Be part of a better internet

The internet is broken. Fixing it won’t be free.

Tony Stubblebine
The Medium Blog


This is an ode to paying to get what you want, an explanation of how Medium’s membership makes a uniquely better home on the internet, and a call to join Medium as a member. Membership is 20% off during our summer membership campaign.

The internet is broken and getting worse. It’s flooded with ads, spam, misinformation, disinformation, division, and hate.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a healthy way to talk to each other that inspires, informs, empowers, and brings people together.

At Medium, we say our purpose is to “deepen your understanding of the world.”

That’s why this moment on the internet feels even more urgent than normal. Even before Google used AI to tell us to put more glue on our pizza (really!), search results were already flooded with content that was written by or for machines, not humans.

It costs money to run a website, so publishers and platforms tried to pay for their business with ads.

It’s easy to name a root cause — ads reward any content that can grab your attention long enough to show you yet another ad, and the more the better.

Now we have decades of proof that attention-grabbing isn’t the same as good. Instead of the information superhighway that we were promised, ads gave us an internet where almost all incentives are to create cheap, high-volume, low-quality content designed to get as many eyeballs as possible.

If we want to build a better internet, we have to build different types of incentive models. That’s what we’re doing at Medium.

Everything Medium does is paid for by our members, not advertising. We’re not trying to manipulate your attention to show you more ads. Instead, we care about a much harder challenge: How can we show you a story that you will be happy to have paid to read?

We’re biased, but we believe more places on the internet should be directly funded by their users. That results in honest incentives for those platforms to simply give as much value as possible to their community (you), so the community sticks around and keeps paying.

And since Medium is free to use, this value extends beyond the Medium member community. Those who can afford to pay for a Medium membership are creating a better internet for everyone.

Think about the current state of the internet. Now, imagine how much it improves when you get the incentives right.

Imagine a place that:

  • Respects your time, free from ads and spam
  • Recommends the most informed writers, not the loudest
  • Protects you from a deluge of spam, fraud, and AI-generated content
  • Promotes deeper understanding, not misunderstanding or division
  • Rewards writers to do even more of the hard work of researching and articulating their ideas and knowledge.

Medium is one of those places. Here’s how our members are helping us build it.

#1. We are building a place that respects your time, free from ads

We already know that ads cause a broken business model with misaligned incentives. Publishers get paid for your attention, rather than the value they provide, so they want to publish clickbait, doombait, rage bait, all the baits — all to show you more ads. Readers, meanwhile, just want to read a good story.

We realigned incentives by removing ads. You want to read something good and interesting, and because you’re paying for it, we want that for you, too.

At Medium, we don’t show ads at all. As a result, Medium lets you focus on the story.

#2. We are building a place that recommends the best writers, not the loudest ones

Platforms have tried to replace authority with attention-based algorithms on the flawed theory that if it’s popular, it must be good. This has failed spectacularly to deepen our understanding of anything.

On Medium, we’ve often found that the most informed writers rarely have the time, or desire, to learn to play attention-grabbing games that other algorithms reward. So we focus on creating a platform where they don’t need to master SEO or build audiences. These skills shouldn’t be a requirement for being heard.

The voices who get pushed off the internet right now are very often the ones most worth reading. Our curation system uses subject-matter experts to spot the good stuff for you.

#3. We protect you from a deluge of spam, fraud, and AI-generated content

You’ve probably seen how bad AI-generated content can be. But you might not realize how much AI has lowered the price of creating spam.

Last year, Medium deleted and removed one million spam posts from your feeds every month. Last month we removed nearly ten million. That’s a deluge of digitally-assembled nonsense that is hitting every part of the internet. (On other platforms, spam can sometimes masquerade as yet another way to grab your attention long enough to show you an ad.)

For the most part, readers on Medium don’t see this spam wave because it’s filtered out by our engineers, our trust and safety team, our curators, and our community publication editors.

That’s a lot of work. We do more of it than other platforms simply because our members demand it.

#4. We promote deeper understanding, not misunderstanding or division

Curators on Medium focus on a set of quality guidelines to find writing that actually deepens your understanding.

There are a lot of ways for a writer to have the credibility we’re looking for, but mainly a writer earns it through deep thought, research, professional experience, and/or personal experience.

Your experience on Medium is improved by two processes here. First, we find the stories that reach this high bar and show them to you. Second, we work hard to push lazy hateful hot takes and intentionally divisive trolling completely off the site. The internet is vast and there are other places for trolls to troll.

Our preference for deeper, more compelling writing means that these guidelines are anti-partisan. Information doesn’t get better just because it has fans inside one political party. The best way to learn, and to find common ground, is to have a high bar for discussion. Anyone, regardless of political party, can come to Medium to deepen their understanding of the world.

#5. We reward writers to do the hard work of researching and articulating their ideas and knowledge

Writing is hard no matter what. But great writing requires more hard work: more research, more feedback, more revisions, more effort.

One of the hallmarks of the attention economy is that platforms incentivize content creators to make content as quickly as possible. That’s why we see so many writers outsource, copy, and use thinly-veiled plagiarism. Now they turn to AI generators, too.

But knowledge isn’t just content, and stories don’t resonate without a human voice behind them. We communicate with each other through stories because that’s the most effective way to learn and retain knowledge. To write those stories well takes time.

Medium rewards writers who put in extra work. As a result, readers enjoy a platform full of thoughtful, well-written human stories and ideas.

Look, we know Medium didn’t invent the paywall. You’ve seen them in other places that care about deepening your understanding.

But we are doing something unique and innovative. We are the only user-generated content platform that uses subscription incentives and opens those incentives up to writers. We’re proving that it changes which writers and stories succeed.

I don’t have any illusion that Medium will replace the internet. But I do think a healthier internet requires places like Medium — places that are building systems that help people spend their time and money in thoughtful ways — to exist.

If you’re like us, if you’re curious, if you’re hungry to deepen your understanding of your world, if you think we can do better than the current standard of how the internet works, then now is an important time to invest in yourself and us.

Join more than one million members to support a better place on the internet. Membership is 20% off during our summer membership campaign, now until August 17.