Medium’s New Tipping Feature is Pointless and the Platform’s Declaration of Defeat

Pretty insulting to writers as well.

Medium writers can now receive tips from readers via third-party services such as PayPal, Patreon, and Ko-Fi.

Insert slow clap.

Yes, many other platforms allow content creators to integrate a donation feature into their profile but when it comes to Medium, with its not-so-glorious recent past, I can only see the move as a defeating “We give up. Over to you.” moment.

Let me explain what I mean with pretty, easy-to-write, and easy-to-follow bulleted lists.

Why did they even do it?

I’m sure there’s a detailed explanation from the platform’s representatives somewhere on the website listing the reasons behind the launch of the feature but I’m not interested in reading a “we did it with the best interest of our writers in mind” statement because I think whatever they said, it’s BS.

Here’s why:

  • Writers could receive donations regardless of Medium’s integration of the feature. They could, and many of them did, link the platform of their choice in the text of a story and ask for tips in this manner. A small image could act as a button and it would also look pretty. The whole thing is redundant.
  • It defeats one of Medium’s core promises to writers. The point of having your stories metered on Medium is to be paid for your work. Tips go with certain services and hobbies. It’s “a little extra” for someone’s extra efforts when it comes to their job, or a symbolic reward for a passionate individual — to help them understand they’re appreciated in a specific field even if it’s not their main occupation. Tips don’t pay bills. Tips don’t define professionals. Medium is supposed to be a medium [sic!] for aspiring writers or accomplished writers who want to diversify their work. Medium asks readers to pay for access to this work. It’s not a club for writing enthusiasts, it’s a media platform that collaborates with thousands of individuals, in a professional context. Or so I thought…
  • It screams “We can’t pay our writers”. Medium’s staff knows most of the writers are not paid according to the value they bring to the platform. And given the many flaws of the website — some of which directly boycott the writers’ opportunity to be paid for their works [see story below]— I don’t think they’re able to provide a fix anytime soon, or at all —, which is why I believe the tipping feature is a way to throw in the towel and acknowledge that they cannot pay writers. Now they’re putting pressure on the content creators themselves, and the — already paying???-audience.
  • It’s tacky. In how many ways can you ask the same audience for money? There’s already a prompt to invite/encourage readers to become paying subscribers. The promise for them is “pay the membership fee and you’ll get free access to all the stories, and your favorite writers will also get paid from it”. Good. Then there’s the “if you use the writer’s link, he/she will get a portion of your monthly payments to Medium”. Okay still, it’s a way to reward users who bring new customers to the business. Fine. But now, for those who will enable the tipping feature as well, there’ll be a third type of money request — “Tip the writer if you really love his/her story”. And it will pop up on every story. Therefore, money requests multiplied ad infinitum. It’s stupid. Like pop-ups that you know… pop up every freaking second on a website. It’s in poor taste and a distraction for the reader.

What will the tipping feature achieve?

Here’s what I think the result of this integration will be, eventually.

  • Annoyed readers, who will be asked for money in every possible way, multiple times during normal use of the platform.
  • Frustrated writers. Some hope that the tipping feature will boost their earnings, that they will finally be rewarded for their efforts in a just way, and that those who are not yet eligible for Medium’s Partner Program will be able to receive some money via this method before they meet the criteria. Yeah… what if at the end of their experiment, the balance for these writers is still 0 or close to 0, even with the tips enabled? I’m guessing some will feel angry and discouraged. Their motivation level linked to writing in general, or writing on this platform in particular, will likely drop. Good job, Medium staff.
  • Already well-paid writers — good writers and scammers alike — will get even more money through this feature. Go figure. Large crowds will generate more profit for those already favored by the algorithm.

Will I enable the tipping feature?

  • Of course not.

Is there a context where the tipping feature would make sense on Medium?

  • Yes. If the membership fee is dropped. Free content, with the possibility to receive tips from the audience. Maybe ads and ad revenue as well.

What’s next?

I just hope this is not yet another sign that Medium is a dying platform.

There are still plenty of elements that I enjoy about it as an environment for writers and content creators.

It would be a shame if bad management would throw everything away.

Wait and see, I guess.

This article was originally published on an external platform on August 19, 2022.

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