I often see people unclear about the subscription business on Medium. It’s the real deal and (I think) will be a driver of a lot of decisions. Not sure how steeped you are in startups, but some of the forces behind Medium are venture capital investors and they need big hits and they probably look at Medium like it could be at least the size of the NYTimes digital subscriptions. That NYT business unit does $800M per year in revenue, which qualifies as a home run.
So I see this subscription business as coherent in that it works for Medium’s leaders because they see subscriptions in terms of mission — they raise the quality of discourse while avoiding the corrupting influence of ads. And then it works for the VCs too. That’s why I believe it’s here to stay.
In general when you use any site on the internet, you should ask yourself what value do you have to them? You don’t pay to use Facebook, but you are in a relationship where they are making money from selling your data and selling your time to advertisers. That’s the deal there.
If you write on Medium, it’s helpful to realize the deal is that you are somehow supporting the subscription service.
When you are writing for pay, you are most aligned with Medium. They pay you a large share of your contribution to the subscriber revenue. It’s worth noting though that a lot of people try to game Medium with low calorie viral posts and these people should ask themselves: does a reader feel like it was worth their subscription money to read that post? If no, then that author is at odds with Medium’s goals and should expect to get pushback over time.
If you are writing outside of the paywall, then what is the deal? It’s for you to get people to subscribe to your blog so that Medium can advertise the subscription services to them. That’s the “price” of having a “free” blog.
If you want to optimize any writing you are doing, I would suggest following Better Marketing. We give a lot of good info there. And in particular, I have started writing up our findings from Moneyball.
The obvious thing the upcoming Medium changes do is increase the value of having followers. That’s true for both publications and authors. It’ll be much easier for readers to follow you directly rather than finding your article in a soup of algorithmic recommendations.