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The Four Tiers of Medium Writers

In the 31 months I’ve been on Medium, the “Medium rules” have been changing every six months or so. I see these changes as Medium experimenting to find its business matrix: the conjunction of when customers (readers), suppliers (writers), and employees (programmers, office staff, and managers) are all just at the right numbers to earn a profit (or at least break even). Medium doesn't seem to be there yet. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be making these experimental changes.

These last changes have affected me. This not-very-popular writer of 224 articles used to get an average of 40 views per article. Now it is down to 10.

These last changes have also brought about more than the usual number of complainers. The high earners on Medium are not happy. They are threatening to leave. If they do leave, they believe their departure will hurt the quality of writing on Medium. They prophesize that Medium will turn into another Facebook clone where any idiot can pound a few words into a post and get a thousand likes. There could be some truth to that.

Medium has been about my 10th internet forum to promote my alternative democracy called “Tiered Democratic Governance.” I will say that the quality of writing and intellect is higher on Medium than on those other forums. But, just like the readers of those other forums, Medium readers don’t like my new democracy idea either. For me, Medium has not worked out very well. I really should quit.

I have been puzzled at how some top earners became top earners on Medium. Yes, most of them are good writers. A few are great. But sometimes I question the value of their primary topics, especially when they write the same thing day-after-day-after-day. And there are many just-as-good writers at the bottom who are not getting recognition. Why are they not being pushed up?

And there are some good writers who are putting up some out-of-the-box stuff (like myself). Why are they not getting pushed up? 

Anyways, the more top writers who leave Medium means my stuff has a better chance of being seen. So I’m seeing this change as a personal opportunity to get my ideas out there—even if Medium slides backward.

An Inspiration

I have run across a few articles written by Medium contributors as to how they would organize Medium. Most of these articles are written by people who know little about the real world of how to put a profitable business together. 

Interesting ideas sometimes come to me in strange ways. Somehow I got to thinking: What if a hierarchy of Medium writers was built in the same way as the tiers in my Tiered Democratic Governance?

All of the sudden, I created an out-of-the-box idea that is just weird enough that it might be worthy of Medium’s consideration.

Pubs Filter Content

From what I can gather, Medium had been funding a few high-quality publications. And this funding has been dropped. The owners have chosen not to continue with these pubs. So the pubs have disappeared.

The pubs should be more important to Medium readers. If readers are expecting a certain topic or high- quality writing, readers can go directly to their favorite pubs—and bypass all that not-as-good writing. In other words, the pubs are the filters for quality. Readers need to use their pubs more. So Medium should give the pubs the highest priority of directing readers to articles they want to read.

But rather than fund pubs, it’s time for writers to share their Medium royalties with the pub owners. I suggest an 80/20 split between the writer and pub owner.

The pub owner controls the content, but also finds readers for the writer. The 80/20 split is a win-win for both parties.

If a writer does not like that deal, the writer is free to publish independently or start their own pub. Everyone has a free choice. No writer should take a pub rejection seriously. No writer should ever be entitled on Medium.

Writer Tiers

From what I understand, there are about 175,000 active contributors on Medium at any time. I would divide Medium writers into these four tiers.

The first (lowest) tier is where all writers start. It will comprise about 100,000 writers.

The second tier will comprise about 50,000 writers.

The third tier will comprise about 20,000 writers.

The fourth (top) tier will comprise about 5,000 writers.

First Series of the Feed

The first series of the feed will identify with the pubs the reader has selected.

Spot #1 will be assigned to a top writer from the reader’s pubs.

Spot #2 will be assigned to a third-tier writer from the reader’s pubs.

Spot #3 will be assigned to a second-tier writer from the reader’s pubs.

Spot #4 will be assigned to a first-tier writer from the reader’s pubs.

Notice that the exposure for each tier is the same. But because there are fewer top-tier writers, these writers will get more exposure. Conversely, first-tier writers will not see many of their articles on the feeds: they will have lots of competition for the first-tier spot.

For example, assume I follow to eight pubs. There are five top writers in those pubs. Each writer should have a one in five chance of being selected for Spot #1. At the other end, there are 200 first-tier writers in these eight pubs. Each writer should have a one in 200 chance of being selected for Spot #4.

