidence for the low price of just $5 a month, save your money and buy a latte instead.
Like many up-and-coming writers, I was lured into Medium’s Partner Program by promises of organic growth. I looked forward to thoughtful insights from their curation team, and I hoped to gain a bit of exposure while connecting with writers around the world. However, I quickly found that their Partner Program had many fatal flaws that make it impossible for most writers to achieve success on Medium.
After doing a bit of research on the brief-but-turbulent history of the Medium Partner Program, as well as conducting a little experiment of my own, I found countless other writers who are just as dissatisfied with the site as me. For the overwhelming majority of new users, Medium offers disappointment rather than success—and it’s time to expose their empty promises once and for all.
Medium has a proven track record of leading writers on in the beginning
Picture this: You finally cave in and sign up for Medium. Although you’ve heard how hard it is to find success on the platform, to your surprise, all your articles are instantly curated. Naturally, you feel like you’ve struck gold. You’re one of the lucky few that will find success on Medium! You start writing your heart out, and you even go and tell your friends and family about this awesome new site that they just have to join. You may even be lucky enough to see the dollars start rolling in. You’re more motivated than ever to continue creating awesome content to publish on Medium.
However, next month, things start to go downhill. Suddenly, your articles aren’t getting curated instantly and without second thought. Your first rejection stings more than you thought it would, and your confidence is shaken. Still, you vow to try harder next week. The curator must have made a mistake, you tell yourself. Maybe they were having a bad day. After all, Medium has been good to you so far, and all the signs are pointing to success and organic growth.
Next week, your article gets published again: Phew. The dollars from last month’s articles are still trickling in, and everything seems great again . . . Until next month, when the rejections become the norm rather than an anomaly. Sadly, you realize that not a single article you submit anymore is getting curated, no matter how hard you try.
It’s a story as old as the Medium Partner Program itself, and a phenomenon that many writers around the globe have noticed. Medium is becoming notorious for building writers up in the beginning, then casting them aside to focus on brainwashing the next slew of new arrivals with false promises of success and exposure.
If your work isn’t curated, you won’t get any views . . .
Most writers will find that if the curators (a.k.a. gatekeepers) don’t share their stories, their work collects dust with single-digit views for weeks at a time. Unlike other sites, there’s no way for readers to “stumble upon” your articles organically if the curators reject it. In my experience, the search bar on Medium simply leads to—you guessed it—a selection of stories with tons of claps, hand-selected by the curators. Therefore, unlike Instagram or Twitter, tags won’t get you anywhere unless the curators allow it.
If Medium’s goal is silencing writers and making sure their stories stay hidden without approval from an elite few, they’re doing a great job. A quick search brings up countless stories that the curators have smiled upon, complete with hundreds of claps. However, there’s no way to sort by “new” articles. The default search simply brings you to a list of the “most popular” stories, which leaves the majority of Medium Writers in the shadows with no hope of exposure.
. . . But the curators might not even read your writing half the time
Now I realize that without evidence to back it up, this is a bold claim. That’s why I’ve included this screenshot of a poem I recently published, which should be a real eye-opener for anyone who thinks I’m coming up with conspiracy theories over here.
As you can see, my poem has one view, but a read ratio of 0%. but After six hours of sitting on the site, my single view came from the curator who rejected it: And they didn’t even read the entire thing through from start to finish.
If this were a 20-page manifesto, I’d understand their lack of interest. However, we’re talking a couple paragraphs here. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had my work rejected without the curators even bothering to read the article in its entirety. I’ll be honest, this was the thing that pushed me over the edge and encouraged me to finally cancel my membership.
Off-Site Promotion is Useless
Since my articles weren’t getting curated anymore, I decided to do a little experiment where I promoted them offsite to gain views my own way. It was quite successful, and one of my articles ended up getting over 2,000 views in a single day from me promoting on Reddit.
However, despite my overzealous efforts to inform people around the globe of seedy internet skull prices, I made a lousy $4 from the article. I brought 2,700 new visitors (and potential Medium customers) to the site, but since not many people “clapped” for the article through the Partner Program, my efforts were basically thankless. I would have been much better off promoting the article through my own site instead, but again: this was all for the purpose of experimentation.
My conclusion? If your story isn’t curated, promoting your Medium article offsite is a waste of time. Don’t be fooled by Medium’s promise of a payout: Your self-promotion efforts are far more valuable when you can bring readers to your own site and market your services to them directly.
No matter how many views you get, you won’t see much of a payout if your article isn’t curated—because all that matters is applause, not views. And without the gatekeepers’—I mean, curators’—blessing, you won’t get anywhere on Medium. You’d be much better off distributing links to your own blog, where you can advertise your services and get readers to sign up for an email list.
Also, to be fair, this little experiment taught me a lot about self-promotion and gaining traffic without relying on the curators—which is far more valuable than a pat on the back from Medium.
There’s no such thing as organic growth on Medium
In your first weeks on the site, it may seem like the “organic growth” you were promised when you signed up is completely obtainable. However, when you take a closer look at the curation system, you’ll find that any growth you experience isn’t organic at all—but orchestrated by a team of “curators” whose qualifications are mysterious at best. And if your material doesn’t fit into their narrow little narrative, you’re out of luck. Organic growth on Medium is a pipedream, because the curators won’t allow it for most writers. And until that changes, I’ll be focusing my efforts elsewhere.
Will Medium Up its Game?
