Medium plans to start letting more and more authors publish paywalled articles. And to determine how they get paid, the blogging platform has selected a fairly unorthodox method: claps, which are, basically, Medium’s equivalent of a Like.
A couple weeks ago, Medium replaced its “recommend” feature — a little heart button at the end of each article — with a “clap” button that you can click as many times as you want (much like how Periscope lets you send broadcasters an infinite number of hearts). The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article.
Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber’s fee between the different articles they’ve read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It’s not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button.
It’s a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
For now, Medium is dividing between writers the entirety of subscribers’ $5 per month fee. Eventually, the company plans to “start covering our own costs,” but it’s not taking a cut for the time being, as it tries to attract writers.
So far, Medium has worked with specific authors and publishers to put their articles behind the site’s paywall. As of today, it’s going to start rolling out the option to more and more of the site’s writers. A representative for the company wouldn’t clarify if all writers would eventually be given this ability, but said Medium is “planning to ramp up quickly” the number of eligible authors.