How to Make Money on Medium and What’s Great About the Platform
What if I told you there is a place for your blog that has a built-in audience of 750k paid members and 160 million readers each month, helps rank your posts high on google with its domain authority of 95 (N.B. some SEO knowhow is required), lets you build an audience, and pays you while doing so? And you don’t have to put all your money into crypto and bankrupt yourself in the process.
Welcome to my favorite blogging platform —Medium!
My Viral Post and Views
My first blog post on Medium recently celebrated its (gender-neutral) first birthday. It has 57 views and has earned me $1.04. It’s not the illustrious viral hit I hoped would see me comfortably into my retirement. But in its defense, I knew nothing about writing catchy headlines or SEO at the time. And since my fledgling post, I have had a viral hit and a cluster of mini-viral posts.
My viral hit has been viewed 133k times but, sadly, only received $68.10 at the time of writing. My paltry earnings-to-views ratio was the result of only having 2% of its views from Medium members and the remaining 98% from non-medium members — people that came across my post because it ranked high on Google. One of my semi-viral pieces, however, which is 2 months old, has been viewed 6k times, with 45% of those coming from internal views, and earned me $207.45 at the time of writing. I’m still a little tadpole on Medium, so this shows what little frog wannabes can do. The whales, however… can earn a handsome living solely from Medium’s read time alone. But the behemoths are few and far between.
How Medium Pays You
So what are internal views and how do you get paid? Internal views are those views by Medium members. Medium members pay $5 per month or $50 p/year to read an unlimited number of Medium posts, of which there are millions. But it’s not the views you’re paid for; it’s read time.
The views graph below shows a blue spike on the 28th of September 2022. That blue spike is the number of external views (internal views are in green).
On the same date, the graph below shows my article’s earnings. You can see on this graph there is no spike on 28th September 2022, unlike the views graph above. As you may have gathered, this is because on that day there were very few internal reads and mostly external ones — which don’t count for earnings.
If a medium member were to read only the title and first sentence of your post (which would count as a view), you’ll be paid less than when a member reads the whole of your article. And the longer your post the longer the read time and the more you earn. So, in a nutshell, views are more of a vanity metric and high read time is the goal.
There are other nuances such as a member that has only read a single post in a month will be worth more and have a higher read-time rate than a reader that has read 200 posts, in the same month, prior to reading yours. This is down to the reader’s membership fee ($5) not being split multiple ways among other authors (because he didn’t read any before you) — whereas in the second case, it’s split among the 200 authors. But all that stuff is out of your control, and we don’t need to get stuck in the weeds, especially when Medium is looking to improve the formula by which it pays its writers.
Plus, Tony Stubblebine, Medium’s new CEO, has been making noises for writers to be paid for their external reads. How this will work I do not know…
Other Ways To Earn Money Through Medium
But payment for reading time of your content is not the only way Medium remunerates its writers. Medium has a “referred members” program.
Let’s say you read my post and are so enamored with my writing; you want to sign up to read the rest of my articles that are behind Medium’s paywall (Medium allows non-members to read three locked stories per month free.) and all the other millions of articles. Medium provides each writer with a personal Medium-membership link to post in their stories (usually at the end). If you click on my personal link and sign-up through me, I receive 50% percent of the $5 membership you pay each month for however long you remain a member. So this is another incentive to produce the best content you can.
But being paid directly by Medium isn’t the only way to earn money on the platform.
Medium also allows embedding affiliate links in your posts. You should err on the side of caution here, though. Medium does not allow advertisement: “Sponsored content, content marketing, or stories whose sole purpose are to gather signups/traffic” and “posting content primarily to drive traffic or increase the search rankings of an external site, product, or service” are not allowed. Affiliate links have to be part of a story without overt marketing and sales content. It’s a grey area you will need to navigate, but affiliate marketing can prove lucrative given Medium comes with an audience.
With Medium’s high domain authority (95) and some SEO know-how, you can rank high on google, which means more traffic and more affiliate-link revenue if you choose to go that route. I ranked above national UK newspapers for a piece I posted on Medium covering the murder of two women. And this was without any deliberate S.E.O.
