A breakdown for n00bs.
It’s a rather ingenious business strategy.
It costs $5 a month to be a member on Medium. Writers are paid based on engagement from paying members. (Non-members do not generate any money for writers).
Until just recently, earnings were allocated by claps. If a member clapped 1 time for the entire month and that clap was for Joe’s content, Joe got the $5.
If a member clapped twice that month, once for Joe, once for Sarah.
Each of them got $2.5. The math scales in simple proportions to your claps.
It is a rather simple model that was introduced to help reward writers for producing quality content. In many ways, this looks to be the future of content creation.
And then — recently — things changed a bit. There was some gaming of the system with people surge clapping each other’s content to boost their position in the feed. And very likely there were other ridiculous, typical monetization tactics that we saw run rampant in Quora’s Partner Program. (A competitor of Medium).
Now —they recently changed the monetization plan.
Writers on Medium will be paid based on reading time. If a member spends 1 minute on Joe’s content, Joe gets the $5, 1 minute on Joe’s AND 1 minute on Sarah’s, it is $2.5 each.
So with your writing, more than ever, it is about getting people to spend the time to actually read what you’ve written. Ensure you are writing compelling posts that keep your readers engaged and not abandoning your post. Claps won’t be completely useless. They will still matter as a sign of positive engagement with your content, signaling to the algorithm that you are a quality writer and worth showing to other readers.
But minutes will be what pays. The cool thing is that medium membership fees go directly to the writers. Medium doesn’t keep the money.
So start writing and find people who want to support you as a writer and hopefully they will join to support you on your journey. Best of luck!