The gaming of Medium by clickbait merchants

From an interesting post by Simon Owens asking Will 10 million people pay for personal essays?.

Last week I posted a tweet thread that you should check out. It starts with a screen capture of a headline for an article that appeared behind Medium’s paywall. This article fits into a content category that I’ve noticed is proliferating on Medium. It’s what I call “shitty personal advice column.”

In fact, anytime I see someone bragging about how much money they’re making through Medium’s partnership program — which allows users to place their content behind its paywall and get paid for the amount of engagement it generates — I then click on their user profile to see what kind of articles this person is regularly producing, and it almost always falls under this category. Often, the person is publishing upward of two or three articles a day, with each headline over-promising and under-delivering on its premise.

And this makes sense. If you’re going to make real money on a platform that’s doling it out based on the amount of engagement it receives, you’ll need to produce a high volume of low calorie articles that require very little original research and contain clickable headlines.

It’s the old story: anything with that kind of business model can be gamed.

A while back I became tired of getting emails from Medium highlighting apparently interesting posts that, however, lay behind the site’s paywall — i.e. they were only available to Medium ‘members’ (people who pay $50/year for the privilege). So, in a moment of weakness, I signed up. Big mistake.

I’ve cancelled my ‘membership’ (which, to their credit, they make it easy to do). But I’ve still blown $50 for no good purpose. Sigh. One born every minute :-(