Improving how we calculate writer earnings

In Medium’s Partner Program, writers earn daily through a new model to reward quality writing

Emma Smith
The Medium Blog


In 2017, we launched the Medium Partner Program to fairly compensate writers for their quality stories, with unlimited potential to earn. Since then, we’ve paid more than $6 million to over 30,000 writers, increasing payouts year over year.

Today, we’re excited to announce an updated earnings model to improve how writers earn for their stories through the Partner Program.

Instead of paying based on claps as the main signal, we will now reward stories primarily based on reading time, which we’ve seen to be a closer measure of quality and resonance with readers. To increase transparency and provide richer insight to our writers, we will also introduce new stats so it’s more clear how a story’s earnings were calculated.

Here’s what’s changing as of October 28, 2019:

  1. We will calculate earnings based on the reading time of Medium members.
    We’ve found that the time that people spend reading your story reflects quality more accurately than the number of claps it receives. We want to listen to input from more of your readers, not just the ones who remember to 👏. Claps will remain a great way for readers to support stories they love. When your readers clap, they’ll boost your stories to a wider audience. And as more people read, you’ll earn.
  2. We will include reading time from non-members too, once they become members.
    If a reader finds your story and subscribes to Medium in the next 30 days, you’ll earn for their reading time.
  3. Your earnings will be updated daily, not weekly.
    We heard your feedback that it’s confusing to only see your earnings as a weekly sum. In order to minimize your time spent cross-referencing your calendar, we’ll calculate and update your earnings daily. We will still send payments once per month, which you can track via your Partner Program earnings dashboard.
  4. Your story stats will show new metrics to explain your earnings.
    We will be clearer about when your readers’ views do and do not contribute to your earnings, so you understand where your earnings come from. Along with a set of upgrades to your story stats page, we’ll now show your story’s daily member reading time — a new metric that directly contributes to your earnings.

Below we’ll describe how we will calculate earnings in greater detail.

How we calculate your story’s earnings

From the start, our goal with the Medium Partner Program has been to reward the quality stories that resonate with readers.

We recognized a broken status quo in traditional media, where advertisers were the ones indirectly paying for writing. Ultimately, this system rewarded the lowest common denominator, rather than encouraging creative autonomy and truly serving readers.

At Medium, we’ve created a different path. Your stories are directly supported by readers’ membership fees, meaning everyone’s incentives are aligned. And you can focus on what matters: writing.

In our new calculation, we’ll include two parts to your earnings. As always, we plan to continuously improve our model as we learn — and we’ll keep you informed along the way.

1. How long members spend reading your story.

As Medium members spend more time reading your story (“member reading time”), you will earn more.

We’ve improved our story stats page to show both your story’s daily total member reading time and its daily earnings, so that you can understand how much you are earning over time and where your earnings come from. Note that you will still be paid once per month.

When we calculate your story’s earnings, we’ll also include reading time from non-members if they become members within 30 days of reading your story. So we encourage you to share your stories widely!

2. How much of their monthly reading time members spend on your story.

By calculating a share of member reading time, we support authors who write about unique topics and connect with loyal readers. For example, if last month a member spent 10% of their monthly reading time on your story, you will receive 10% of their share (a portion of their subscription fee).

Imagine an author writes about fly fishing. She finds an audience of fly fishing enthusiasts who subscribe to Medium primarily to read her stories, meaning she receives a strong share of reading time from each of her readers. In contrast, an author who writes about a wide variety of topics might receive smaller shares from a broader audience of readers, who also read a variety of other authors. While the generalist will often earn a lot through the first total reading time part, the fly fisher is well equipped to earn through this share part — even with a smaller audience.

Reading time

Reading time is the time that someone spends actively reading your story. As a user reads, we measure their scrolls and take care to differentiate between short pauses (like lingering over a particularly great passage) and longer breaks (like stepping away to grab a cup of coffee). Reading time incorporates signal from your readers without hurdles. You don’t need to ask your readers to remember to clap, or click, or do anything other than read.

We believe in reading time because it represents the core value that our readers receive from Medium. It may not be a perfect measure of value, but we find that it’s a powerful proxy.

We know this is a meaningful change and the details are important, so we’ve put together this FAQ on Partner Program payments. You can also find other articles in our Help Center about writing on Medium. If you have questions, you can respond to this post below and we’ll do our best to answer quickly.

We couldn’t be more excited to bring these updates to the Partner Program. We believe it’s critical that creators are fairly compensated for their work, and we’ll keep improving in service of this goal. Thank you to all of our writers — we wouldn’t exist without you sharing your stories with the world.