In order to make money writing on Medium, you need to be a part of the Medium Partner Program, and in order to join the Medium Partner Program, you need to have at least 100 followers – that is 100 people actually following you.

But why is this requirement in place? Why doesn’t Medium allow anyone to earn from their writing without regard for follower counts? While no one outside of Medium can tell us for sure why this requirement exists, I have a theory:

Medium cares greatly about the quality of content on its site. A “follow” is a vote in favor of a writer and tells Medium that he is producing content that is worthy of being read. In that sense, Medium requires prospective Partner Program members to have 100 votes.

Let’s dive into this a bit and see if we can unpack my theory in a way that makes sense.

Note: Medium has removed the 100 follower requirement as of August 1st, 2023. Read more here: Medium Partner Program August 2023 Changes

Medium has a responsibility to its customers

It’s easy to think of Medium as a site by writers for writers, but in reality that’s not the case. In fact, Medium is a paid membership site. While anyone can read a few stories for free, in order to read an unlimited number of stories that are behind the paywall, people need to be paying members.

Just as any store has a responsibility to provide its customers a good experience, Medium has a responsibility to its paying members. That responsibility includes ensuring that the content on the site is high quality and not junk.

But that’s not an easy task for a site that allows writers to write about nearly anything.

So there’s a tension between allowing writers to write (nearly) anything they want while also ensuring that Medium’s members’ time is respected by not allowing junk content behind the paywall.

Medium certainly doesn’t want people paying to read content that’s low-value, unhelpful crap. And as a writer who is also a paying Medium member, I appreciate that.

While it’s certainly true that not everything behind the paywall is high quality, the fact that Medium does seem to care about this and its readers’ time is nice to see.

So you can understand here that Medium is caught between two philosophies:

  1. Freedom for writers. With few a common sense exceptions, Medium doesn’t tell writers what they can and can’t write. Nearly any subject is fair game.
  2. Quality for readers. Medium doesn’t want its readers to be flooded with junk content that’s low-effort and spammy.

If you can’t vet the content, vet the writer

If you were Medium, what would you do in this situation? If you’re not going to vet the content that people write, you need to make sure the people who do that writing are people you can trust.

One way to do that is to see who users of the platform follow. When you think of a follow like a vote, it makes sense.

At least it does to me.

When you “follow” someone, you’re telling Medium, “I want to read more of this writer’s content.” In effect, you’re telling the system, “I think this writer is good. Please show me more from him/her.”

In requiring 100 followers before joining the Medium Partner Program, Medium is in effect requiring 100 votes in favor of a writer before allowing him into the program.

While these 100 votes aren’t a guarantee that the writer will produce quality content all the time, they do help to support the idea that he’s doing something right and thus good enough to let into the Medium Partner Program.

As annoying as this might sound, remember that Medium cares very much about the quality of content on the platform and it has a duty to its members – so vetting has to happen at some point in the process.

What’s the alternative?

In lieu of specific requirements for writers in the Medium Partner Program – like having at least 100 followers, Medium could establish a review process for content that is to go behind the paywall and earn writers money.

But is that something we would really want?

Would we want to have to submit every single piece of content we write to an invisible Medium review team, hoping that they’ll find our stories worthy of being hosted on the site?

That would lead to annoying delays, potential rejections, and unnecessary frustration for writers across the board. Can you imagine having to wait to see your content go live on Medium just because Medium had to review it to decide if it’s good enough?

I can imagine this would be a huge additional strain on Medium’s staff as they would have to review everything that’s posted before allowing it to go live. Considering the added strain on Medium’s staff and the added annoyance for writers, this just seems like a bad option.

In my opinion, this would be worse than imposing a few requirements on writers who want to join the Medium Partner Program – as annoying as those requirements are to some.

Getting to 100 followers

If you’re not to 100 followers yet, don’t stress. We’ve all been there. While it may not happen overnight (and most probably won’t) getting to that 100th follower and beyond is not only possible but actually pretty simple once you apply yourself.

Focus on writing great content and connecting with others. Don’t isolate yourself. Make sure what you’re writing is something that your target audience actually wants to read.

And importantly, be patient with yourself and the process. Don’t expect instant success, or you might be discouraged. Make sure to choose a niche that works well for Medium and start writing content for your ideal audience. If you’re writing high quality, value-packed content, you’ll give yourself the best chance of attracting the kind of audience you want.

The Medium Partner Program requirements make sense

Again, no one outside of Medium can tell us for sure why the 100 follower requirement exists, but this is my educated guess. We know that Medium cares very much about the quality of the content they allow behind the paywall so they want to make sure that people who are getting paid for their contributions are people who have been proven to provide value.

I know not everyone loves the 100 follower requirement, and it is a small roadblock for new writers who want to make money with their writing on the site. But when you remember the fact that Medium cares very much about its members and wants to ensure a great experience for everyone, it makes perfect sense that they would want to ensure the writers they pay are people who will serve the community well.

So, as a general rule, if you want to grow your following on Medium focus on providing value and write the kind of content that people will actually want to read, and before you apply, make sure to read the rules of the Medium Partner Program.