Tag Archives: Medium

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?


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?

Is Medium’s Business Model Sustainable?

If you look at my archive, you’ll see at least a dozen posts on Medium. Almost all of those posts are praising Medium.

I take Medium seriously, use it as the single source of traffic, and learn a lot of lessons from my Medium stats. It’s an excellent platform for readers, writers, and humanity.

In short, I’m a fan of Medium. Nevertheless, I don’t believe in its business model, and I’ll explain why.

The Number of Paid Memberships Is Growing

In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, shares the progress of Medium’s subscription business.

Mr. Williams shares a chart of the daily new members and the total number of members. Both numbers seem to be growing, but there aren’t actual numbers on the chart. We don’t know whether the total number of premium members are 10K, 100K, or 1M.

50K Weekly Writers, 80M Monthly Unique Visitors

Mr. Williams cites other stats. More than 50K writers publish at least once a week on Medium. Medium received more than 80M unique visitors in a recent 30 day period. Those are some strong numbers.

There is a critical question to be asked though.

What is the conversion rate of the 50K writers and 80M unique visitors to premium members?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think that conversion rate is high enough to sustain Medium in the long run.

Spotify’s Value Proposal

To justify the premium membership model, Mr. Williams mentions other businesses based on similar models. One of his examples is Spotify.

I’m a premium Spotify member since it became available where I live. There’s a huge difference between Spotify’s premium and free offering.

  • Ad-free
  • Unlimited skips
  • Listen offline
  • Play any track
  • High-quality audio

That difference is worth more than the 100 I pay them every year, especially considering their vast, ever-growing back catalog.

Medium Premium’s Value Proposal

I don’t see a difference that is worth $50 / year between the free and premium versions of Medium.

  • Premium posts don’t have marketing messages, not even links to email newsletters.
  • You can save stories to an offline reading list.
  • There are some commissioned stories.
  • You can listen to the audio versions of popular stories.

Medium Premium’s Competition

In the premium content space, Medium’s offering can’t compete with Kindle and Audible as far as I’m concerned.

In the free content space, Medium is the biggest competitor of its own premium membership business. In the free audio segment, there are more than enough quality podcasts.

While trying to prove his case, Mr. Williams is making some sad remarks in his post.

“There is — and probably always will be — a surplus of free content. But that’s like saying there’s a surplus of free food in the dumpster behind the alley.” Ev Williams [1]

“Will people just lower their standards? Perhaps. In fact, our standards have been gradually lowering for years. We’ll read crap on the web we wouldn’t have put up with in print.” Ev Williams [1]

Free Content Isn’t Necessarily Crap

I don’t read “free crap” on the web. The posts that I read on Medium aren’t the content equivalent of the free food in the dumpster.

I always have a Kindle book or an Audible audiobook as an alternative. I read a free Medium post, because I think I’m going to get something out of it. The cost of a Kindle book is irrelevant to me compared to the time I invest in it.

Who decides that the premium content on Medium is better than the free content on Medium? What is the decision criteria?

A Medium post is premium, because its author decided so. Outside of the no marketing rule, there are no criteria that separate a premium post from a free post, as far as I can see.

What’s the motivation to provide outstanding content on Medium?

A writer can have several motivations.

  • Spread ideas.
  • Get some exposure.
  • Build an audience.
  • Market products or services.
  • Make some money.

A paid membership website isn’t the best way to spread your ideas, get exposure, and build an audience. Marketing isn’t welcome in premium posts. Money isn’t significant either.

“In February 2018, 56% of authors who published at least one story for members earned money — making $58.45 on average for the month.” Medium Marketing Message [2]

Sure someone made $9K in a month, and a post made $1K, but those figures are possibly outliers. They probably don’t represent a reliable income. If I were that writer, I wouldn’t get a mortgage counting on that $9K monthly income.

Buy a Membership to Support Medium

You might argue that you have a Medium membership, because you want to support Medium’s cause. I acknowledge that. I donated to Wikipedia and other non-profits in the past.

I could buy a Medium membership to support it. However, that’s not the point. Medium doesn’t ask us to donate them money.

Medium is trying to sell us something as a for-profit company. There’s nothing wrong with that. I evaluate Medium as a commercial product, not as a non-profit.


Medium’s premium program doesn’t provide sufficient value to the consumers. It doesn’t offer enough value to the writers either.

If the subscription model can’t satisfy the primary stakeholders, how is it going to become a sustainable business?

