The New Partner Program Rules Will Not Improve Medium

Evelyn Levine
7 min readAug 29, 2021


this ruse for Medium to pay authors less will result in a great exodus

I was admitted to the Partner Program a few days before the new Partner Program rules went into effect. As of today I have made less than two dollars. I signed up for the Partner Program because I had nothing to lose if I joined; monetization on articles can be reversed and I think pennies and nickels motivate me to write more. It would be amazing if this platform could become a steady source of income for me, though I know that is rare. But now in order for me to stay in the Partner Program, I have to collect 100 followers a year from when I joined. While this change may not have the largest effect on me personally, I do think it will dramatically affect current Medium authors and potential future Medium authors. Changing the barrier to entry for the Partner Program discourages authors from even trying to share their content on Medium. Changing the barrier to entry by requiring that authors have 100 followers is diametrically opposed to the approachable image Medium constructed their brand around. Whether as a potential source of income or motivation, the Partner Program encourages writers to keep writing. Limiting who can join based on follower count makes that inaccessible. Undiscovered voices do not have 100 followers to help them become compensated for their work. The current freelance environment hardly pays its authors already and the new Partner Program rules have Medium joining in on that greed.

I am curated endless articles about how to freelance effectively and make money through Medium. My biggest pet peeve with Medium is these kinds of Get Rich Quick articles… “How I was able to quit my job because of Medium,” “How writing an article every day for a month tripled my earnings,” “Make more from your writing with this one simple trick,” “Medium Tags that Draw Readers to Your Articles that will make you more money”. This isn’t the fault of the authors writing these articles, but the culture that freelancing has created which underpays authors. Freelancers and authors already struggle to make ends meet on Medium. These articles about optimizing income potential on Medium and other freelancing opportunities are clickbait. It is no different than Youtubers WHO WRITE ALL OF THEIR TITLES IN CAPITALS BECAUSE YOU CAN’T IGNORE IT AND THEREFORE YOU HAVE TO CLICK. As a side note, if you are one of those people under the impression that authors are cleaning up with these articles, capitalist societies have always rewarded those selling other people on how to get rich. I don’t think the new Partner Program rules will improve Medium as a whole. The new rules may decrease the proliferation of these Get Rich Quick style articles by requiring authors to have at least 100 followers, if only because so many people won’t even be allowed to make income from Medium. One could argue that if there is a higher barrier to entry for earning, it could sort the wheat from the chaff and increase the quality, but to me these changes feel like a way for Medium to give less money to its authors. Much much less money. — I will get into my opinions on the strange membership kick-back situation that feels like a ponzi scheme later.

The author’s dog Pepper with a one dollar bill. Description: a small white and black scruffy dog sits on a gray couch with a one dollar bill resting under her chin. For more dog content, follow @Pepperthescruffer on Instagram

The changes in the Partner Program led me to ask myself: how much less money will Medium be distributing to authors under the new rules? I can’t find what percentage of Medium authors are in the Partner Program and have less than 100 followers, but I can try to estimate Medium’s monthly expenditures on its authors. In a September 2020 article, the author J.J. Pryor calculates that there are over 1,385,000 new articles posted on Medium every month.* He also suggests that this averages out to about $1.20 per article posted, meaning the average Medium author would have to write around four articles per month to just cover the Medium member subscription price. This style of quantifying payment by Medium might make it seem like the income amounts do not matter to the individual. Still, it is important to remember that while a dollar may not mean much to one person, it can mean eating or keeping the lights on for another. Moreover, Medium gets to keep every dollar it doesn’t pay to authors.

I am not a statistician, but I do not believe that all of Pryor’s numbers add up correctly. I think the amount that Medium was paying per article in 2020 was much lower. If there were over 1,385,000 new articles posted on Medium each month averaging payment at $1.20 per article it would mean that the annual expenditure of Medium to it’s authors would be closer to $20 million.

