Up until recently, all members of the Medium Partner Program were required to have at least 100 followers. That means if you had less than 100, you couldn’t be paid by Medium to write there. Sure, you could still publish on the site, but you wouldn’t be paid directly by Medium for your contributions. But as of August of 2023, the 100 follower requirement for joining the Medium Partner Program is no more.

In other words, you can join the Partner Program even if you have fewer followers. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Why did the 100 follower requirement exist at all?

According to Buster Benson, part of Medium’s team, the 100 follower requirement 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.”

In other words, Medium wanted – and I think rightly – to ensure that stories that are monetized actually come from writers who know how to create high quality content and keep readers engaged. After all, Medium has a reader base to protect, and they need to make sure that any content Medium is paying for is worth their readers’ time.

While certainly not a fool-proof method, the idea did help to prevent those writing clickbait from making money directly from Medium. Certainly, those without 100 followers and subsequently not in the partner program could still post low-effort and low-quality content, but they at least wouldn’t be paid by Medium itself.

Why is the removal of the 100 followers requirement a big deal?

While the Medium partner program’s 100 follower requirement did make sense, it was a significant barrier to entry for many people new to Medium who would like to earn for their writing. And while the 100 follower goal typically didn’t take too long to reach, the fact that writers – good writers – couldn’t join the partner program right away was a bit of a bummer any way you look at it.

Now that the 100 follower requirement is gone for the Medium partner program, anyone – even someone who is brand new to the platform – can join the partner program and start making money from it. And if his or her writing is good, the followers will come.

I’m excited that the door is now open even to those who haven’t spent time building up a fan base and that even newcomers to the platform can start earning right away, knowing that in order to be successful, they’ll have to focus on creating high quality content.

I do have some concerns though.

Look, lest I be misunderstood here, I’m happy that more people will be able to join the partner program without waiting and that good writing will be rewarded even if an author doesn’t have 100 followers yet. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some hesitations.

When I really started my Medium journey in earnest in May of 2022, I knew I had to work hard to get to the 100 follower mark so I could apply to the partner program. That took me just under two weeks, roughly. And I had no problem being accepted to the program.

But that was hard work. I had to really think through how to get from having ONE follower to 100+, and that didn’t happen overnight, despite what some may claim is possible. In order to get followers on Medium without follow for follow, you have to write good content and work to network with others on the platform. I’m concerned that if the 100 follower requirement is nixed – or rather now that it has been – people will forget about those things and just jump right in to writing without working to build an audience or connect with other Medium writers.

And worse, I’m concerned that some low-quality content may still slip through the cracks. As I mentioned above, one of the reasons for the 100 follower requirement was to weed out low-quality writing and to vet writers before allowing them to earn for their content. With that barrier to entry gone, will we see more instances of low-quality content behind the paywall, earning money that it doesn’t deserve? Maybe.

The 100 follower requirement wasn’t fool proof, of course. And having 100 followers doesn’t prevent someone from posting a low-effort clickbait article, sure. But the fact that someone previously couldn’t join Medium and start earning from the partner program right away may very well have helped to deter some from jumping on the bandwagon with the intention of flooding the site with junk content and expecting to be paid for it.

I hope I’m wrong and that the new changes to the Medium Partner Program will help to prevent that.

Work to grow your Medium audience.

To be clear, with or without the 100 follower requirement for the partner program, I do 100% believe that it’s important to work on growing a following on Medium. As we have been told, reads and engagements from followers are worth more than the same from non-followers. So it pays to try to maximize your follower count – provided those followers actually come back to read your content.

But, as I have said here on Side Hustle Road and elsewhere, don’t confuse “followers” with your audience. A “follower” is someone who has clicked that “follow” button next to your name. That’s easy and doesn’t mean much in and of itself. What’s far more important – and more valuable – is the attention of someone who comes back again and again to read your content. A person like that isn’t just a “follower.” He’s a member of your audience. He knows the kind of content you produce and keeps coming back for more.

The only way to build an audience is to create the kind of content that people want to read – that connects with people. And as you do, get to know your readers. If they comment, thank them. If they ask questions, try to answer. Good content creation is about human connection. Anything else is just cold and pointless.