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How Medium Works With Writers

We’re investing heavily in editorial and the Partner Program

As many of you have noticed, we’ve been building out a team of editors and curators at Medium over the last several months. This is exciting. Our goal is simple: put terrific stories in front of our readers and, notably, our subscribers.

Writers are motivated by different things, so we work with them in a number of ways. Some writers want to work with an editor, others do not. Some want to reach as many people as possible, others want to reach a targeted, hyper-engaged audience of their industry peers. Some, but not all, want to earn money for their work.

So our editorial team is versatile and varied. Some of us are commissioning stories. We have exclusive columnists, like the feminist writer Jessica Valenti and the longtime tech and media thinker douglas rushkoff; we also commission reported features, essays, explainers, and diverse voices all the time. We just published a whole book. Finally, we really like collections at Medium; they possess an internal logic that’s pleasing to readers (and they’re fun for editors to put together, too). You can find them all over here.

Medium’s business model is designed to serve writers and readers — that’s it.

In Medium magazine, which debuted in June and has a new theme every month — like July’s Future Human and October’s Power Trip — we publish stories by journalists and other writers we admire. We also put together topic-based collections, such as The Crypto Collection, The Edge of Adulthood, or The Art of Code. Many of these collections contain both commissioned stories as well as great stories by writers on the platform. (This one features all writers who self-publish on Medium, and it’s awesome.)

One of the most interesting aspects of our editorial operation is the growing team of editors dedicated to scouring the self-published stories on Medium each day to find expert and emerging voices that we want to share with readers. When we find stories we love, which happens many, many times every day, we reach out to the writer.

We’ll workshop their piece to varying degrees, as well as giving it a copy edit, production support, and nice art, and then we promote it. Many of these stories also get featured on the homepage and app or included in themed collections, where they live alongside commissioned stories.

When we find stories we love on the platform, which happens many, many times every day, we reach out to the writer.

Some of those indie writers are in the Partner Program, which anyone can join, and when they do, they stand to earn money based on engagement with their work. (What’s especially cool about the Partner Program is that writers can continue to earn cash on a story as long as members continue to engage with it — kind of like royalties.) There are tens of thousands of people in the Partner Program, and we’ve been working with a growing number of them directly.

Lastly, while poking around Medium, you may have also noticed more book excerpts. We’re excited about these and have a full-time editor finding forthcoming books we think Medium readers will love. (She’s also the editor behind the aforementioned book we published by a former Google exec, whose work, while fiction, reads like a tell-all.) We pay competitively to license these excerpts the same way we would commission a story; we don’t sell placement to publishers.

Before I go: Medium’s business model is designed to serve writers and readers — that’s it. It’s why we moved away from the race-to-the-bottom incentives of advertising, not to mention its distracting banners, junky pop-ups, sponsored recirc units, auto-play video, and data trackers that follow you around the internet. You won’t see any of that on Medium, and that’s because we don’t accept advertising. Instead, we have a metered paywall and a subscription service, which costs $5 per month or $50 per year.

For those not up on the industry lingo, here’s how a metered paywall works: Everyone can read several paywalled stories for free every month; people who subscribe can read them all. (You can read an explanation from our founder and CEO Ev Williams on why we launched the paywall, and you can get more detail about the model from Ev and from a recent Digiday article about our subscription business, and how it’s working.)

It is indeed working very well so far — which is great news for writers, because as our business grows, so does our investment in paying them well for their work. Our editorial budget increases every month as subscribers increase, which is happening quickly. We also spend a comparatively small amount of money syndicating stories from other publications that we present to our subscribers ad-free. (NB: Syndicated and commissioned stories do not earn money from the pool we use to pay Partner Program writers.) By the end of the year, we will have spent nearly $5 million in 2018 alone paying commissioned and Partner Program writers for their work.

We are always working — with writers and with each other — to make this place special.

Medium was built for writers, and we believe it remains the best place on the internet for writing and reading. Thank you for helping us make it great.

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Siobhan O'Connor

Siobhan O'Connor

I write and edit, usually in that order. Priors: VP, Editorial @Medium, exec editor at TIME, exec editor at Prevention, features at GOOD magazine etc.