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The End of the Medium Referral Program

Is it coming soon?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about Medium’s referral program. The promotional footers in every story get old quickly. And yes, I’m to blame too, of course. I also promote my referral link. It’s good money if you get some.

But is it good for the platform, for the quality of writing, and for the readers that are NOT writers?

Good news then?

I was surprised when I read an outstanding piece by DC Palter called “Medium Raises Another $31M” in which DC hints at the possibility of Medium ending the referral program.

The article is mainly about the acquisitions of Projector and Knowable and the money that went into that. Instead of paying us, writers more, for example.

In the end, however, DC writes:

Best guess, and this is pure speculation based on my experience working with startups, is Medium is doing well enough to keep going without big changes to the payments. However, the new subscriber bounty will probably be dropped soon (end of year?) and we won’t see costly bonuses again until the company needs to raise its next round of funding in another 12–18 months.


This guess makes a lot of sense to me. Assuming Medium needed funding, a great way to get that is by coming up with bonus systems that benefit writers and positively market the company and platform. Hence, the bonus payments, the writing challenge, and the referral program. Makes sense.

Once Medium got the funding, things are a little different. As DC also wrote, Medium won’t be due for another round of funding for at least a year, maybe two. Makes sense.

The question is: Why would they pay out bonuses or make up for the referral money (if they don’t cut the pay for member reading time overall to equal out those referrals)?

After all, funding usually means, accounting for the company’s losses, as DC points out. And in the case of the last funding round also for the acquisition of the two companies.

The bottom line

If these assumptions are correct and Medium indeed needed funding to make up for substantial losses, it makes sense that they might take the foot off the gas pedal soon and stop (or at least reduce) the bonus systems. They already stopped the bonus payments of spring/summer and the writers’ challenge is over without any mention of a new one.

That leaves the referrals. Medium won’t post numbers here. I’d love to see how referrals are going. Overall though, I could totally see Medium getting rid of that program soon. Or constrain in it some form.

What do you think? And check out DC’s detailed rundown of the funding because it’s brilliant!

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