Writing for Medium … Kind of Sucks

By Brian Moakley Feb 7, 2023 #blogging #writing

I started the new year with the idea of generating some passive income. The goal was to publish to lots of different content spaces and receive ad revenue. I’ve encountered Medium a lot in the past ten years but writing for Medium was a different story.

Medium looked like a good fit. Its writing tools were adequate for the task. It provided its own partner program to share revenue. Most importantly, it had a large audience.

My profile on Medium that shows that I have 312 followers.
My Medium profile after years of absence

The partner program held two requirements. You need to have at least one hundred followers. You also need to have published some content. 

I joined Medium a long time ago importing all my Twitter colleagues. This meant my follower count was already three hundred strong. So I wrote a pretty beefy article about Dungeons and Dragons and within a week, I was a genuine partner.

You can find the same article on this site. Medium doesn’t own the content that you create.

Watching the Revenue Roll In

I’ve been working on the internet for a long time. I’m not naive to the ways of content creation. Making money for online content means grinding out content every day. With good search engine optimization and enticing articles, your audience will grow. It just takes time and A LOT of work.

When you first start producing content – whether for Medium or WordPress itself – you start with zero viewers. By producing daily content, you eventually build an audience. 

Medium has a huge audience comprised of hundreds of thousands of active readers. Yet, with the publication of my first article, I saw only two visitors. I had expected five visitors. Maybe ten.

My stats on medium. 19 totals views. 10 reads. 2 fans. Not every good numbers.
My total Medium stats

I juiced the numbers with my own social network promotion. That one article ended up acquiring 17 views. And the revenue…drumroll, please…

Zero dollars and zero cents.

The future seemed bright indeed.

Writing Lists

I didn’t expect to make any money off my first article. That was the freebie article. It turns out, you can’t paywall it after the fact.  To make money, you must publish a “member’s only” article. 

I took to writing my next article. This time, I decided I would not do any marketing. I also bought a Medium subscription for five dollars. 

Once published, I awaited the results. I only gleamed two views for a total of zero dollars. There was no traffic from the rest of the site. Its only future rested with Google searches. 

This raised the question: what content does well on Medium? I did some research on my own and watched lots of different videos. In summation, clickbait lists and technical articles.

Take a look at these titles:

  • The Release of Flutter 3.3 – Our 7 Favorite Updates
  • My Dead-Simple Content Strategy to Make $100,000 Part-Time in 2023
  • 5 Amazing Sites that Pay $50 to $500 per Article
  • I made $2500 in 2.5 months building micro-products
  • Earn $100 per Hour by Reading Books

In short, bullshit clickbait lists. On top of this, the top creators of the platform push you into their content stream.  Funny enough, there were lots of articles also about making money on Medium itself. I gotta say, those articles felt weird and a little scammy.

A screenshot of a bunch of articles on Medium that's all about "get rich quick" or "get followers quick"
It appears, to be successful at Medium, you must write about being successful at Medium.

There was one last experiment to do. I would write my own “list article named, “5 DIY Tips for Home Recording”. I wrote about 300 words and stopped. Something didn’t feel right. I went to get some coffee. On return, I sat down and canceled my Medium account.

Writing for Myself

At the end of the day, I wasn’t disappointed with my experiment. All it told me was that to be successful on Medium meant doing lots of content grinding and content promotion.

In my short experiment, Medium did not provide me with an audience. Nor were there any built-in promotion mechanisms. I needed to promote my own work and build my audience.

The official logo of WordPress
Same time investment, but with an infinite amount of control.

This begs the question: why even use Medium in the first place? A new WordPress site is as obscure as a new Medium account. At least with WordPress, you can incorporate ads without having to jump through hoops. Yes, it takes time to grow your audience on WordPress. But WordPress allows for a deep level of customization by way of plugins. This means you can craft a unique reading experience. This is something that just isn’t available on Medium.

It was a fun experiment. I’m sure I missed something about the platform. If so, let me know in the comments. Unlike Medium, you didn’t need a membership to view this post. Likewise, you can post your comments for free. Cheers!

By Brian Moakley

Brian Douglas Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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2 thoughts on “Writing for Medium … Kind of Sucks”
  1. I feel a similar way about writing on Medium. It’s been sucking at my time and energy with little to no pay off. You inspired me to cancel my account, and get out of the mentality of needing clickbait titles and to grind and hustle to get “in.”

    Thank you for that Brian. :)

    1. I agree it’s a grind. So much nonsense on it. Then read for read to get reads. Just like paying to get paid. Creating a.wprdpress website and having control is much better. Medium is a rat race with very low returns.

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