A curation process veiled in mystery on a site where curator approval means everything: It’s a recipe for countless disappointed writers. Is Medium’s time in the sun coming to an end? Personally, I won’t be recommending the site to my friends or family any time this century, unless Medium seriously ups its game.
Keep in mind that the contents of this article reflect my own personal experience, and yours could be very different. Who knows, you could even be the curators’ next Golden Child, beloved by bored office workers and quirky housewives everywhere.
I appreciate how clearly you articulated these points, which have been bothering me for quite some time as well.
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Thank you for the kind words! I did my best to explain everything as clearly as possible, and to provide compelling evidence.
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Thanks for speaking up about it and actually voicing your concerns. Most people simply don’t bother, and that’s partially how manipulative tactics like what you’re describing go unchecked.
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Great article! We need more people like you to talk about what’s going on with Medium in 2019. Things change so much on that platform it’s a waste of time to bother with any older posts about Medium.
May I include a link to this article in my own piece I’m writing on my website?
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Sure, I’d be honored if you linked back to my article! And please share a link to the article when you’re done, I’d love to read it. Medium seemed like a very promising site when I signed up, but it ended up being disappointment after disappointment. I haven’t really used it much since I posted this article, but I can imagine it’s probably only getting worse as time goes on.
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A very interesting read. Thanks for sharing your experiences with Medium. Currently I’m a active reader and I reject the story’s shown by the curators. I only follow writers directly so I get them in my network.
But after reading your article here I’ve decided to end my paid membership. It’s a shame how Medium works. The only good point is, there are no auto renewal of these membership. Simply let them gone with the wind. 🙂
Greetings from Germany
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I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! It really makes me happy to see that people around the world are benefitting from it. Thanks again for taking the time to read what I had to say about Medium.
Erica, thank you so much for the article. It was very well written with a lot of useful information for those considering joining Medium.
I have had my own personal experience with the website a few months back where I seriously considered joining but there were just too many questions so I backed out.
So glad I did.
Thanks again, Erica
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I really appreciate the kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog post. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to agree that Medium isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Oh well–on to greener pastures, I suppose!
After experimenting with Medium and being confused, used, and disappointed, I looked for articles on its viability and found you. You just saved me from an abyss.
Great article. I will mention in of my post that I am writing with similar experience.
Always knew that Medium was a Breakfast Club of sorts. To me, any blogger who thinks they can get away with the shortcut of looking to other platforms to feature their content isn’t a real blogger. Do the legwork of making content on your own blog and letting others seek out your work organically by having lots of really awesome articles that can be searched out easily.
New to Medium, and everything’s happened as you’ve described. So confusing–until I read this post. Thanks for shining a light on it all.
I’ve been doing Medium off and on for a couple of years now. I didn’t even understand what it was all about when I first signed up, I just figured it was another blogging platform.
I was only a member for a month (they offered me a free month after selecting one of my pieces to be part of their audio program) and never renewed, but I’ve still had several pieces curated. The problem is, EVEN when they are curated, almost no one on Medium reads them. Pretty much all of my hits come from FB, where I have a decent presence, and almost no one who gets linked to Medium understands the clap thing so it’s very rare I get applause, and even then it’s just one because they think it’s the same as a “like.”
I’ve been tempted to sign up again, but I tend to write longer form stuff and most all of the articles that I see blowing up there are 3 – 6 minute reads. A couple of my shorter pieces did get some hits at Medium but I feel like it’s a waste of time and now I’m super sensitive about applause which is just distracting.
The system seems to be much worse now that the new payment system has been implemented. I am a poet, and as such, am literally being paid in cents on Medium. In contrast, I see a proliferation of long-winded, cut-pasted articles on “how to make money on Medium”, that re-hash and cannibalize content from other writers.
I still post on Medium, but I have withdrawn my membership. Prior to the new payment system, I would have felt guilty about withdrawing my support to the other talented poets – however, when Medium is paying in cents, the point is rather moot.
I’m so glad I found this. With 4.5 million Quora views, I figured that would translate into some money on medium. But now I realize it won’t unless the wizards behind the curtain decide to ordain me. If it happens? Great. If it doesn’t…I know to move on. I’ve just started and had my first piece rejected. I’ve posted two more and thanks to you, I now know that if I don’t earn significant money, I can move on with no regrets and return to Quora where I won’t have to satisfy some sanctimonious curator to make coffee money.
I just had my first article curated and featured on Medium. The editors gutted my work and distributed a substandard piece of writing that gets claps, but is embarrassing to claim as mine. What readers once described as “edgy” and “very well written” is now half its length and dull. Should I grin and bear it? Do I take the little money and run?
Thank you for your observations! Yes, it is time of the year to prune my monthly payments, and to use my old Michigan Daily terminology, this has it the cutting room floor. I just list Medium as my blog for those who want to visit it. What is unclear to me is whether I can still add stories or links to my op-eds and so forth. I only came here after some people I respect seemed to be using it. Good buy “partner” program for now! https://michaelalandover.medium.com/
Thank you for your honest post! I wanted to start a Medium blog but posts like yours are making me think more cautiously about my decision.
I believe they have changed their monetisation criteria now so it is no longer based on claps and rather how long someone spends reading your article. Would be interested to get your thoughts on that! 😃
Thanks for your well and thoroughly explained reasons to leave Medium. I’m there, ready to cancel my membership, for all the reasons you went through which I had not even realized but suspected.
This post is an old one, you may not even read me, but I have a question: will the links to my stories posted on Medium remain on it even after I stop being a member? I know they would be floating in a limbo, void ‘place’, but if I ever share the link to one of my stories still be found?