Medium just dropped a bombshell of an update with major news for anyone interested in the Medium Partner Program. As a membership site, Medium relies on membership fees in order to pay writers for their work. Up to to this point, a writer could only earn from interactions from paying Medium members – those who actually pay for a Medium membership.

Other views – like from Twitter, Facebook, etc – didn’t count toward a writer’s earnings. They would show up in stats, but not in earnings.

That’s changing for those who join with or upgrade to Medium’s “Friend of Medium” membership tier. But there’s a lot to unpack here. This news is major for Medium writers.

Let’s take a look.

Medium’s membership model.

Medium is a membership site that hosts a library of articles – some freely available and many locked behind a paywall. Without a membership, visitors are only allowed to read a handful of articles each month.

The benefits of a Medium membership. Source: https://medium.com/membership
The benefits of a Medium membership. Source: https://medium.com/membership

With a paid membership, that limit is removed and the entire library of free and pay walled articles is open for unlimited reading.

Because Medium earns money through its memberships, it doesn’t place ads in or around content. And that’s something both writers and readers can appreciate.

As a writer, I don’t want my writing broken up with ads – especially if I can’t decide what those ads are.

As a reader, I don’t want to have to wade through a sea of distracting banners and popups.

Out of this membership model has grown the Medium Partner Program – a program which pays writers based on the amount of time members spend reading their content and how they interact with it (claps, responses, and so on.)

In August of 2023, Medium membership became a requirement for being a part of the Medium Partner Program. Previously, one could write for Medium and earn without being a paying member himself. Now anyone who earns from the site has to pay into it as well – a move that seeks to make the program more fair for everyone.

And now, Medium’s memberships are a little bit more complicated and a lot more exciting for writers with the addition of a new $15/month “Friend of Medium” membership alongside the original $5/month “Medium Member” plan.

What’s special about the Friend of Medium tier?

The chief perk of the base Medium membership is the ability to read an unlimited number of articles without ads and support the writers of those articles as you read them and interact with them. If that’s all you care about, you probably won’t care much about the new Friend of Medium membership. But there are two huge reasons to be excited for it.

Writers will earn FOUR times as much when you read their stories as they would if you simply had a base “Medium Member” membership. In other words, your reading of an author’s article will earn him or her 400% more than it would have otherwise. And as a writer on Medium, that sounds great to me! It’s no secret that earnings on Medium have been a bit hit or miss the past few months, and if you’re someone who wants to help support your fellow writers, then this is big news.

According to Medium, earnings are still calculated in the same way as they are for regular members’ interactions: read time, listen time, claps, highlights, replies and follows. But that final calculation is multiplied 400%.

You’ll be able to share other writers’ member-only stories with non-members AND have their views factored into a writer’s earnings. Up to this point, external views haven’t counted when calculating earnings. Only reads and interactions from paying Medium members have mattered. I love this a lot. There are plenty of people in my life with whom I’d love to share a Medium story here and there. And with the Friend of Medium membership, I’ll be able to do that and still ensure that the author of the story earns money for it.

While those without the “Friend of Medium” tier can still send unpaid friend links to their own content, Friend of Medium members will be able to send friend links to anyone’s content and ensure that views and reads generated earn the author money. That’s awesome!

Update: The original version of this post stated that writers could use friend links to get paid for external views to their own stories. It appears this is not the case. Paid external views via friend links will only work for content from other writers.

Being a Friend does NOT improve your reach.

In response to Medium’s announcement, Nicola de Vera asked a very important question: “Do Friends of Medium get higher visibility or distribution on the platform for their own stories, in addition to increasing support for other writers?”

Thankfully, the answer is “No.”

Ariel Meadow Stallings, the person leading the Boost Nomination Pilot answered: “As the person running the Boost Nomination Pilot, I can answer this one: No, being in Friend Tier will not have any impact on how your stories are distributed. Having the cute lil Friend Tier badge might catch a reader’s eye when they see your stories, but being in Friend Tier does NOT impact how your stories are distributed on Medium: https://help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/360018677974

As excited as I am to hear about the new Friend of Medium tier, I don’t want this to turn into a way to artificially boost content, giving some people an unfair advantage in reach and distribution simply on the basis of membership levels.

Thankfully that doesn’t appear to be happening.

Should you upgrade to the Friend tier?

A burning question for many is, no doubt, whether or not they should upgrade. Maybe you’re excited about this new tier. Maybe you’re a bit frustrated, feeling like Medium is keeping the best it has to offer on a shelf just a bit higher than the membership you’ve already paid for.

Whatever the case, should you upgrade to the new tier or would you be better served by the base tier?

If you’re just a reader and not a writer, the answer is easy: There’s no tangible benefit to you in upgrading to the Friend tier unless you care about supporting your favorite writers a bit more than you would be otherwise. In that case, then paying $15/month instead of $5/month might be worth it for you to support that cause. Otherwise, the base tier will still get you the same unlimited access to the full library of free and pay walled content that it has up to now.

If you’re a writer you’ll have the benefit of supporting your fellow writers, which is much appreciated. But sadly it does not seem that you’d be able to get paid for external views to your own content. You would only be able share other writers’ content via friend links so they can earn from those external views.

At the moment, it doesn’t appear that there’s much more of a tangible benefit for writers. But that could change in the future as Medium adds more to this membership level.

More to come for Friends of Medium?

According to Alex Benzer of Medium, “this is just the beginning for Friend memberships.” This new membership level is intended to be “a new community experience.” So I’m very excited to see where Medium takes this.

All my gripes about Medium in the past six months aside, I do very much love the site and all it is and is becoming. I’ve met some awesome writers there, and I have no desire whatsoever to leave. I think what the Medium team has built is quite impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.