How Medium forced me to get behind the paywall.
I did not want that “star” icon for my stories. But I need to now.
If you are just interested in the most critical point I am trying to make via this story, jump to the last segment “What am I doing to fix it?”
Two years back, Medium came up with its subscription program. You could pay a small fee every month, and get to read an unlimited number of stories every month. Otherwise, there would be some ‘members-only’ stories that you would be missing out on. Around the same time, Medium invited me (and countless others) to become a “partner-writer”, and get paid for what we write about. No thanks, was my response. A lot of people over the years have asked me why do I write and what do I have to gain by writing these, if I am getting paid for it, if I am making money in any way by writing stories on Medium or answering questions on Quora.
No. I don’t make money off of either of these platforms. That is not why I do it.
SO WHY DO I WRITE?
I started my first business ten months after graduating from college. I was a 21-year-old kid with no clue as to how a business is run, what are the different aspects of a business, what is valuation and business model. I didn’t know any of it. I learned it all because my business needed me to. Since then I have added to my knowledge by running a few businesses of my own, working with some of the best and brightest minds in the startup ecosystem, and helping/advising/mentoring startups and businesses alike.
I believe there is some value I can add to the startup ecosystem, and as such, I write. I talk about different facets of the business, and how should you approach a problem. How I would approach a challenge I face in my business, and why I approach it that way.
I write despite not being a good writer.
Because the intent is not to create award-winning content, the intent is to help someone out there. And most of what I am talking about stems from basic business sense, rationale, and logic. If you were to think about it for a bit, you may arrive to the same conclusion on your own. I am not offering a business elixir, and as such, I don’t think this is something anyone should pay for. Hence, the content has always been as detailed as it needed to be, did not need you to jump through hoops, and most importantly — it was never behind any paywall.
Unfortunately, now it will be. Starting today, you would see the “star” icon with all my stories.
WHY AM I PUTTING MY STORIES BEHIND THE PAYWALL?
I don’t want to make money off of it, and if at all there is some money that gets made this way, it would be put to some good use. I haven’t yet decided what I will do with it, but I sure don’t have a need for it.
The reason I need to put my stories behind a paywall is because Medium is allegedly killing the reach of stories that aren’t behind it. Allegedly. It is important for me to note that I can’t for sure accuse them of doing so, but all evidence seems to suggest so.
Update (September 27,2019)
This is something I came across today, which seems to verify the point I had made here. Just look at the highlighted line.
If you look at the top stories on any of the popular tags, you would find that every single story is behind the paywall. If you look at the stories that are promoted and propagated by Medium, they are behind the paywall. I have come across numerous writers mentioning that if you want your stories to reach an audience, you need to get behind the paywall.
And that was disturbing. In trying to make my content freely available to all, I was preventing them from even getting exposed to this content? How does that make any sense?
WHY IS MEDIUM DOING SO?
To get more and more readers to become a paid member. If almost all content you are exposed to is behind a paywall, there are just two options you would have:
- Become a paid member so that you could read those stories
- Leave the platform
I have a feeling that your feed is populated with paywall-stories only if you have been using the platform for a while now. New users, who are still getting used to the platform, would still be exposed to free stories.
I read somewhere that 20% of users who had been using Evernote for 2 years ended up becoming a paid subscriber.
It is the same concept. If a person has been finding value in your platform for a while now, $5 a month is a fairly small amount for them to pay to continue availing the value. By turning users away from the paid content (only 3 pieces of paywall-content are accessible to non-members), they are giving a nudge to more and more users to become paid members.
ARE PAYWALLS WRONG?
Definitely not. The whole notion that everything on the internet is supposed to be free has done more harm than good. Think for yourself. It takes money to run any business, and if the business isn’t making money to sustain itself, it will need to consider alternative revenue streams. It could be via misleading and subtle branded content, and that is one of the strongest breach of a consumer’s trust.
Content, especially journalistic, investigative and editorial content needs to be paid, in some way or the other, for the creators to be in a position where they can continue to bring out content that’s valuable and insightful to the audience. A strong and independent press is one of the cornerstones of democracy. Just imagine — if the reporters weren’t paid and as such needed to worry about paying their rents and bills, do you think you would have witnessed the watergate expose?
But there has to be a system to it. Not all content needs to be paid. And not all writers need to be paid for them to share something valuable with their audience. I share my views because I think they would be useful to someone out there, and I am comfortable enough to not expect anything in return. But if the reach of my content is getting killed, I need to get back behind the paywall. Howsoever reluctantly.
WHAT AM I DOING TO FIX IT?
I don’t want people to face the paywall when they read my story, so there is a simple fix to it.
Medium offers me the option of sharing a friend link with people I know. The friend link bypasses any paywall restrictions and helps anyone read the story for free. So that is what I am going to do now. You can simply leave your email here, and I will share all my stories via friend links to you. No paywall!
I would soon remove this form and put in place possibly a telegram channel or slack group to do this, but till then this form should work.
Phew! That went longer than expected.