Remember what happened in October?
The MPP changed and everyone seemed to lose their ever-loving minds over it. Story after story about how to hack the new system, why it was great, why it was trash, why it was the sign of the times or frustrating beyond belief.
For me, a fairly new writer who was a Medium Lurker for about a year before I ever published a single piece, it didn’t really make sense. I lacked the historical context of how the platform operated in its early days. All I could do was chalk it up to an evolution to a more sophisticated system, shaped by the data accumulated over the previous years.
I tried to take it in stride, which is really all any of us can do since we don’t know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. Sure, we can guess and make assumptions based on the patterns we see or what we can gather from our own research, but I figure that time spent digging might be better spent writing. I published more stories in November than I ever had but my earnings took a dip from my all-time high.
Did that mean the new MPP earnings structure wasn’t going to benefit me?
No, and here’s why:
See that dead zone between the arrows?
That’s the entire month of October, when this story was floating along, getting a handful of views but generating nuh-thing in terms of money.
Although…let’s be real. A whopping $17 from a story is not exactly a life-changing amount of money. In the name of radical transparency, I’m not getting rich off these stories (shocking, I know).
But as we’ve seen, making money on Medium is about patience, persistence, and the power of compounding returns.
This “Lifetime View” is enormously helpful for gauging the big-picture pattern of a story and I’m surprised it wasn’t an option until recently. I only noticed that option in the last couple of days, after spending a good chunk of time living my regular life and not publishing anything.
I checked out the Lifetime stats for a few other early stories and noticed similar trends. A gap in earnings (always after the first 7–10 days of publishing) until late October when the new MPP structure went live. Then, a steady, albeit very low, drip of money rolling in from these older pieces as they continued to be seen and read by members.
Other than a few blips and spikes, this story doesn’t get a ton of views. I’m sure no one is being blown away by the volume of reads it’s getting. But it’s making money. Or at least, more than it did before the MPP change.
I’m not a high volume writer and probably never will be. I’m not getting thousands of views a day, even on my best days.
My views took a big hit in the second week of December. But what’s interesting is that I still continued to earn an average of $3–4 per day from older stories — stories that didn’t make much of anything when they were first published months ago.
When Medium paid according to engagement in the forms of claps and comments, it was nearly impossible to tell which stories were truly engaging. Someone might peek for three seconds, enjoy the first paragraph, and dole out 50 claps.
Flattering? Yes. But did it make me a better writer? No.
That’s because reading time is a tell-tale sign that your writing is compelling enough to keep someone engaged. They want to jump the next section, process the next sentence. If my reading time is consistently low on a story that gets a lot of views, that tells me something useful. If my reading time is consistently high, even for a story that doesn’t get a lot of time in the spotlight, I consider it a pretty good piece of work.
Does it mean every story that continues to earn is “good”? Well, no. Just as the stories that don’t continue to earn aren’t “bad”. I think some of my best writing has gone un-curated and unnoticed, like this one that got zero traction:
But I love those words.
If I chose to live and breath by the “success” of this story, I’d be in a sorry state. It’s made, so far…62 cents.
I won’t lie and say I wouldn’t love this story more if it was helping my bottom line. You need money to live in this world. That’s an unmovable fact. So if my writing were to financially support me a little more than it currently does, yeah, I’d love that. But it doesn’t mean I’m not proud of the stories that earn a few pennies here and there. That’s not why I write.
Most of us are far from the top-tier of Medium writers. I love watching a success story and admiring talent as much as anyone else, but I don’t aspire to reach that level myself. I think it’d be a favor to my ego to let go of that impractical (not totally unrealistic) goal and understand that what it would take to achieve that is simply not something I need or want to do right now.
Could that change? Sure. I’ll never say never.
But in the meantime, I’ll write when I want to. I’ll take breaks when I need to. I’ll enjoy the stories and comments from others doing the same, and I’ll tuck those MPP earnings away for a rainy day.
I’m fully aware of how obnoxious it is to write about Medium on Medium, but I’m making an informed and empowered decision to do it anyways. Insert hair flip emoji.
If you want to see more about what I’ve learned so far, check out these stories (and I might make 62 more cents):