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.