Claps Won’t Mean As Much?

The quality of writing should outweigh gamesmanship.

But isn’t the clap business a little crazy as a measure of what we get paid? Oftentimes it seems the number of claps has little to do with the quality of the story. There are good pieces that receive no claps; maybe only because the writer hasn’t spent time trying to get people who routinely clap to read their work.

I said last week that I hope Medium isn’t just a numbers game. At least one other writer said they think it is. I’m inclined to believe it was mostly about the numbers under the clap system.

Even if I wrote a truly great story unless I have a huge number of followers I probably won’t make much, if any, money. Conversely, I’ve seen some pretty lame pieces get thousands of claps that will translate to pay for the writer. I suppose that happens because of loyal followers? Or maybe thousands liked the piece and it was just me who didn’t think was very good?

It seems isn’t necessarily apt to reward the best writing. That’s fine if Medium is to be played like a game wherein one advances through stages by gaining followers who are most likely to clap. The players have learned how to best advance in the game. However, if Medium priorizes the quality of the writing the pay system should reflect that and I’m not sure it does.

Its hard to see how the change could be worse than how they do it now. If the writer will receive pay based on how many people actually read their pieces seems fair. Under the new system it seems just scrolling over to a story and adding claps won’t guarantee more pay for the writer.

This idea of having to write well enough for people to want to read what we write isn’t new. It’s the basis of all professional writing. If no one wants to read what I write, I may as well just keep a private diary. Maybe my great-great grandchildren will be interested enough to read my scribblings.

No one will has ever paid me unless I write interesting and articulate copy. That’s kind of how it has worked all my life. For Medium to gain subscribers and for us to be paid, the writing must be good enough to attract readers. It seems like a pretty simple — and old — premise.

In my short time here, I’ve found it annoying and not conducive to the development of my best work to worry about claps or how many I have clapped for, or need to clap for, etc. Do most of us clap for those who clap for us? Aren’t those just “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” claps? Do many feel we “owe” claps to the ones who clap for us? Do claps really mean a piece is exceptionally good? Is the current system tied to writing quality or a numbers game with a buddy system?

I certainly don’t know the answers but Medium’s leadership will have to answer this questions to grow the platform and guide its future. Medium needs to determine what it wants from writers in the Program. It very well may be the same thing that every publication has always wanted and been willing to pay for; great writing.

A new yardstick to measure pay could be a good thing. It may mean that some people don’t make as much as they do now and others will make more; or there may be little change. Who knows? The cream will always rise to the top.

The change as explained really isn’t anything new; we need to write more of what people want to read, write it exceedingly well, and craft it to hold readers’ interest throughout the story. We’re already doing that.

I hope the outcome of the changes means there will be more time to write good stuff. I’ve never been much of a gamer and I’d like it if I could spend less time trying to clap for all the deserving pieces and seeking new followers. I love to read good pieces and clap accordingly, but the pay being attached to the claps makes it a bit gummier than I would like.

It will be interesting to find out how well it works — or doesn’t work — to keep good writers and readers subscribing to Medium.

Incidentally, I wonder if many of us often think of the importance of attracting subscribers to Medium? The platform is our bread and butter. Creative types often don’t think much about such things, but Medium must have subscribers in order to have money to pay writers. All of us should want the platform to grow and attract more subscribers. So talking ugly about Medium is counterproductive.

I’m far from a trendsetter, or even a veteran here, but what I plan to do is wait and see how the new program works out in practice. It won’t be long until we know, so meanwhile I’ll just give it a chance. I can string words together someplace else if I hate it.

For those who make their living or part of it here, I’m sure it is much scarier than it is for a retiree like me. I understand that they could be very worried and I hate that for all of them.

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

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