1,385,000 articles x $1.20 per article = $1,662,000 monthly paid to authors x 12 months = $19,944,000 annually paid to authors

However, Medium’s December 2020 newsletter said that it paid out over $11 million dollars to its authors that year. It would be strange of Medium not to say almost 20 million if it were closer to 20 million than 11 million. After all, the more money they say that authors are making, the more authors are incentivized to join, pay the membership fees, and bring in their fans to pay for memberships. If we take the $11 million and apply it to Pryor’s monthly article numbers, which I do believe are accurate, each article would on average only earn about .65 cents.

$11,000,000 annually paid to authors /12 months = $916,666.67 paid to authors per month / 1,385,000 articles per month = .661 rounded to .65 cents

This means that Medium is keeping even more of what it’s members are paying than what Pryor and many others thought and putting in the 100 follower requirement will only increase their revenue. If Medium is only going to pay a fraction of what we thought it did, to a fraction of it’s authors, it is becoming an even less profitable platform for its authors, which I think could lead to a large exodus to other platforms like Wordpress.

How many authors do you think have more than 100 followers? Half, a third, a quarter, less…I have no idea, but I can’t help but wonder about all these small increments of money adding up in Medium’s favor. Let’s say, just for a thought experiment, that based on Pryor’s article numbers, the 1,385,000 monthly articles are written by about 461, 667 authors (each author averaging three articles per month seems logical to me). This means each author would on average be coming home with a whopping $1.95 per month (.65 per article x 3 articles). But now suppose only half have over a hundred followers, further limiting the authors who get payouts to around 230,834 per month. The total Medium payouts of around .65 cents per article will only add up to around $150,041 per month or $1,800,504 per year. This is in stark opposition to the $11 million dollar number given in December 2020. If they are only paying out $1,800,504 per year, what happens to the $9,199,496 ?

It is finally time to talk about the aforementioned membership kickbacks. Medium’s plan to pay its authors based on bringing in more paying members means their expenditure on authors will be higher than just by articles alone. But this will place Medium authors in a strange position to promote themselves like an MLM, and could easily transform earnings on Medium to a popularity contest that has nothing to do with the quality of writing itself. Honestly it is exhausting to think about pestering people to join Medium for a couple bucks (a couple bucks that for many authors just becomes a discount on their memberships). Authors like me with under 100 followers now have a year to beg for 100 followers or be kicked out of the program. The concept of earnings through Medium’s new Partner Program rules feel a bit like the bootstrap speech Millennials and Gen Z get from older and wealthier generations about getting a job, “You just have to walk right into an office building, unannounced and demand for them to hire you.” Expecting to become wealthy blogging in 2021 on Medium feels like relocating to the middle of nowhere California to become a gold miner and expecting to get rich.

My last criticism of the new Partner Program rules is how Medium plans to hold “earnings” until $10 is reached. If we go back through all my numbers, and Pyror’s averages it seems to indicate that Medium will be sitting on lots of .65 cent articles. Based on averages, an author would have to write more than fifteen articles to collect enough earnings to get paid that same month. Does that mean Medium is sitting on these “earnings” and further collecting interest? Again, what about the authors whose lives are really improved by every dollar? I feel like my questions are never ending. I have a hunch about what Medium plans to do with that $9 million plus dollars assuming that they don’t create some huge subscription ponzi scheme mess. Medium has hopes to go public on the NYSE like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms. This is only my speculation with zero evidence, so don’t take it seriously.

P.S. Comment on this article if you need to get 100 followers to stay profitable on Medium and I will follow you.

Pepper yawns during a very important photo shoot. Description: Pepper the dog sits on couch with a one dollar bill resting on her paws. She is yawning with her eyes closed and you can see her big pink tongue.

*I’m certain that this number has increased dramatically since the pandemic has created rampant job loss resulting in individuals having more free time and looking for safe ways to make income from home



Evelyn Levine

San Francisco born and raised, currently living in New Jersey. Welcome to my non-fiction practice. Fairly personal. Mood permitting.