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How Does Medium Make Money? Medium Business Model In A Nutshell

Medium is an online media platform leveraging the concept of social media for journalism, where writers are prompted to the platform to build their following through in-depth writings and essays. The platform follows a freemium model, and it makes money by prompting users to subscribe to articles behind paid walls (Medium charges $5/month or $50/year), and writers are paid based on readership.

Origin story

Medium is an online social journalism platform, publishing content from amateur and professional writers alike.

Medium was created in 2012 by former Twitter CEO and co-founder Evan Williams. Indeed, Williams developed Medium as “a new place on the Internet where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends.”

Once established, the platform grew quickly. Any writer can publish their thoughts to the world in a range of categories such as Health, Politics, and Sport. The company also partners with similar organizations to publish content on its platform, including Sports Illustrated, Hacker Noon, and The Economist.

The company now boasts a monthly readership of between 85 to 100 million users. However, Medium seeks to focus on the amount of time each user spends reading on the platform. This, Williams argues, is a much more accurate determinant of business success.

Medium revenue generation

The Medium revenue model involves charging readers a subscription fee for reading its content.

It is first important to note that readers do get access to three articles per month without charge. But the vast majority of Medium content is hidden behind a paywall. To access this content, Medium charges $5/month or $50/year. This gives the user unlimited access to stories and publications. They can also listen to audio versions of popular articles and log in to a homepage with a list of curated daily articles.

When a reader with a subscription reads a subscriber-only article, a portion of their membership fee goes to the article author. At the time of writing, the exact fee is dependent upon the time spent reading the article itself.

Spotify freemium model as an inspiration

For Medium to be able to make money, Williams frequently cites the Spotify business model where listeners can enjoy ad-free, high-quality music for a small monthly fee. Here, the difference in value between the free and premium versions is clear.

In the case of Medium, however, the difference is less clear. Content on Medium is designated as premium at the discretion of the author – there are no criteria with which it must first be assessed. Authors can also choose to release their work as free content to attract new readers and build a following.

As a result, critics believe the sole method of Medium revenue generation provides little value to consumers. It remains to be seen as to whether this way of making money is sustainable.

Key takeaways:

  • Medium is an online publishing platform. It promotes social journalism, showcasing the work of amateur writers alongside professional authors and large publishing companies.
  • Medium makes money by hiding most of its content behind a paywall. While readers can access three articles per month free of charge, they will need to pay $5/month to access more.
  • The designation between free and premium content on Medium is up to the discretion of the author. Premium articles do not need to meet stringent criteria and authors may choose to release premium content for free if they have an ulterior motive. This has the potential to make the company’s business model unsustainable.

Read Next: Spotify Business Model, Freemium Business Model, Subscription Business Model.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"