Three Alternative Revenue Sources for Medium

In yesterday’s post, I explained why Medium’s subscription business isn’t sustainable. In essence, it satisfies neither readers nor writers.

I’m a big fan of Medium, and I want it to succeed. That’s why I’m going to share alternative income sources for Medium in this post.

Current Model Is Good for Users But Unsustainable

I’m not motivated by my interests when criticizing the current model and proposing alternatives. The current model is more beneficial for me than the one I suggest.

The current model gives me an excellent, ad-free platform to publish my posts and reach a significant audience. I’m afraid this won’t last long.

I propose a model that is less beneficial for me in the short term, but that will keep Medium afloat longer. That way, it will benefit us, writers and readers, in the long run.

Let’s go over the three alternative income sources for Medium.

Charge Writers for Publishing on Medium

Publishing on Medium is a privilege, and it should be treated as such.

If you charge for the opportunity to post on Medium, writers will approach the platform with greater respect.

Similar to the current system, a writer can publish three posts for free in a given month. That gives an opportunity to everybody to publish on the platform. Anything more than that will require the writer to pay Medium.

Writers would pay Medium for the exposure they get and for the audience they reach. That exposure and audience aren’t available anywhere else for free. It has a value that can be monetized.

What about Comments?

In this system, commenting will be free. If someone wants to publish a 45-minute post as a comment, that’s fine.

If my observations are correct, comments aren’t distributed as widely as standalone posts. Therefore, the writers who publish their posts as comments won’t get as much distribution as the writers who pay the subscription fee.

Charge Writers for Increased Distribution of Their Posts

Medium is a post distribution mechanism.

Writers benefit from getting their posts distributed to a relevant audience. They could increase their benefits by getting their posts distributed to more people. They could pay for that extra distribution.

I assume Medium is considering several criteria when distributing a post to an audience. These criteria might include the engagement of the readers, the tags of the post, the followers of the writer, and so on.

Each criterion has a weight in calculating the relevance score of a post to a reader. The posts with a higher score are displayed in a higher position to a reader.

We can add one more criterion to this overall score: the amount of cash paid by the writer.

I suggest keeping the weight of the distribution fee between 10% and 20% in the overall score of a post. If this weight is lower than 10%, writers won’t find it interesting to pay the distribution fee. If it is above 20%, the overall quality of the platform will suffer.

Sell Privacy Protection Packages

Nowadays, data is a gold mine, and privacy is a problem. In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, states that Medium doesn’t sell data to third parties. This is an uncommon practice on the web.

Almost all digital products and services collect user data and sell it to third parties. This practice is a source of income for many websites.

By not selling data to third parties, Medium is benefiting its users. It’s only fair for Medium to charge for that benefit.

As I explained in my post on privacy, I recommend online businesses to offer two types of memberships to their users.

The first type is the free membership. Free memberships are subsidized by selling user data to third parties. This is the current online standard. Most of the websites, products, and services you use on a daily basis are funded with this system.

Privacy Protected Premium Memberships

The second type is a privacy-protected premium membership. In this tier, user data is not sold to third parties, but the user pays for the benefit.

Medium is leaving a lot of money on the table by not collecting and selling data to third parties. This alone could beat the income from their current paid membership model.

It Isn’t Possible to Safeguard Data Anyway

You might oppose this model, but third parties probably collect the data you enter to Medium and sell it further.

If you use Google’s Chrome browser or the Android OS, Google is collecting and commercializing your data anyway, even when you use Medium.

Even if you don’t use Google products, data finds its way to third parties. Here’s an experience I had recently.

My Medium Comment Leaked to YouTube

I access Medium only via Firefox on a Windows PC and Medium’s iOS app. Recently, I added a comment about IKEA to a Medium post. A few hours later, YouTube started to show me IKEA ads on another device.

I have no idea how that data is leaked to Google, but it leaked anyway. Data finds its way to third parties. Why not sell it yourself and charge the people who want to protect their privacy?

Conclusion

Medium’s current subscription-based business model doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run. There are three alternative revenue sources for Medium.

  • Charge writers to publish on Medium
  • Charge writers to increase their distribution on Medium
  • Commercialize the data of the free users and sell privacy protection packages to premium users.

These revenue sources seem to put readers and writers in a disadvantaged position in the short term, but they are more sustainable than the current model in the long run.

If the current model fails, we will lose Medium altogether. Paying for publishing posts, increased distribution, and privacy protection is a small price to pay to keep Medium afloat.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about the revenue sources proposed in this post?
  • Do you have alternative revenue sources for Medium?
Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.