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The Algorithm Is Not the Reason Our Medium Earnings Are Down

Other reasons

Okay, let’s assume your earnings have been down the past few weeks.

First of all, you’re not alone. Mine have been down too. Secondly, these days, Medium is full of writers blaming alleged changes to the algorithm for tanking views and earnings.

Could be. I doubt it, though.

Here’s the thing

Let’s imagine Medium is growing like never before. The platform is gaining users by the minute, referrals do their part in driving members to the membership program, and more and more people are becoming writers & readers at the same time.

(I said let’s assume because we don’t get statistics on that from Medium directly. I wish we were. I’d love to see membership numbers and the changes over time).

But I digress. Let’s assume the aforementioned facts were true.

What does this mean?

It means the following things:

a) More writers write stories, ergo there’s more to read each day

b) More readers read this growing catalog of stories per day, week, month

c) To become or stay relevant on this platform, it’s important to write as much as possible or to be distributed or recommended as much as possible

Issue #1

Views are down. This is a problem for many of us at the moment. Views aren’t the same as last year or the year before.

One reason could be the algorithm. The mighty algorithm might just lose sight of you and leave your content behind. Could be. Again, I doubt it, though.

Here’s another possibility: More writers equals more competition. It’s harder to stay relevant, it’s more difficult to be discovered, it’s a constant struggle to stay at the top or get there quickly.

Honestly, this is an issue that won’t get fixed, because it’s only problematic for us, not for Medium.

Medium is gaining more and more members. They’re happy. (If that’s true).

Issue #2

Interestingly enough, a growing number still get lots of views, maybe even more than last year and prior, but they do make less money from those views.

How can that be?

I don’t think Medium has changed the payout amount for reading time.

Instead, it’s a numbers game again. As far as I know, Medium works like this:

I pay $5 a month for my membership. These 5 dollars get distributed amongst the stories (and authors) I read.

Let’s imagine I read only 1 story this month. All $5 would go to the author of this one story. This is the theory.

Now, what happens if the number of stories I read drastically increases?

If I read 2 stories a month, 2 authors get $2.50. If I read 5 stories, 5 people get $1. And so on.

Let’s circle back to the introductory assumption. Medium is gaining members, both readers and writers, by the minute.

That means $5 per person gets distributed amongst more and more writers because they probably read more and more stories.

Could this be true?

The bottom line

I don’t know. I’m not Medium.

We don’t have much information about statistics on Medium, the payment model, and the correlation between the two.

I can only assume there is a correlation because this might explain dips in earnings for views in general.

The growth in Medium users, in turn, would explain the drops in views for many.

I’ll use myself as an example here: When I started on Medium 1.5 years ago, I read a few weekly stories. I wasn’t following a lot of writers back then. Now, I do. I follow and subscribe to quite a few. And I read several stories each day. This is good for me because I learn new things, find more authors, and discover new topics. It’s bad for the writers I read because they earn less money from my reads.

That’s the theory. Could be wrong. Do you have another take on this? Tell me!

By the way, this is the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would be this: Medium is losing more and more members by the minute. That’s why views and earnings are down. I don’t like that idea.

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