And Medium has tremendous reach. In August 2021 alone, over 160 million people visited the website, and it boasts a whopping 725,000 paying members. So there is an inbuilt audience to be had, providing you please the algorithm and readers before you even reach for the google day-trippers and external readers. And those visitors and members are sometimes business owners looking for skilled writers.
What Type Of People Writes On Medium?
Zulie Rain is a prominent writer on the platform and a good, but not a typical, case study. She has been approached by various companies to produce content for their businesses. And the bulk of her income comes from freelance work via her Medium posts and courses on how to succeed on Medium. That’s to say, there are good networking possibilities on the platform.
Medium isn’t a quick cash grab, though. It’s about building an audience of loyal readers over the long term. This is why you need to be realistic about the investment-reward ratio when first starting out. It’s best to devote a limited portion of your time to it every week set around other areas of income or a full-time job. Your Medium-dedicated time will accumulate and pay off down the road. But patience and time are key.
Like my first post on the platform, although it has earned me a meager $1.04, is still able to earn money for as long as I stay a member of the Medium Partner Programme (MPP). And when you build a catalog of content, your big-hitter posts with high views and reads will boost older articles as people check out your back catalog.
With Medium you can build a portfolio of your work to link to future clients. The text editor and interface are clean and of a high standard, allowing you to showcase your writing in a polished and professional format. And this is why it attracts people like Obama, Natalie Portman, Patrick Stewart, and journalists for The Atlantic, NY Times, and The New Yorker, such as Olga Khazan, Donald G. McNeil Jr., and Susan Orlean, respectively.
The $22,000 Blog Post
There are many success stories on Medium; but in terms of one-off potential, this post on Elon Musk earned its author, as of six months ago, over $22,000 through Medium reads alone. I hazard to guess a lot of luck led to the sort of success a single blog post like receives from an unknown writer with a small following. But it shows what can be achieved.
However, there are certain caveats to earning through the MPP: firstly, Medium uses Stripe for all their payments to its members in the MPP, and not all countries support Stripe. Secondly, as of early this year, Medium changed its policy for writers to qualify for the MPP. You now need a minimum of 100 followers before being accepted into the scheme. Although a new hurdle, it’s relatively easy to achieve through regular posting and commenting on other writers’ work.
Growing Your Audience
Another really good way to boost your followers and reach bigger audiences is to be published in publications.
You can either self-publish, which is simply publishing to your Medium page and hoping people find it through its tags and the algorithm, or submit your post to a publication. Publications are dedicated spaces on Medium that curate your work, alongside other writers, for people to read. Generally, a publication centers around an interest, like writing, politics, finance and entrepreneurship, etc. And the bigger the publication the more readers and opportunities for your post to reach a bigger audience.
So why would you self-publish?
Publications have guidelines you need to follow and standards to meet for your work to be accepted and published. And some publications have higher standards and take longer than others to evaluate, edit (if need be) and finally publish your post — providing they accept it in the first place. Plus, there are 8 or so Medium-owned publications that scour Medium for self-published posts (only) they regard as a good fit for their publication. And these publications are among the best for exposure and prestige.
Making Friends And Networking
One area of Medium I haven’t mentioned is its community. I have made friends with book editors, lawyers, and people from all sorts of different backgrounds. And Medium’s community is a boon for advice on writing and… almost anything really — plus there is the social aspect. I’m currently in a writers’ group formed of seven Medium members. We each submit work to the group and meet up over Zoom every Saturday to discuss our submissions and give feedback. We’re quite an eclectic group that spreads as far as Uganda to America and the U.K. And it’s a great way to improve your craft and motivate each other when you feel you’re writing into the void.
In addition, Medium offers the option of subscribing to a writer rather than merely following them. This ensures an email is forwarded to the subscriber every time you post. Plus, Medium provides you with the option to export your subscribers email list to use for your own personal newsletter or other ventures you may think align with your subs’ interests. This allows you to build an audience that transcends Medium to other platforms.
If you simply want to write and avoid getting bogged down with building a website and finding ways to funnel traffic to your blog, Medium is the platform for you. I’ve been writing on Medium for a little over a year and its been an edifying and rewarding experience. The writers on the platform range from novices to seasoned journalists and authors so don’t be deterred by your skill set. I encourage anyone who has the desire to write and improve their craft to try Medium.
Used/using Medium? Thoughts?
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