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Medium Reads Are Up But Earnings Are Down, How Can That Be?

I have a theory, actually two

Anyone on Medium knows that views are not that important when it comes to earnings. 

Views don’t pay.

They can be external and pay nothing, or they’re internal but only a few of them convert to reads.

That’s not the issue here, though.

Reads are up and earnings are down. What’s the problem?

First of all, reads are a double-edged sword. Overall, reads might be a more desirable metric than views because they at least mean people read your story, right?

Sort of true. But not completely.

Since the computer (or website or server) can’t tell whether or not someone read the whole story — they can’t track your eyes or read your mind — an algorithm has to go by other clues to “simulate” what reads mean.

These clues are usually time spent on the page, scroll events up and down the page, breaks, and click events.

That means reads ideally mean someone read the whole thing, but realistically I suspect they mean a reading ratio of half to 3/4 of the page to be counted as reads.

Or they simulated all the right things to count as a read without ever having read anything.

The most important metric

Some writers on Medium assume that Medium pays for readsThat’s not true.

Reads, just like views, can come from external sources. Those reads pay nothing.

If reads were the basis for earnings, one read would have a fixed pay rate. This isn’t the case. Earnings highly fluctuate.

The metric that does count for earnings is member reading time.

This explains the fluctuation because a read of an 8-minute story will amount to more reading time than a read of a 1-minute piece. Generally speaking.

But what if reading time is up and earnings are still down

Now, it’s getting weird. Here’s theory #1.

Let’s assume, your views are up AND member reading time is also increasing.

How in hell can earnings be lower then?

This is something I did predict earlier this year, be it somewhat less likely. It might just turn out to be true though.

Here’s the problem:

Medium won’t publish numbers on the referral program, but as far as I can tell referrals have been going well. Some writers have dozens already.

Now, let’s assume those referred readers read your story. What’s the problem? Instead of throwing $5 (with their membership fee) in the pot of accumulative earnings for each story they read, they “only” throw in half of that amount because the other half goes to the referrer every month.

What if this has been happening quicker and in higher concentration than we thought?

That’s just one theory though.

The more obvious culprit

The referral program might get problematic in the future. For now, I think another factor is contributing to lower earnings.

Less member reading time.

In my case, member reading time is the culprit. I increasingly write short stories. 1 or 2 minute reads. Those will undoubtedly lead to less member reading time than my 5–8 minute pieces.

The bottom line

This doesn’t have to be an issue though. On the contrary, my earnings have been steadily going north.


By using shortform I have increased my overall story output. A lot.

I get fewer minutes of member reading time on individual pieces on average, but the overall amount is still going up due to the number of published stories per month.

If you do write a lot of shortform but don’t increase your overall story output, this might explain why your reads are going up but your earnings are slowing down.

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