Earn money for your content on Medium

Is it possible to monetize your content on Medium?

You have to hand it to the folks at Medium, they know how to make a snazzy blog editor. It is such a pleasure to write long form content on Medium and many folks like me are getting sucked into its awesomeness. But what happens if one of your articles suddenly becomes successful? What if one of your articles hits the Google Search jackpot and starts to drive traffic? Will you be able to enjoy the spoils of that success? Is there a way to monetize your content on Medium and if not, are there other ways to benefit from posting your best content there?

I was one of the lucky ones, an early Medium user back when you needed an invitation to write for it. I remember writing my first article and thinking to myself — how would I ever know if the article is successful? At the time there was no way to measure stats — no way to inject my Google Analytics tracking code — no way to measure anything other than the number of times the article was recommended. Writing on Medium felt very confined and without much of a point. But it had that awesome editor — so I was interested.

Photography often improves engagement on a blog article.

Today however there is a very nice stats page that informs me on the performance of my content. It helps me understand the engagement each article receives so that I know whether or not my writing is successful. Like most people who publish on the Internet some of my blog articles resonate more than others but its entirely unpredictable which ones will be successful. With those few successful articles how can I capture the engagement they create and transform it into something more meaningful? Is there a way for me to profit from my success on Medium?

Profiting on Medium today depends entirely on what your goals are. If your goal is to reach a larger audience you can profit now. If your goal is to earn money for your writing things get a little bit more complicated.

Writing for the audience

According to Medium the typical article gets on average a 15% lift due to features like their iOS app, read next and their digest emails. Write an article on Medium and you’ve got a better chance that you’ll get someone to read it — this is part of what they call the “Medium Network” effect. That plus the already large size of the Medium audience and you’ve got the makings for a great place to find readers for writing.

What if you wanted to write for money?

More than 12% of Google search results are actually blog articles.

Medium is already paying a select handful of bloggers to write content for the site. At first they hired the writers to help create the initial seed content (the first articles that you see when you visit the site) and they continue to fund the successful ones — paying for individual articles. According to some of the folks behind the effort paying for content has been both a success and a failure. The articles that they paid for are all high quality but unfortunately quality doesn’t equal engagement. So how are the folks behind Medium determining the success or failure of content on the site?

Its all about the engagement

One way to measure success is to measure page views but that won’t give you a clear picture regarding engagement. A better way to measure the success of content is to look at the spent time on the page. How long does a person spend reading an article? You can determine how long it should take to read an article based on the number of words. If it should take 5 minutes to read an article and a viewer spends 8 minutes on it you’ve got great engagement. Compare that to a person who spends 10 seconds on it. Both count as a page view but the former is clearly reading the article — absorbing the content which is far more valuable.

Medium has changed the stats page to reflect the importance of time on page. They measure it with what they call “reads” and “read ratio.” Both stats tell the story of how much the audience is engaging with your work. If you get 22 views and 20 reads you’ve got a 91% read ratio which means you wrote a very engaging article. Well done. Medium is measuring stats for collections too. If you run a collection that garners a lot of time on page then you’ve got Medium’s attention. You didn’t just get lucky on a single article, you’ve curated an entire collection of great content.

Medium stats page is all about the time spent reading the article.

Writing for money

Medium is beta testing some tools to reward authors who’ve created successful content. They haven’t explicitly said what these tools look like or how they will be deployed but it is clear that they are looking for ways to help writers earn money for creating successful engaging content. When they do release these tools it will finally be possible to earn money for the content you’ve posted to Medium. Until then you can continue working to build your audience but you aren’t going to be able to make money on it. At least not directly.

You could try to move your successful content outside of Medium. Lets say for example that you wrote a successful article about cats. The article gets a lot of engagement within the Medium network and it is also ranked well on Google Search. Since you own the article you could try moving the article to your own blog (outside of Medium) where you could insert ads and affiliate links. Unfortunately Medium doesn’t allow you to use a 301 redirect to move the article but they do allow you to export and delete content. So you could export the article, repost it to your blog and then delete it from Medium. Google Search might reindex — and re-rank your article. When I say “might” — I mean “might” because there is no telling if Google would reinterprit the article as being the same although it is likely that Google would. The article might have less authority because it isn’t on Medium’s domain but that shouldn’t affect the article too much. It might be worth trying because its not like you are making money on the article while it is on Medium’s site. Not much to lose but a lot to gain.

Medium could make it easier to take your content off their site — allowing you to use a 301 redirect for example but that would make it harder for them to lock in great content — to become a destination site. Using a 301 redirect would allow you to move not only your content but the juice you’ve built up around the article. Medium could argue that since they helped promote the article the success is based on those efforts and the juice should stay on Medium. That is a reasonable argument but it doesn’t allow for portability.

You could pull down your article and recreate it on another website and hope that it achieves the same level of popularity. If Google Search has indexed and ranked your article while on Medium chances are good it will do the same for the article after you publish it to another site. There is risk though — there is no guarantee that the article will rank with the same level of authority since the website is different and the website factors into Google’s ranking algorithm.

Medium offers writers many tempting reasons to publish there. A great blog editor, 15% lift in audience engagement by promoting your article for you, and so on. The more features they release the more tempting it is to publish there. It is likely they will release tools that allow you to earn money directly from their site. That will be the killer feature that converts bloggers from other platforms to Medium. Until the day that they offer monetization tools if you are looking to make money from the content you create you’ll want to publish it somewhere else. It won’t hurt to publish an article or two on Medium to start building an audience but there is no guarantee that Medium will provide you with tools in the future to make money from it. Start building that audience now so you’ll be ready for the future. You’ll be glad you did.

Update April 5th 2016 — you can make bank!

Medium announced two new features to help you make bank on your great content:

Promoted Stories — For those that opt in, brand sponsored content will show up below your article in a way that clearly indicates that it is a paid spot. This is the example that Medium provided of the layout:

Medium did not indicate how pricing would work on this but one would assume price per click.

Membership — Content creates will also be able to setup a walled garden around their content and charge readers to access it via a membership fee. It sounds like it will be a monthly fee which will be paid directly to the publication.

Both features will work with publications — not individual content. So you’ll need to setup and manage your own publication to take advantage of the new revenue generating features. Medium did not specify when these new features would become generally available as they are currently in beta.

For those qualified (not sure what that means) publishers who want to apply for the beta you can submit your application here.

By joshkerr

Josh is an 8x startup founder and angel investor.

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