I put the pubs in the first series to give the pubs the most exposure. While pub owners should like this, we want readers to go to pubs for the quality and preferred topics readers are looking for.

Second Series of the Feed

Then we can create a series with the writers the reader is following:

Spot #5 will be assigned to a top writer the reader is following.

Spot #6 will be assigned to a third-tier writer the reader is following.

Spot #7 will be assigned to a second-tier writer the reader is following.

Spot #8 will be assigned to a first-tier writer the reader is following.

Again, we see top writers getting more exposure than the lower tiers. They have already proven they are writing articles people want to read.

Third Series of the Feed

This time, the Medium algorithms will have identified what articles the reader likes. These articles could still come from the reader’s pubs or favored writers. But many will come from the outside. Here is where readers will be exposed to new content and talent.

Spot #9 will be an assigned to a top writer, based on the reader’s interests.

Spot #10 will be assigned to a third-tier writer, based on the reader’s interests.

Spot #11 will be assigned to a second-tier writer, based on the reader’s interests.

Spot #12 will be assigned to a first-tier writer, based on the reader’s interests.

I have Allocated 12 Spots on the Feed

But I’m pretty sure that these 12 spots on the feeds will provide a few interesting reads for most readers. If the 12 selections are unsatisfactory, a refresh button will give another 12.

Notice that every spot on the feed will have a reason why that article was selected. For example, when I look at the article proffered in Spot #7, I will know that article comes from a second-tier writer from a writer I have chosen to follow. No mystery.

Writer Advancement

Obviously, writers want to advance to the top tier. More exposure, more stature, more money. But they have to start at the bottom. Who decides which writers move higher in the tiers?

First, we should set a minimum number of followers to advance. For example, 500 followers might be suitable to move from first tier to second tier. Writers with less than 500 followers are not eligible for the promotion.

But there should be a more stringent test than just followers to move people up. I propose that every month, writers of each tier should vote which of them should move up a ranking. So Medium should have an online system where writers of each tier can cast a vote(s) for their favorite writers on that same tier. The results are tabulated, and a few writers with the most votes move up a tier. In this way, the top writers have earned their ranking, step-by-step, rather than by having seemingly won some kind of Medium lottery. Think about the trust generated by this writers-voting-for-writers feature. This system will seem and be more fair than today’s system.

First-Tier Writers

Of course, this makes life difficult for new writers on Medium. But they still have two avenues to get their work better known. First, they can write articles that are acceptable for the pubs. Readers of pubs can become followers of these first-tier writers. With each follow, the first-tier writer gets more exposure, which leads to more follows. Second, first-tier writers can respond—with wisdom and tact—to any other article on Medium. Most of my 902 followers came from my 5,200 responses over the past 31 months. With these two avenues to build a vibrant following, it is no longer a mystery as to how to get ahead in Medium.

When first-tier writers get enough votes to be put into the second tier, they will have less competition for spots on the feed, a higher stature, and a little more Medium pay. The Medium formula is not so vague anymore.

Readers & Writers

Readers have a way to find the quality articles they want to read. They have their listed pubs handy. They can go to writers they are following. And they have the feed. In fact, I would say the overall quality will improve and attract more readers.

No writer is ever shut out of Medium because someone has deemed his/her writing to be of poor quality. The truly poor writers will not show up on that many on feeds. Such a writer will become discouraged and leave voluntarily. But that writer may still stay as a reader.

My Personal Gain

I will not gain much with these “four tiers of writers.” My main Medium topic is an alternative democracy, which is something the world just isn’t interested in hearing about—yet. So I will be stuck on the first Medium tier for a long time regardless of how well I write and promote my articles. But I will find it interesting to see which writers who do earn their way to the top.

Regardless of whether this four-tiers-of-writers idea goes further or not, I am thankful to Medium for providing the forum for me to get my ideas out there. I also appreciate that I have another place to store my work. Maybe, at some later time, my alternative democracy will get its recognition from someone combing through the Medium archives.

And Medium has been a great place to be a reader! Let’s keep it that way. The readers will stay if they can easily find quality writing in their preferred topics. The good writers will stay if the system seems fair. More readers and writers will come.

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