In a surprising development, Medium announced a new membership tier: Friends of Medium, a higher priced membership than the basic Medium membership. Initially, I was excited to read that with the new membership level, writers enrolled in the Medium Partner Program will be able to earn from external views – finally!
Previously, only views and interactions logged-in readers with a paid Medium membership would count toward a writer’s earnings. With the Friends of Medium membership tier, writers will have the ability to share otherwise pay walled content with non-members and ensure that the writers of that content still earn.
But my excitement was tempered a bit when I read that writers will not be able to share their own stories externally and be paid.
Well that’s a bummer.
The clarification comes from Medium’s Breana Jones who responded to one of Burk’s articles on Medium discussing the new membership.
Sadly, it seems it’s true. Even with a Friends of Medium membership, we still won’t be able to earn for our own external views. Strangely enough, if someone else shares a writer’s content, he’ll be paid for external views – but not if he shares it himself?
A strange decision. But why?
I’m unsure why Medium has decided to limit payments for external views to those instances that someone else with a Friends of Medium membership shares an article. Perhaps this is to limit abuse of the system? Maybe Medium is afraid that someone could just spam links to his content everywhere hoping to boost his earnings, potentially giving Medium a bad name?
If that’s the concern, I get it. That’s a fair concern.
But then what’s to stop someone else from doing that?
I imagine there will be more clarification soon and some updates to the rules to address this, but for now, without clarification, all I can do is guess what Medium’s motivation here might be.
Why pay more for no tangible benefits?
The best I can tell, Medium’s new Friends of Medium membership doesn’t offer much in the way of incentives for writers – now that I understand that writers won’t earn for sharing their own content externally. Previously I was excited about the possibility of being able to share my Medium stories to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to drive traffic and boost my earnings a bit. I was even willing to pay for a more expensive membership to allow me to do that. But it seems that’s not possible, and that’s a real bummer.
The only other benefit of the Friends of Medium membership that I can see is that writers whose articles I read would earn four times what they would normally – had I just been a basic member. That’s a great benefit… for them. But is that it?
What other benefits would there be to me? It sounds like all I’d get is a badge by my name and more earnings for the writers whose content I read.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to support my fellow writers, and I strongly believe that’s an important part of building an online community.
But do I really want to pay three times as much for no real benefit to me?
I’m not sure I do.
In the original announcement, Alex Benzer wrote that “there’s more to come” for Friend memberships, and it’s likely that in the future the more expensive membership will offer a tangible benefit to writers.
Right now, at least, it doesn’t.
So where does that leave Friend memberships?
Realistically, it’s likely that I’ll upgrade to the Friend of Medium membership level personally anyway because I do want to support the platform, and I’m making more than enough there to cover the cost of the membership and then some. So cost isn’t a factor to me currently.
But what if you’re just starting out and not really earning from Medium yet? What if you’re just trying to get your footing and build your audience but haven’t really found your stride yet? Should you upgrade?
Honestly, I’d argue you probably shouldn’t. At least not right now.
As time goes on and more benefits are added to the Friend of Medium membership level, it might be easier to recommend, but right now there aren’t really any benefits to paying more than you would with a basic membership – which, itself, grants access to the full library of pay walled content and fulfills the membership requirement for the Medium Partner Program.
Ultimately, I’m excited to see where Medium takes this, and I’m very glad to see them continue to grow the platform. I love Medium for what it is and has been and can be. So, personally, I think the future is bright.