This month I realized they are a Ponzi scheme

Man reading a burning newspaper
Photo by Nijwam Swargiary on Unsplash

Retraction

Below is the original article I wrote a few days ago. 
It came from a place of anger. I am sorry. I cooled down for a few 
days and mulled it over. 

I saw something in a movie last night that struck a chord. 
A beginning writer is angry that an agent doesn't like her 
first novel. The agent fairly rips it apart. Why I don't agree 
with this treatment, the next part was profound.

The second character (the non-writer) says, "This is your first novel. 
You aren't *supposed* to be good. You are still learning. Right now 
you're an apprentice."

Huh.

I'm new. I'm not *supposed* to be good.

I'll keep writing and keep getting better. I apologize in advance 
for the below article.

--Matt

Original Article

Every month I am going to be completely transparent in my writer earnings.
It isn’t a lot, but I am holding faith that it will be at some point down
the line.

Executive Summary

  • Medium.com earnings down again ($23)
  • My total earnings are up ($194)
  • Medium.com is a Ponzi scheme
  • A part-time, minimum-wage job would have paid about $1,152
  • Don’t count on Medium earnings
  • I will no longer use the paywall
  • My followers, visitors, and subscribers are up
  • I will post my earnings again next month
Photo by pixpoetry on Unsplash

Surprise!

My Medium.com earnings are down again this month. Last month I was quite angry with my Medium.com earnings. It felt like I was giving a lot and getting a little.

I have moved past anger into acceptance. Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… I cannot change the workings of Medium.com. All I can do is run things a little more fairly when I am in charge (that’s a few years out still).

We have all read those articles about websites that are out there to scam you? There are websites that want you to toil away making them money without proper compensation.

After the experience of the last two months, I think that Medium.com is one of those malicious sites.

Sure, they give you a little money, but they keep almost all of the money. It’s like driving for Lyft or Uber or DoorDash. Yes, they pay you a little money, but after the gas, wear on your car, and time spent, you are making next to nothing. You would make more working down at your local Taco Bell (and do, in fact).

How does Medium.com work?

Since I am posting this on my personal site, as well, there’s some people reading this article that have no idea what Medium.com is and how it works. For them, I am giving the following summary. Even if you know how Medium works, you may not know.

Have you ever taken a beat to think about the injustice of it all? Keep reading, my friend.

Anybody can submit an article to Medium.com. It is yet another social media platform. You can set that article to “free” or you can put the article behind the paywall. Joe Schmoe can read a few articles for free every month. After that, the charge is $5 per month.

If one of those paying members stumbles upon your story, you get a fraction of a penny.

Now, Medium.com employs “curators” who go out to find the best stuff (they assure us). Those articles are featured on the main page. Those articles receive thousands of views. The authors of those articles are compensated.

But even then, the total number of hours do not equal the compensation.

Stay with me here. This is where the scam is apparent. Medium.com has millions of subscribers paying $5 a month. A small fraction is paid out in royalties.

How many hours did you spend writing articles last month? Many articles encourage you to post daily. Other articles tell authors to post longer, quality articles rather than shorter, more frequent articles.

I have tried it both ways. You can put out a quick article in about an hour. You can put out a deeper article in about two. For me, a quality article takes about four hours, with research, contemplation, outlining, writing, and editing.

Let’s suppose one of my articles goes viral. It is picked up by a Medium.com curator and gets thousands of views. This has never happened to me. I’ve been writing consistently for five months. I have improved my style and skill.

I have never been curated. This makes me think that it is largely luck, not skill. Not frequency. Not quality. Luck. Persistence might tie into it, but I haven’t been writing long enough to know on that one.

But back to the point. In our hypothetical, I have a “winning” post. It makes $300. Huzzah! The rest of the month is more of the same… zilch (or close to).

So in a typical work week, there are 6 days. I write a good article each day, which takes 4 hours. There are 4 weeks in this typical month. I “worked” 96 hours for Medium.com. My Medium.com earnings come in at $100. Great! My total earnings for the month are $400. I have yet to hit that number, but we’re just spit-balling, here.

In our example, the state minimum wage is $12. If I had a part-time job down at the Olive Garden, my 96 hours of work would come out to $1,152. Medium.com paid me $400. In the same month they made $5 million dollars (assuming only 1m subscribers).

