Medium to Writers: Please Clap
This is….probably not going to work.
Publishing platform Medium announced Tuesday that it will allow a "small group of writers and publications" to join its Partner Program. Writers participating in it will now get paid based on "engagement." The primary signal of that engagement is how many "claps" (Medium's version of a like) a post receives.
In other words, the more claps your article gets, the more money you make.
Earlier this year, Medium laid off a third of its staff, and promised to work on finding a more sustainable business model. It soon launched a paid subscription service, which allows customers to access exclusive articles for $5 a month. Previously, Medium divided an individual subscription fee among all the exclusive articles a person read that month. Now, articles with more claps will be given a larger share of the pie.
A spokesperson from Medium said that a person's subscription fee would be proportionally divided according to how many claps it gave out that month. So if you give out one clap each to two articles, the writers of those two posts would each get half of your subscription fee.
The problem is that unlike a "like" on Facebook or Twitter, you can "clap" at a Medium many times (a spokesperson from Medium later clarified that the feature stops you at 50 claps). Journalist Karen K. Ho, for example, posted a Medium article that only said "Am I doing this correctly?" and has already received over 2,000 claps.
In a genius move, Tess Rinearson, who describes herself as a former Medium employee on Twitter, showed how a banana could be used to continuously clap at an article by balancing it on top of a phone (though she was using the feature on a Medium Series, which is not part of the Partner Program).
"There is a lot we need to figure out to make this work right," several members of Medium's product team wrote in the blog post announcing the new revenue model. It looks like it!
A spokesperson from Medium told Motherboard in an email that the company "employs several methods of detecting artificial interactions on both posts and accounts to ensure there is no gaming or deceptive conduct."
Update 8/22/17 5:03 PM: This post has been updated with comment from Medium.
Update: 8/22/17 5:47 PM: This post was updated with further clarification from Medium.