Secret Fact: The Reason Why I Left Medium

When I first read some articles in Japanese and English on Medium in 2019, I was impressed with how creative their posts were. I had been doing so-called “content writing” in Japanese as a freelance writer and I was fed up with those technical writings. And then, I found the writing platform “Medium”. I thought that it was a magic place for writers to earn money when they write what they want to write.

Therefore, my honeymoon with Medium lasted till now. Or it was my one-way love to Medium. Anyway, I don’t think Medium will be my priority platform as a writer anymore. I am going to tell you why.

Medium is the place where you can make money when your stories are read by paying members after joining their “Partner Program”. They have changed their policy a couple of times after I started writing there and it was announced, yet again, they’ve changed the partner program policy. 

They published their new policy on the 11th of Aug. 2021.

Evolving the Partner Program

The biggest changes were:

  1. Referred Memberships

“For every reader who a Partner Program writer converts to a paying Medium member, the writer will receive half of that reader’s membership fee, net of standard payment processor fees.”

  1. Partner Program Eligibility Criteria

“New writers who wish to join the Partner Program must go through an application process. To be approved, you must have at least 100 followers and have published at least one story”

And when it comes to the existing writers who have already joined the partner program, they say,

“All current Partner Program writers will remain in the program for the rest of the year. No one is being removed immediately if they don’t meet the new criteria. At the end of 2021, if you have not reached 100 followers, you may be removed from the program.”

The change of the policy was totally fine to me, but because of this, I ended up finding a critical issue. 

I have a small community of Japanese writers on Medium. I built up a publication that is targetting Japanese readers and I have encouraged Japanese writers to write on my publication to make some money. 

The change of their policy this time shocked some of the Japanese writers because most of them don’t have 100 followers at this moment. It is not because their writing is not good enough, it’s because there are not many Japanese readers on Medium. Medium is a minor platform amongst Japanese people.

They can continue making money for their writings until the end of this year, but if they don’t have 100 followers at the end of this year, they will be removed from the partner program. 

When I first read Medium’s announcement, I wondered whether “100 followers on Medium” includes non-paying members. I also remembered that I have another Medium account that I had created before I started writing on Medium (maybe in 2016 or 2017), so I can use that account to follow the Japanese writers, which would be a little help to increase the number of their followers. 

And then, I opened my old account which had not been used for a long. I started following a few Japanese writers and realised that the limitation of “locked” articles (which used to be called the contents “behind the paywall”) didn’t work.

Medium is the subscription platform. Paying subscribers are supposed to be able to read as many articles as they want, while non-paying users only can read 3 “locked” posts per month. If you want to read the 4th article in the same month you have to pay a subscription fee of US$5/month or US$50/year. This will be the time when writers can earn money as “Referred Memberships”, according to the Medium new policy of the partner program. 

However, I’ve noticed that the restriction on paid content on Medium wasn’t working. It was working for English posts, but not for Japanese posts.

I couldn’t believe this kind of critical issue would happen. 

No wonder my non-paying followers had given claps for several articles of mine in a row. In the last couple of months, I got several Japanese followers on Medium every day. Not one of those turned into paying subscribers, even though they gave claps on lots of my articles. I thought they just gave claps without reading, but it was not the case. They could read as much “locked” content as they wanted without paying. 

The limitation for reading “locked” content is the most important function of this platform. If it doesn’t work, the platform will collapse. No matter how good the content you post, no one will pay to subscribe because they can read as much as they want. And then, why do you continue writing?

I sent a letter to Medium a couple of days ago.


I am writing on Medium both in English and Japanese since 2019.

I also joined the partner program and, I would like to get more Japanese paying members through my Japanese writings. However, one of my friends, who is currently a non-paid user of Medium, said that she could read as many Japanese stories even with star icons (this means locked contents) as she wanted. She said it was limited when she tried to read multiple English articles, but there was no limitation for Japanese posts.

I am curious. Is it a kind of technical issue temporally, or is it set to allow non-English readers to read unlimitedly from the beginning?

If there is no limitation for non-paying Japanese readers, Japanese writers will never get any reward with Referred Memberships. Am I correct?


Yesterday, they replied and said that they would tell their engineers and improve the situation.


I’m sorry to hear that!

I’ve filed a ticket with our engineering team so that they can look into the issue. Please bear with us as we work to resolve this.

Maybe it is just my imagination, but I think this problem has been occurring for quite some time.

Right now that I am writing this, I’ve just checked and this problem was fixed on my end at the moment.

So it should work for a while to come, but every time there is a change in policy or specification, I get worried and wonder if the function is off again. It’s not good for your mental health to worry and check every time a policy or specification changes.

At this point, I felt that Medium had reached a point where it could no longer keep up with its capacity. I wasn’t too concerned about the Medium policy change itself. However, I can’t help but feel that the platform is in the terminal stage when it’s not working where it should.

This time, it was only a problem with Japanese articles (the restriction works fine for English text), but if it happened to English articles, it would probably kill Medium. 

Unfortunately, I think we’re at a turning point for Medium as a web service. Of course, something miraculous could happen in the future to turn it into an even better platform. (I think the biggest problems are probably poor management and lack of funding).

This is the main reason why I have moved away from Medium.

I will probably keep using Medium as social media. I am starting to shift my writing from Medium to Substack. I will write mainly on Subsack from now and am going to share (which means “copy”) some of my stories on Medium as well. 

I’m not going to quit Medium completely, but I’m going to put some of the passion and effort that I’d been putting into Medium into Substack and maybe on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.