Medium’s “100 Followers” Rule is Irrelevant

And at times, abusive.

Medium’s Partner Program (MPP) allows writers to earn money for the content they publish on the platform.

Once you are accepted into MPP, you have the chance to be paid for both the time paying members spend reading your articles and also for those memberships the platform gains via your profile.

When I joined Medium, there was only one criterion one had to check before applying to become an MPP member: having a Stripe account.

That also limited the users based on their region — only certain countries were accepted by Stripe.

I had to wait about a year before Stripe was available in my country, Romania.

But once I had the account, I applied for MPP, send the tax information and it was all done. My stories were metered and I could monetize my content.

Rules changed last year, and now there are two requirements that make users eligible for MPP:

  1. Have at least 100 followers on Medium.
  2. Have published at least one story on Medium in the past — responses do not count.

You still need to be over 18, have a Stripe account, and be in a country that supports Stripe, obviously.

But now, even if you’re an adult with a Stripe account, it’s not enough to start receiving money for your content on Medium.

While the second eligibility criterion is fair — write a main piece of content on the platform — , the first one is anything but relevant or reasonable.

I will explain below the main reasons why I think Medium’s “100 Followers Rule” is not only irrelevant but also abusive toward content writers, at times.

  • Easy to bypass. In theory, the 100 followers requirement is meant to raise the bar for paid writers. In practice, it can be faked via several methods. Friends, family, fake accounts. They can all follow a writer’s account and help it reach the 100 mark.
  • Quantity does not entail quality. Plenty of users who “write” low-quality content, especially in the “make tons of money today”/scam-like niches, get followers quickly. Why would the platform reward scammers and side-hustle “gurus”?
  • Not fair to multi-niche writers. Writers with multi-niche content gain followers at a slower rate and in smaller numbers than niche-based creators. The rule is not fair to the first since they may create plenty of good content, yet people wouldn’t necessarily follow them because they write about multiple topics.
  • Quantity does not entail paid memberships. The 100 followers can all be non-paying members. No, I’m not saying that the rule should be changed yet again in this sense — oh, no! — but a writer’s first followers may not be those who support the platform and the content creators via paying a membership. So, 3 paying followers could, in theory, be considered of a higher quality — engagement-wise, than 1000 non-paying readers. Especially since we’re talking about a criterion that allows one to be paid from membership money.
  • Not fair to writers who publish rarely. Maybe you only have one good story that you want to publish on Medium. “That one time” you felt like hitting “Publish”. And it’s damn good, evergreen, and people read it like crazy. But then they go to your profile, see that you’ve only published once, 7 months ago, and do not follow you. The writer brings the engagement to Medium, Medium doesn’t reward the writer. Not fair.
  • Not fair to 1-hit wonders. Singers with just one good song among the many they’ve released still make money from that one song. Same for actors who only manage to be part of one great movie. Not the same for writers on Medium. If someone publishes 100 stories, but only one takes off, bringing thousands of reads, the writer won’t get any money for their good article. Again, maybe people just read, enjoy that one piece of content, and do not follow the writer. I think they’re still entitled to payment for that amazing or good-enough post. I know I had a 1000+ views article way before I hit the 100 followers mark. I was paid for that article’s reading time. Others should have the same experience.

In short, I don’t think the 100 followers rule should be the gatekeeper regarding a writer’s ability to monetize their content on Medium.

Instead, I’d just go for a “let the best piece of content win” policy.

Make it about the writing, not the faux-popularity of a user.

Thank you for reading.

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