On July 18th, Buster Benson posted on Medium about some important changes coming to the Medium Partner Program in August of 2023. These changes, he says, are designed to reward the stories they “feel most proud of bringing to [their] members.” But what are these changes, and how do they affect you – whether you’re looking to get started writing on Medium or have been writing there for a while?

Let’s dive in and take a look.

Why is Medium Changing the Medium Partner Program?

Every so often, as needs change programs like Medium’s Partner Program have to adapt. At one time, there was no follower requirement for joining the Partner Program, for example, and then suddenly anyone with fewer than 100 followers had to reach at least 100 followers by a certain deadline in order to stay in the program or risk being kicked out.

That change sought to ensure that stories submitted for monetization were from authors that Medium knew it could trust, and that makes a lot of sense.

But this specific wave of changes comes with two stated goals:

  1. To promote high-quality, well written content, personal stories with hidden wisdom and knowledge – which Buster correctly states is the reason members come to Medium in the first place. So it makes great sense to promote this kind of work.
  2. To disincentivize clickbait, low quality or AI-generated writing – along with what Medium deems to be “misinformation, hate or other forms of polarizing negativity.” (Although the latter terms don’t seem to be defined.)

Ultimately, the goal is to help those who generate quality content succeed while no longer supporting those who seek to game the system, and honestly I’m excited to hear that. Medium wants writers to spend the time to craft stories that are high-quality and provide value, just as any good content creator should do.

And personally, I’m really excited to hear that Medium is taking a sane approach to AI-generated writing, which I don’t believe should even be allowed on Medium. But that’s just my opinion.

What changes are being made to the Partner Program?

Starting August 1st, 2023, this is what’s changing with the Medium Partner Program:

Writers from 12 more countries will be eligible to join.

Up to this point, the Medium Partner Program has been open to 33 countries. Sadly, many great writers not living in a supported geographical region have been unable to join. And while the requirement for residence in a supported region remains, the Partner Program will be open to people in 12 more countries than it was previously.

The newly added countries include: Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Hungary, India, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Malta, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Buster states the hope is that by the end of 2023, another 50 or so countries will be added.

The 100 follower limit is no more!

This is a big change for anyone who is wanting to get started writing on Medium and earning money there. Previously, anyone hoping to join the Medium Partner Program had to have at least 100 followers before applying. My guess is that this is to ensure that all applicants to the Partner Program are writers who can create valuable content.

As Buster says, the restriction was “initially instituted the 100 follower requirement as part of an effort to ensure member-only stories were written by writers that had some track record of writing to engaged audiences.” Which makes sense.

But that requirement is being lifted because these other changes, Medium feels, will do the same thing without requiring a certain number of followers. It will be interesting to see if that is the case.

You have to be a paying Medium member to be in the Partner Program.

Up to this point, the Medium Partner Program has been open to anyone who meets the criteria. But now, one of those criteria is that you must be a paying member of Medium. In other words, in order to be paid by Medium, you’ll have to pay Medium’s subscription fee. While I’m not sure I’m a fan of this change, it is what it is. Some people have been calling for this, while others – including yours truly – haven’t been fans of the idea.

While I am a paying member, I’m glad to hear that current members of the Partner Program won’t have to become members right now. Though that is likely going to change down the road.

The metrics for earnings will be a bit different.

Prior to these changes, a Medium story’s earnings were determined by the amount of time paying Medium members spent reading it. While that will remain the overall basis for determining how much a story earns, Medium is adding another dimension to the metrics. Now they’ll also be considering how much engagement a story receives. That will include things like:

  • Claps
  • Highlights
  • Replies
  • and Follows

Their goal is to better understand the quality of a story by seeing how much or how little the audience engages with it. If a story sparks a discussion and gets people involved, it will (in theory) earn more than one that doesn’t engage the audience much at all.

On the flip side, Buster says, if someone clicks away from your story before reading it for at least 30 seconds, you won’t earn anything from that member’s reading time. That could sting a bit.

A story that’s boosted will get better distribution and better earnings.

If a story is chosen for a boost, it will be shown to more people – as previously – but it will also earn more than a non-boosted story. According to Medium, any story could be boosted, provided it’s “meaningful, original, and constructive. Authors do not need to have a certain number of followers, recognition, topic category or any other metric in order to have a story chosen for a boost.

Further, writers do not have to be in the Medium Partner Program in order for a story to get a boost.

Earnings will depend on read ratio to discourage clickbait.

In an effort to prevent writers from using deceptive headlines to get clicks to low-effort and low-quality content that doesn’t deliver on the promise of its title, Medium will now be adjusting pay based on how many people click on a story and choose to read it for at least 30 seconds. A 50% read ratio on a story indicates that about 50% of the people who clicked on the story chose to stay on it for at least 30 seconds, potentially indicating that it’s worth reading.

According to Buster, “a story that gets 100 reads in a day with a 80% read ratio will earn more than a story that has 100 reads and a 20% read ratio, even though they had the same number of reads.”

Engagements from followers are worth more than from non-followers.

Medium wants to incentivize connections between readers and authors, so they’re putting their wallets behind that mission and making reads from followers more valuable than reads from non-followers. That means if someone who follows you reads your content, you’ll earn more than if someone who doesn’t follow reads it. Just how much more that will be, we’ll have to see.

What I’ll be interested to see is whether that means reads from non-followers will be worth less than a standard read previously or reads from followers will be worth more than a standard read previously.

The referral program is going away.

To be honest, I’m not sure I like this. Medium is getting rid of its membership referral program which grants a small kickback for referring people to Medium who become paying members. I wasn’t making much from this – really a few bucks a month – but it’s still a good few bucks that I’d like to not lose.

Buster reports that this will be replaced by the fact that reads from followers will be worth more, but I’m not sure how this will work out.

The good news in my case is that referrals made up to September 1st, 2023 will still earn, indefinitely. And I appreciate that. But after that date, if I refer someone to Medium, I won’t earn anything for it aside from any “bonus” granted by his or her reads of anything I’ve written.

Reacting to the Medium Partner Program changes

Overall, I think what Buster said in his rundown of these changes gives me some hope for Medium’s future – not that I thought the future wasn’t bright previously. But I think these changes will help to address some of the issues many of us have seen. I’ve wondered just how Medium would react to the increase of AI-generated content, and I’m pleased to hear that they seem to be treating AI-generated content negatively, as it should be. I don’t think AI content belongs on Medium at all, and I’ve made my feelings about AI content pretty clear I think.

The removal of the 100 follower requirement is intriguing to me. It seems they are hopeful that these other changes will be enough to ensure that only quality content is actually monetized, and I’m hoping they’re correct.

And while I’m sad to see the referral program go away, I’ll be interested to see just how the bonus for reads from followers works.

Bottom line, change is the name of the game on Medium, and this is just the latest in a line of updates to the Medium Partner Program. It’ll be interesting to see just how this affects the partner program long term and how – or if – earnings are substantially impacted one way or the other in the coming weeks and months.

Personally, I remain optimistic. I do very much still like Medium, and I like what they’re trying to do with the platform. Is it perfect? No. But I like that they’re working hard to ensure it’s a place that values human-written content and promotes value. That’s something to applaud.