Even Medium.com tells us…

Only 8% of Medium.com writers make more than $100 per month.

How much time does the average Medium.com writer spending writing content? If you’re anything like me, the balance is way off.

And then we see popular articles on the home page about how you can make gobs of money writing for Medium.com.

Yes, it is possible to make a lot of money.

Yes, it is also possible to win the lottery.

Yes, it is also possible to be struck by lightning.

Medium.com is a Ponzi scheme.

Photo by José Ignacio Pompé on Unsplash

What can you do about it?

1Don’t count on your earnings from Medium.com. When my earnings jumped from cents to dollars, I thought this could work. After two month of decline, my optimism has soured. If you are a writer, somebody should be paying you for your time. I’m sorry to break it to you, but this will not be Medium.com. Sure, they might pay you a pittance, but it will be just that.

A pittance.

You need to have multiple streams of income. Passive income would be great. This will pay you while you work on your writing. I’m not going to go into all the ways. There are a plethora of articles on the subject. Also, what works for one might not work for you.

It’s homework time!

2Stop using the paywall. Medium.com tried to sell us a great idea. They won’t use ads. They will share the profits with you. That would be awesome if it were a 50/50 split. I doubt any of us were that gullible. But what if the split were more like 99/1?

I’m not going to buy into this system any more. If Medium.com significantly changes their business practice, I’ll give it another shot. Until that happens, all of my articles will be posted free of charge. I will not be using the paywall.

Medium.com is still a place where many readers go. I will still put my articles there. I just won’t “charge” for them. It’s worse than that. Previously, I was working hard, giving my content to someone else, allowing them to sell it, and then happily eating the crumbs.

I’m done being a dog.

Month 5 earnings (May 2020)

Without further ado, I will dive into my Writer Earnings for Month 5 of writing. I became a “member” of Medium.com in December of 2019, but I didn’t really start writing articles until mid-January 2020. I had decided by February that “I am a writer.” I consider February 2020 to be “Month 1”

I made $23.27 from Medium.com

Surpisingly, I made $205.72 from Amazon.com! I guess search engines are starting to find my self-published book.

Here’s my Profit & Loss sheet (P&L) for May:

Akismet (personal site……………………………… $5
Medium Membership ……………………………… $5
Domain Name (mwmccabe.com……………………………… $1
10% Tithe (to God) ……………………………… $23

Total Expenses ……………………………… $34

Medium Earnings ……………………………… $23
Amazon Earnings ……………………………… $205

Total Earnings (gross) ……………………………… $228
Total Earnings (net) ……………………………… $194

Overall, this did wonders for my bottom line. Multiple streams of income for the win! Last month my profits were -52%. This month they were an increase of 592%! Bam!

Let’s be super conservative for June. Let’s double it. $400 will be my projected profit. How? Medium.com’s not going to do it. I need to make another income stream.

My average per day was less than a dollar last month. $0.92 to be exact. May had 31 days. My average per day is $6.25. Now we’re talking real numbers! I’m at ½ minimum wage.

Followers, Visitors, and Subscribers

Site Visits: I’m under no illusion that my personal site will be making any money in the near future, but at least I have a little positive progress. My average daily visits went from 427 to 463. Something. I’ll take it.

Medium.com Followers: Last month I was at 1.3k followers. This month I am at 1.5k followers. I get 1 or 2 new followers every day. Slow and steady.

Newsletter Subscribers: This is also a small improvement. Last month was 35 and this month is 38. I really don’t expect much to happen here. I don’t have any promotional materials to entice people to sign up. Right now I would only be attracting my hard-core fans.

Please let there be hard-core fans.

Until next month

For the skimmers, here’s the main points.

  • Medium.com earnings down again ($23)
  • My total earnings are up ($194)
  • Medium.com is a Ponzi scheme
  • A part-time, minimum-wage job would have paid about $1,152
  • Don’t count on Medium earnings
  • I will no longer use the paywall
  • My followers, visitors, and subscribers are up
  • I will post my earnings again next month

Matt is a writer. He writes. If you like what you read, please sign up for the MWMcCabe newsletter to see more articles delivered right to your inbox!


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