I certainly understand your decision. While I only occasionally write poetry I’m pleased to hear you’ve made some money. As a fairly early member ofthe Partner Program I made some money but it has gone down steadily over the last two months. I’ve previously shared my concerns with that and those match yours in questioning the payment formula.
The problems are the result of trying to make this work in a web publication while still inhabiting the old eyeball and click count universe that evolved from the subscriber base from the old paper publication advertising world. To bring in major publications or advertising you need a big subscriber base. From that you get an advertising rate (CPM). This is what drives mass creation of bot accounts. We went through that in the lead up to the partner program. I’m not sure why as that is normal for social media selling ads but doesn’t mean much in a non-ad based subscription system. But more on that in a minute.
Last summer we had several months of bot accounts that were distributed as new followers to those of us listed as top writers or some variation of that. So our follower counts are heavily inflated. As I said then, that’s just the nature of the business.
I’m wondering now if that was used to entice us into the Partner Program. Obviously the payment algorithm isn’t simple but, now, I expect it is adjusted to pay out higher when you join and then to drop but I have only anecdotal proof from the number of writers wondering why their payments have dwindled with confusion about claps as an indicator. That’s because claps seem to have fallen also and no one can figure out the payment system.
Now that gets even more complicated as the business case for the Partner Program doesn’t sound as if it will adequately support thousands if not millions of partner writers earning a reasonable payment. Based on other efforts at this, e.g. Patron, the vast majority majority make almost nothing. That appears to be the status quo for Medium now also. If you actually had 10k to 20k or more followers you could do it. In my case I show 8,400 followers but my estimate is that only about 3k of those are real. Then add in the percentage of those who are regular readers and the percentage of those who actually bother to clap after having read more than a few words and you end up with a few hundred. I pay attention and recognize those who regularly show up with claps and the much smaller percentage who actually communicate.
I’m fairly certain that the Partner Plan started from an estimate of how many followers you would need to have a hope of getting more than a cup of coffee per month and then how to make new partners think this is actually working so they keep writing . . . you get the idea. Please understand that I am not claiming a conspiracy although we live in a world of embedded conspiracies. I’ve simply tried to understand how this might have been figured out. It’s new and no one has yet made it work and their are reasons for that. These things need to scale to millions of readers and millions of writers. If you are lucky you make enough to pay your subscription. Maybe I’m wrong and the master plan is there and I just stopped writing stuff that people are interested in although that doesn’t seem to be the case.
So, this is why I understand your decision to go with pay.me as more real. Others are sticking with Patreon and I am still deciding but realized that I’m more interested in being read and starting discussions than in making $50 or $150 per month writing for a much smaller audience so I’m back to writing more for the full Medium audience.
The missing piece is promotion for the things we write. If the full follower count is not real then we are really dependent on Medium to actively promote those of us who write regularly in a range of topic areas. When you get something featured it makes a hell of a difference in payment but even more so in readers if it is not limited to members. I’m not doing this for a living and responses are worth a lot to me but getting paid something is very helpful. So I think this is a moving target but the aiming point is a balance between dollars and readers. My real concern is for those who are trying to make living at this and those people are going to get upset if they can’t figure out what is happening. There are always who get the real following and a being to make money. I just hope the Partner Program is broad and deep enough to bring many people along to a new life. My fear is that the Medium early success is disintegrating as the numbers scale. We lost most of the curatorial staff back when ad based publication partners were tossed out. We need to get those back or else develop some serious ML to identify and promote interesting pieces by someone other than the writers who already have a lot followers or who write in areas not already heavily represented such as fiction and poetry.