The subscription model doesn’t convince me, but there are other business models that Medium can use. I’m going to publish a post about one of them tomorrow.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about Medium’s subscription-based business model?
  • Are you a premium member?
  • If so, what made you a premium member?
  • If not, what keeps you from becoming a premium member?

Medium Is Great for Bloggers, Readers, and Humanity, but There Is Some Room for Improvement

Medium is great for humanity, because it acts like a Trojan horse in our smartphones. Smartphones are destroying our attention span.

Short clips, streams of blurbs and pictures are replacing books. In this environment, Medium is providing an alternative to all of that digital candy.

Medium posts aren’t a replacement for a book. Most of us write our posts taking into account the short attention span of online readers.

In either case, Medium posts are much better than most of the digital candy in your pocket. It requires you to stay focused on a piece of content for a few minutes.

Medium is great for readers, because it provides readers with a steady stream of brilliant posts and the opportunity to interact with the writers and other readers.

Medium is great for bloggers, because it provides them with a large audience of readers. Personal blogs have a difficult time building an audience. This has always been the case.

With the introduction of smartphones and apps, the number of blog readers is shrinking even more. In this age, Medium is like an oasis for bloggers.

Medium Stats Teach You Lessons

Once you publish a sufficient amount of posts, you have a decent set of stats. You can use those stats to learn your lessons on blogging and to improve your craft.

Interaction with Readers

The opportunity to interact with the readers is great for the writers. I’ve been blessed with a steady stream of responses to my posts and I’m grateful for that. That feedback is critical for any content provider.

  • Comments indicate that your content is resonating with people.
  • Your readers give you a direction by telling you what they like about your posts.
  • Your readers give you new ideas to write about.

That discussion is valuable for the readers as well. They are able to influence the writers with their feedback. They can ask questions and receive answers. As a result, everybody wins.

Medium Is My Single Source of Traffic

It’s a risk for a blogger to depend on a single source of traffic. When I take into account all the benefits above, I’m willing to take that risk. As a blogger, I’m fine with using Medium as the single source of traffic to my website.

Medium Is Great for Discussions

If you read my post called Is Commenting on Medium a Reliable Strategy to Grow the Audience of Your Blog?, you might think that I changed my mind. I didn’t.

Commenting is great to interact with other writers. It’s just not an efficient way to grow your audience. Actually, I might have found why it isn’t.

A Point of Improvement for Medium

Commenting might not work, because Medium is suppressing some comments. They are probably trying to minimize spam comments this way and it works. Spam is almost non-existent on Medium.

I understand that Medium is hiding some comments, but there’s room for improvement in how Medium processes comments.

Medium Notifications Are Less Than Optimal

As a writer, I expect to receive an email for every comment I receive. That is not the case at the moment. I found that out after finding old comments by chance.

I received some decent comments written by new members. I didn’t receive an email about them. I wasn’t able to clap for them or respond to them. As a result, those comments remained hidden.

New Member Responses Are Not Notified to the Writers

How would you feel about Medium, if you signed up just to comment a post, took your time to write a decent comment, and then, your comment remained hidden and you didn’t receive a response from the writer?

Would you keep using Medium? I believe this practice hurts the new user acquisition number of Medium.

A Better Way to Display Notifications to Writers

You might say that it’s my responsibility to check my notifications and find all of those comments. Unfortunately, with the dozens of notifications I receive every day, Medium’s notifications are useless to me.

In order for them to be useful to me, they have to satisfy the following requirements.

  • They need to be accessible on a separate page of their own like Facebook.
  • I should be able to mark them as read. Now, once they are displayed on the screen, they are marked as read.

Medium iOS App Has the Best Notification Settings

Luckily, I found a workaround to this problem. In the iOS app, there are three options for push notifications for responses.

  • Off
  • Tailored for you
  • Everyone

The default is “tailored for you” and I chose “everyone.” I’ll see how this works out. I’d really like to see the “everyone” option for email notifications.

I’d like to receive an email for every response receive. That would make the task of processing responses much easier. In the meantime, if I missed a comment of you, I apologize.


Medium benefits bloggers, readers, and humanity in different ways. As a writer, I appreciate it so much that I use it as the exclusive source of my traffic.

There is one update I’d like to see on Medium though. That is to receive an email for every response that my posts receive.

I also suggest that Medium handles new user comments with care. Otherwise, they might lose some of those users forever.

Your Turn

If you know a tool that processes Medium notifications and creates to do lists out of them, please let me know in the comments.