Claps Are Gone. Medium Partner Program Has Changed

New habits of stats-checking will surely follow

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Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

For those of us who are obsessed with checking our Medium stats, the recent changes to the Medium Partner Program mean a whole new routine to adopt. The old system of paying people by the number of claps they have received is gone. It has been replaced by the metric of reading-time. Now, eyeball-minutes mean everything.

I had just got used to the old capping system. Whilst there was never a one-to-one correspondence between claps and payment, I had begun to understand how the peaks and troughs of my clapping figures broadly corresponded to the peaks and troughs of my medium month-end pay packet.

It is true: claps could never be relied upon to predict with any sort of accuracy the dollars and dimes finally totaled up in the month-end figures. It all depended on who clapped, on who else those clappers clapped, and on their overall clapping promiscuity across the platform.

Still, to receive a clap (or round of applause) was to experience a tangible event in your Medium world. I was able to chart a day’s success, or lack of, by the frequency of those little green circles that the platform provides to notify you of such an event. Soon enough, switching on my phone or laptop to witness what would hopefully be a little green bulb lighting up in the corner of my screen became a small obsession.

The change of emphasis now essentially places claps into the role of the merely indicative. It may well be the case that the number of claps broadly illustrates the penetration of a particular story, but as far as firm metrics go they are no longer accountable.

What now for those of us who have developed a pinching, itching habit of checking for those little green event-circles?

Excitingly, the new changes to the Medium Partner Program mean that we will have to wait only 24 hours until our next pay update is revealed. I can foresee, therefore, a change of routine of my statistical-obsessive-disorder.

Hourly checking for new claps will be replaced with a daily analysis of reading time, story to story. How this will unravel in terms of my addiction will only be revealed in the days and weeks ahead. But one thing is for certain, if the gods at Medium HQ begin to lavish us with yet more data, then my predilection for stats-scrutiny will only deepen.

It appears now that we will have access to the full aggregate of reading time per story, so that on any given day we can see how many minutes and hours people have spent reading our words.

If you are anything like me then you will find yourself questioning how your stories will fare against this new measure. At first glance, logic dictates that longer stories will it achieve better results, but this logic only follows if the story is able to maintain the reader’s interest. Ploughing hours of writing time into a tedious or meandering essay could, on this analysis, be a waste.

I suspect that adaptable writers will begin to generate new forms of stories based on the principle of suspense. They will contain early promises that will only deliver in the closing paragraphs in order to carry the reader’s attention from beginning to end. We will see more practical how-to guides with content broken into sections, which naturally lead the reader through: “10 Ways To Be More…” and such like.

Writing that tends towards the poetic or experimental, whose minority audience might have clapped in appreciation if not in full engagement, will surely suffer. This is a great shame, but changes upon changes from the Medium tech team will hopefully bring some justice to the shifting sands.

How my own writing will cope with the changes is hard to say. I will try to learn more about how readers engage with my writing; I will try to learn to how my writing might claim and hold attention more successfully. If I can learn these things, then the style of my writing my change accordingly. I don’t know yet.

One things is for certain: if I switch on my phone and there’s no little green circle waiting for me, I’ve no need to panic anymore.

Christopher P Jones writes about culture, art and life. Sign up for more.

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Art historian and art critic, writer, artist. Author of “How to Read Paintings”

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