Medium says it will compensate writers based on reading time, not claps

Medium is announcing significant changes to its Partner Program, where subscribers pay for access to exclusive content, and the revenue gets split with writers.

The biggest change is that writers will now be compensated based “primarily” on reading time, rather than claps. In a post, Medium’s Emma Smith describes reading time as “a closer measure of quality and resonance with readers.” After all, it reflects the interest and behavior of all readers, “not just the ones who remember to 👏.”

According to Smith’s post, Medium has now paid out more than $6 million total to 30,000 writers.

When CEO Ev Williams explained the partner model to me shortly after it launched in 2017, he described it as an evolving formula that incorporated claps (a simple way that readers can indicate they liked a story) and reading time, but now it sounds like reading time has won out as the metric that matters.

“We believe in reading time because it represents the core value that our readers receive from Medium,” Smith writes. “It may not be a perfect measure of value, but we find that it’s a powerful proxy.”

To be more specific, Smith says Medium is measuring and determining compensation based on active reading time, so if someone keeps the window open when they step away for a few minutes, that shouldn’t count.

Smith also says Medium is looking at reading time in two ways — there’s the more straightforward measurement of “how long members spend reading your story” (this include readers who find your story and then subscribe in the next 30 days), but also the percentage of their total reading time that members spend on your stories, which is meant to “support authors who write about unique topics and connect with loyal readers.”

In addition to changing the way earnings are calculated, Medium is also changing the frequency with which they’re calculated, from weekly to daily. And the reader data that Medium shares with writers will include “new metrics to explain your earnings.”

Despite all these changes, Smith notes that claps aren’t going away, and that they still matter: “Claps will remain a great way for readers to support stories they love. When your readers clap, they’ll boost your stories to a wider audience. And as more people read, you’ll earn.”