So when I heard about Medium’s latest round of changes—particularly a new referral program
, as well as limitations on who could join the existing partner program—I was of two minds about it. In one sense, I’m one of a handful of people who has made some real money from publishing on Medium over the years, though certainly collectively not enough to buy, say, a new car. (Maybe a used one with a little rust on the underside.) I have seen what happens when a piece successfully hits on the platform, and the impact it can really have.
But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if Medium, in having to rely on writers to bring in referrals to get paid, have now flipped the value proposition. In 2013, the entire goal of Medium was that, if you were a writer just starting out, and you kept at it, Medium could bring you some eyeballs in a way traditional blogging hadn’t been able to. Now, Medium needs the influence you can bring in to ensure that it can make the program viable. And that clearly favors people who already have an audience—an audience that they can monetize more effectively in other ways if they so choose. Now granted, from a consumer perspective, Medium is arguably a better value proposition than signing up for a Patreon. Rather than just getting one guy’s thoughts, you get access to an entire network. But it still is a significant change in execution.
So I kind of go back to the post I wrote way back in 2013, on the day that I joined Medium. Is writing to bring in referrals for Medium still writing for yourself? You’re not writing for free, but you’re building the community for Medium. I’m not sure I have the answer. But as a writer that have been there since nearly the beginning, I’m hopeful that this is the last big change in model for a company has seen far too many of them.
But something tells me this might not be.