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The Most Impactful Of the New Medium Changes 2023

And how this might completely change our earnings

Medium is overhauling the entire partner program dynamic with multiple small and big changes.

Among those changes is one that could easily fly under the radar, but to me, it is the most profound and impactful change of them all.

Significant updates

Others could take the cake, like:

  • the fact that you now have to be a paying Medium member to earn from the partner program
  • or the fact that earnings will be calculated on much more than member reading time from now on.

You can read about all changes here.

But the biggest one is this ↓

The 30-second rule

30 seconds is nothing.

For a reader, however, 30 seconds is a LOT of time.

With the new update, Medium will from now on only count views as reads (and therefore paid) if a reader has spent at least 30 seconds on your article.

This is HUGE! It might seem small, but it isn’t.

Here’s why!

Shortform is doomed?!

First off, this highly impacts shortform content and shorter writing in general. You can easily skim a shortform story (of up to 150 words) in under 30 seconds. Those won’t make a dime then.

Shortform is a major aspect of their Medium writing for many Medium members like Kristina God, and yes, myself as well.

The 30-second rule could change this dynamic immensely.

Medium employee, Buster Benson, does address this issue in his overview of the changes:

We’ve tested the impact of this change on short-form writing (poems, comics, etc) to see if this 30-second constraint would negatively impact them, and the answer is that it doesn’t. If anything, the collective impact of these changes will increase earnings for short-form writing. The best way to maximize earnings here is to use titles, subtitles, and preview images that spark reader interest in a way that the story is able to fully deliver on.

I am not sure if this will be 100% confirmed in practice, though. Even if the spark is there, and the story delivers, shorter text and good formatting with subtitles, lists & images will make it easy to get the gist of a (short) story in under 30 seconds.

The skimmers hurt

Secondly, even with long-form content, many readers only skim the article, mainly reading subtitles, bullet lists, and highlighted passages.

This means longer content can be skimmed in under 30 seconds as well. And therefore, again, won’t earn you a dime.

This 30-second rule also creates a conundrum because well-formatted text with subheadings, bullet points, and bold and italic passages is desirable to make the reading experience better, but it may very well impact your earnings for the worse. Listicles are a great example for this.

On the other hand, large blocks of text (that negatively impact the reading experience, in my opinion) might do better with the 30-second rule, because you can’t quickly skim them.

This isn’t ideal, in my opinion.


Why this change

I get where Medium is going with this. In their own words:

We’re discouraging clickbait by adjusting earnings based on read ratio. […]
You will most likely see your stories have higher read ratios after this update. High read ratios imply that the story’s title and preview accurately represented the content of the story. Low read ratios imply that the title and preview were perhaps a bit clickbaity.

Yes, that’s true. Clickbait will be impacted by this change. But not only clickbait.

This might be the whole idea behind it, though. Maybe Medium wants to get rid of listicles, shorter texts, and articles that are easy to skim.

The bottom line

We’ll see how this change truly impacts reading, writing, and earnings experiences for established and new Medium writers.

The best-case scenario:

  • the 30-second rule improves our read ratios
  • it leads to higher earnings
  • it removes clickbait
  • it encourages long-form content

The worst-case:

  • short content won’t make a dime
  • it discourages shortform, poetry, comics, and other content-formats
  • well-formatted text (that’s easy to skim) dies
  • earnings for many take a huge hit

For me, the 30-second rule and the impact it has on read ratio and reading time and their subsequent large impact on earnings is the biggest change of the new Medium 2023.

From now on, it will matter how you keep people at least 30 seconds on your article page. Not that it didn’t matter at all before, but it’s quite different now.

Better or worse? We’ll see.

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