Medium is using an applause meter to calculate authors’ pay

Medium is using an applause meter to calculate authors’ pay

Earlier this month, Medium added a Clap button to articles on its blogging platform that you could click as many times as you like to applaud a piece. It’s now counting those claps to figure out how much authors should earn for their work. Who knew back in January that this is what CEO Ev Williams had in mind when he talked about writers getting paid through Medium?

As part of a new Partner program, Medium will divide up readers’ $5 monthly subscription fee by the number of claps they’ve handed out across articles on the site; that determines how much a writer will get paid for their posts.

This only applies to locked posts that are hidden behind Medium’s paywall; it’s currently open to a small set of authors that the company has invited to trial the program.

It’s not a bad idea in theory: Medium said it introduced Claps a way to measure the value that a post brought to its readers, and the feature does empower readers to indicate just how valuable they think a post is – and how much of their money should go to the author.

But there are a few problems in its implementation. For one thing, there’s no limit to the number of Claps you can give to a single post, and that opens up the platform to people trying to game the system. Apparently, claps are limited to 50 per user per article, as pointed out by one of our readers on Facebook.

Next, if a reader wants to pay more for a particular post than others, they’ll have to click that Clap button several times – and there’s no way to tell exactly how much that post’s author will get paid as a result of your action. Plus, the more you read and Clap, the less this post in question earns from you. It all just feels oddly convoluted.

Perhaps even more important than these issues is the fact that Claps indicate appreciation. What if someone disagrees with the ideas in your post even after spending plenty of time reading it?

It’s similar to the predicament Twitter threw its users into by changing its star button for favoriting posts into a heart. In starring a tweet, I only felt like I was indicating that it was significant or notable in some way, not that I loved it – as a heart would imply.

What’s more, Medium only launched its subscription service back in March, so it isn’t clear just how many of the site’s 60 million monthly visitors are ponying up for it at present. Not a lot, I think. At that point, does it really make sense for writers to publish their work behind a paywall – and one that doesn’t serve them exclusively at that?

For what it’s worth, Medium admits that this is indeed an experiment, and that “There is a lot we need to figure out to make this work right.” It’s just that it already seems like this idea needs a lot of work before taking it mainstream, and yet, here we are, hoping our posts will attract enough Claps to help pay the bills.

Read next: Why you should care about China’s VPN crackdown