I’ve been in the Medium Partner Program (MPP) for 1 year. The locked-story emphasis when I joined was “Save your greatest, most thoughtful, stories for members-only!” That meant something back then. People worked hard; they spent days, weeks, maybe months, perfecting member-only stories.
Today, we’ve completely thrown out that idea.
Locked stories aren’t looked at as “exclusive” anymore—they aren’t held to a quality standard or given preeminent effort. They’re a dime a dozen. I find 2 minute, sometimes 1 minute, stories placed behind the paywall everyday.
“Well, there must be a golden nugget of information in there” I tell myself.
News flash: there isn’t anything profound, inspiring, or even remotely good in that thing.
Why Writers Lock Mundane, Haste Stories
If I had to speculate why we’re locking generic content with shitty stock photos and two or three irrelevant concepts, I’d say it’s because we don’t have any clue which stories will do well. Personally, I’m still very confused how stories rank on Medium—even after a year, it’s a mystery I’ve yet to solve.
To my embarrassment, whenever I write something I’m confident fits the criteria for a locked story, unfortunately it does no good. But, when I randomly throw words and ideas at the screen?
To my surprise, it performs better than expected.
No matter how methodical or intentional my efforts are in writing a “good” locked-story, I find the opposite happens. Is that my fault? Maybe. Maybe not. But for me to work twice as hard for only one-third the results is just flat out crazy talk. Why lock Medium’s idea of good content?
We should lock everything because “you just never know.”
Changes We Might See In The Partner Program
As of this writing, you can lock any and all of your stories if you choose to do so. There’s no cap on the amount of member-only stories you can publish in a given amount of time. In my opinion, this will likely change in the future.
I say that because something tells me Medium will (eventually) want to better regulate what’s behind their paywall. Day by day, Medium is already taking measures to curate what they want on our feeds. In reality, we, the users, should have the utmost control over who and what earns a spot on our feed.
Moreover, limiting the number of locked stories each author can publish will inevitably drive up the quality. With a finite number of “shots in the chamber,” you’ll be more careful and direct with stories you pull the trigger on.
In this scenario, you’ll be forced to save your really good stuff for the MPP.
Oh, and another change might include a minimum word count. (It’s difficult to write something comprehensive or substantial in a 200 words or less.)
Ideal Conditions for Locked Stories on Medium
Above all else, this should happen every time you publish a locked-story:
You’re compensated for the time, effort, and energy you put in on top off claps and engagement.
I don’t think claps and readership are solely enough to properly pay writers for their quality work. Of course, those metrics make sense. Claps and engagement are directly tied to value provided to readers, which is high on Medium’s list of objectives. But what if you have only 59 followers? What if you write the greatest, most powerful story on Medium but nobody can find it?
It’s an obvious dilemma: there’s great writing, but no value to readers (they don’t see it). Based off that, how much longer do you think that guy with 59 followers will continue to write good content on this platform? His work is great, yet he earns nothing.
I don’t see that lasting long.
So here’s two ways to change the MPP:
- Pay writers something for what went into the story. Whether it’s compensation based off minutes spent typing, number of links, pictures, word count, etc. Do we want fluffed stories? Absolutely not. But give people incentive to write value-added stories regardless who reads it.
- Limit the amount of stories a writer can lock in a month… but significantly enhance the reach of those articles. Instead of having authors flood the paywall, make the condensed work load behind it more profitable.
Are these changes likely or even possible? I don’t know.
All I’m saying is the Partner Program will change and there’s no telling what it’ll entail.