October Partner Program Update
Balancing incentives in the Partner Program, preventing fraud, responding to AI-generated content, and an update on expanding to more countries
The last few months have been full of activity for the Medium Partner Program. We launched new earnings logic, instant enrollment, support for nine new countries, and a new stats page. Since then, over 10k people have joined the Partner Program and active writers in the Partner Program are growing steadily.
We’ve received many responses and reactions to the changes, and we’ve talked with writers to more deeply understand how these changes have impacted them. For those who let us know, thank you for your thoughtfulness and the time you took to share your perspectives — you’ve helped us improve the Partner Program for writers.
Here are details about recent changes we’ve made based on what we’ve learned:
We’re adjusting Partner Program incentives to better balance the Boost bonus with read time
When a story is nominated and approved for Boosting, it gets a distribution lift for a period of time to help it reach its full potential audience. If the story is behind the paywall, this also translates to more earnings for the writer of the story via a Boost bonus that is applied to earnings on top of the distribution. See these recently refined quality guidelines for what we mean by quality writing–it’s an ongoing and evolving discussion and we welcome your input!
Philosophically, we want there to be several paths to earning money on Medium for your writing: lots of read time OR lots of engagement from followers OR getting Boosted can all work equally well. We have an increasingly diverse spectrum of genres and writing in different topics, which leads to varying patterns of engagement. We’re creating a system to incentivize high-quality writing in all genres and categories. Our recommendation is that the Partner Program is considered a supplement, rather than a replacement, to a consistent and predictable full-time income.
We initially estimated how big the Boost bonus should be to create an incentive for writers while not making it the only path towards significant earnings. Now, with a couple months of data to look at, we are dialing it back a bit to allow other engagement types (like read time) to have a larger effect on earnings.
- Reading time now contributes more to earnings. Read time numbers will be coming back to the Story Stats charts soon.
- The Boost bonus now contributes to a smaller percentage of total earnings, while still contributing the same amount to added distribution.
- The Boost Nomination Pilot is continuing to grow and expand into more topic categories. We’re about to cross the 100-nominator mark, and have ambitions for 1,000+. If you’re a publication editor in a topic category that you feel is underrepresented in Boost and want to help us reach stories and writers that we may still be missing, please consider joining the waitlist.
We will continue to make adjustments to the earnings algorithm each month as we learn how these changes impact writing in different topics and genres in different ways.
Fraud monitoring and prevention
We know that any system of monetization will attract people who will try to take advantage of it. The new Partner Program was built with this in mind, and we’ve spent the last couple months improving protections against several potential fraud vectors that could be gamed by bots, AI, and other efforts that would negatively impact writer earnings.
Two months into the new program, a small number of accounts were found to be conducting a new type of fraudulent behavior that drained the writer earnings pool in a way that our fraud intervention measures didn’t immediately notice (they have since been patched). We’re not talking about small groups of people trading engagements for engagements, but larger-scale, coordinated fraudulent activity designed to improperly divert funds in bad faith.
Some writers may have seen earnings dip temporarily from around the end of September through the first week of October, but, if impacted, earnings should have returned to normal now. Now that we’ve identified and recovered from this incident, we will be re-distributing lost earnings to all stories and authors impacted during that time. If your earnings were impacted, you’ll see an adjustment on your earning statement for October.
We issued one-time adjustments to all impacted Medium Partner Program members today. You will see the adjustment listed on your Partner Program dashboard under “Partner Program Bonus.” For more information:
Partner Program Fraud Update — November 2, 2023
Some Partner Program authors may see a bonus applied to their October earnings dashboard. If you are eligible, you will…
AI-generated stories aren’t stealing earnings from human writers
Some writers have expressed concern that accounts publishing 100% AI-generated content are stealing earnings from real, human writers. Here’s why we’re not currently too worried about that.
Our system has several strategies for minimizing the distribution of AI-generated content: some based on machine-learning, and others based on human curation, content flagging, and moderation. None of these will catch all AI-generated content, but the overall effect is that content that is discernibly generated by AI is unlikely to be distributed widely on Medium.
The earnings calculation is designed to incentivize high-quality writing, and high-volume publishing doesn’t guarantee earnings. The algorithm accommodates for a lot of publishing, be it AI or human-written. There are many, many fully-human written accounts that publish the daily max as well; what matters is genuine member engagement.
This all means that even if you see suspected AI content that is distributed, with suspected AI responses and large followings, it doesn’t mean that this is necessarily translating to earnings. While it looks like certain accounts may be having success on Medium based on the public-facing criteria you see, it doesn’t mean they are. Based on our own internal investigations, AI-generated content is not taking earnings away from genuine human writers on Medium. And of course, stories that are confirmed or suspected of being fully AI written do not get Boosted distribution.
Our stance on AI remains the same: Medium is for human storytelling, not AI-generated writing. Our system’s ability to filter out AI-generated content is primarily based on content quality, so if you see content that you suspect is AI-generated, or any low quality content, be sure to take actions on it via blocking, muting, or “Show less like this.” That teaches the algorithm. For now, you don’t need to report it as a violation of rules to our team.
Some kinds of writing will earn less, so that others will earn more
Here’s a difficult truth that we need to say as clearly and directly as possible: Some of the changes we have made are going to reduce earnings for writers who may have historically done well on Medium. We needed to make these changes in order to incentivize the type of high-quality writing that our members come here to read and that we want to amplify. As you can see from the fraud and AI details shared above, focusing on quality is a big part of how we plan to remain a sanctuary for the best human writing that exists on the web.
As a result of this shift, it’s inevitable that certain types of writing will see earnings go up, while others will go down. Incentivizing quality is a complicated challenge that will take iteration over time. We will be as transparent and honest as we can about our reasoning for each change we make. At a high level, early signs indicate that this new direction is working — our membership base is growing faster than ever. When we grow, it means more members are contributing more money to writers, and more writers are sharing more stories for everyone to enjoy.
As these big changes have some time to settle, we hope you will accept our invitation to participate in this new set of incentives and our renewed growth. We’re trying to do something different than anyone else has done, which is both exciting and sometimes scary.
Of course, we recognize that writers may choose to leave Medium if their writing and goals aren’t a fit for our program. We respect every writer’s freedom to choose the platform (or platforms!) that best meet their needs.
Country expansion update
We continue to work on bringing more countries into the Partner Program. And while we initially estimated this would only take a couple months in total, we’ve gotten further into the work, and see that this will unfortunately take longer than we estimated. As of now, we estimate that the additional country support will launch in early 2024 with a more robust payout system to handle all the nuances of different countries and currencies. However, we’ve learned our lesson about promising dates and we don’t want to make any firm promises here other than that we are planning it and working on it. We know how excited people are in the countries that are not yet supported, and we are working hard to offer this as soon as we can.
Ask us anything
We believe in the power of human storytelling, knowledge-sharing, and personal experience. We’ve written this update to provide more clarity and transparency, but you might still have questions about the Partner Program after reading this post. Ask us in the replies, and clap for any questions that you specifically want to hear answers to. In addition to answering them here, we will announce a time for a Medium writer Zoom meet-up to discuss these changes in greater depth.