Putting writers in control of the paywall

Farewell to the meter and hello to a simpler, writer-controlled system

Alex Benzer
The Medium Blog

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Since 2018, Medium writers in the Medium Partner Program have had the option to set their stories as “metered” to earn money. The word meter is an industry term for a complicated form of paywall where readers were allowed a few free views before being asked to pay. When Medium members read a metered story, the writer of that story earned a share of that member’s subscription revenue.

We’re proud of creating a subscription model that rewards high-quality stories without resorting to ads for revenue. But our meter system has always felt a little too complex for writers and readers, and we knew we could do better. So we’ve recently changed to a simpler system that gives writers more control over their stories on Medium. It’s simpler because, as a writer, you don’t have to guess about whether your reader will see a paywall or not.

How the simpler paywall lets writers decide

All writers in the Partner Program can now mark their stories as “paywalled.” This makes the story accessible to members only and indicates that the writer wants to earn a revenue share for their writing.

If you’re a writer in the Partner Program, here’s how you can paywall your story:

Partner Program writers can check this box to paywall their stories.

As a writer, you can always share a link that bypasses the paywall by using your story’s Friend Link. This makes it easy for you to decide exactly who should be able to read the story for free. There are no limits to how you share your friend link. You can share it with one person or you could share it on Reddit and have thousands of people use it. You are in control.

Here’s how to get a Friend Link: On the story page, click the three-dot menu and click on Copy Friend Link.

We’ve paired this with another change: A longer preview of your paywalled story is now visible above the paywall. This gives your readers a chance to get deeper into the first part of your story before becoming a member to unlock the rest.

Importantly, this change only affects paywalled stories. Nothing has changed for free stories: they are still accessible to everyone, including readers who don’t have a Medium account. Medium writers will always have the choice to keep their stories free or put them behind the paywall.

The impact: A clearer, better experience for readers and writers

With the previous meter system, non-members could read three metered stories each month. You may be familiar with this if you’ve seen a message like “You have two free reads left” above stories on Medium. But this led to confusion for writers on how reads and engagement lead to earnings, and this change will make writer stats easier to understand.

The previous system also left a door open to bots, scrapers, and browser extensions, making it easier for people to bypass the meter and read an unlimited number of metered stories for free. We believe in the value of writing on Medium, and our new paywall will help protect stories from scrapers and spam, helping them get to their intended audience: real human readers. This should have a positive effect on earnings and make reading stats more reliable.

Readers deserve a simple and straightforward way to see which stories are behind the Medium paywall. Some, especially those who are new to Medium, have told us that the old meter system seemed unclear and unpredictable. Our new paywall system aims to make it easier for everyone to understand how they can access your stories.

Medium is growing

Since replacing the meter, we’ve already seen an increase in signups, follows, and story interactions.

When Medium grows, writers benefit. A larger reader community is great for our Partner Program writers because it drives more reach and earnings, and connects more readers with writers and stories they love.

We’re constantly working on growing the Medium community, and we’ve been thrilled to see so much recent growth for Medium and our writers. We made these changes to make things clearer for both our readers and writers. If you’ve got questions or feedback about these changes, let us know in the comments.

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