Early this year, Medium the publishing platform that Ev Williams, the co-founder of Twitter, spent five years building, announced that it would make significant job cuts, close offices, and restructure its platform. In the post outlining the changes, Williams stated, "We are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day."
The changes come in response to Williams losing faith in advertising: “People who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.”
He went on to further note: “It’s clear that the broken [publishing] system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other ‘content’ we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.”
As of this week, Medium has proposed a new model. According to a post on the site’s blog, “Today we’re launching the first step of an exciting new phase at Medium.” It states, “We strongly believe that quality content needs to be paid for by consumers — not advertisers — so creators can do their best work, and to align the incentives of everyone involved.”
Beginning on Tuesday, Medium says it is sending “a small group of writers and publications on Medium” its first batch of invitations to our updated Partner Program. In accordance with program, says to Medium, writers and publications “will have the option to publish [a] story to Medium members only and get paid based on engagement. [The] content will still be distributed to [the writer/publication’s] followers, discoverable through search, the Medium home page, and our apps.”
How will that payment based on engagement actually work? Well, “Essentially, [Medium’s operators will] look at the engagement of each individual member (claps [Medium’s equivalent of a Facebook or Twitter “like”] being the primary signal) and allocate their monthly subscription fee based on that engagement.”
Engagement will, thus, be measured on depending on the “depth of appreciation that a member has for each individual post … The more claps you give a locked post, the more share of your membership fee that author will get.”
In a related post, Medium clarified to “clap” system, writing: “It’s no longer simply whether you like, or don’t like, something. Now you can give variable levels of applause to a story. Maybe clap once, or maybe 10 or 20 times. You’re in control and can clap to your heart’s desire.”
It says it has implemented clapping as a metric, well, because, “ Since day one, Medium has had a goal of measuring value. The problem, as we saw it, with much of the media/web ecosystem is that the things that are measured and optimized for were not necessarily the things that reflected true value to people. For example, a pageview is a pageview, whether it’s a 3-second bounce (clickbait) or a 5-minute, informative story you read to the end. As a result, we got a lot more of the former.”
This is just the beginning, though, of what Medium considers “a grand experiment.” The publishing platform invites readers to “imagine a day when anyone with the skills and willingness to put in the effort can write something useful, insightful, or moving and be compensated based on its value to others.” If Medium has anything to do with it, that day is today.