More Medium questions answered

On pay-to-play, verification, and staying relevant in a Gen Z world 📺

Ev Williams
4 min readNov 14, 2020


A few weeks ago, I set up a form to ask me questions, and I got a lot of them. Thanks! The vast majority are about Medium, which is an indication to me we need another forum where we can receive and answer more user questions. We are looking into that. Meanwhile…

Anonymous Medium Writer asks: Do you now have to have a paid membership as a participant in the partner program to earn? If not, why not given this means people are taking money away from a limited pot that they are not contributing to?

The answer is no. You do not have to be a paid Medium member to earn money as a writer. We don’t want to make writing “pay to play.”

Could we make more money if we did so? Undoubtedly. In fact, there are a lot of scams out there that say you can earn money writing and, invariably, you just have to pay for some training/advice/access first. Of course, hardly anyone makes money via those schemes. It’s sad. They’re preying off people's hopes and dreams and probably taking their last dimes in many cases. We don’t want to do that. First, we don’t want to promise anyone they’ll make money writing on Medium. Most people don’t.

Do some people make a lot of money? Yes, and that may be you — but you don’t have to pay to find out. Try it out. Give it a shot. Write really compelling content, repeatedly, and I think you’ll do well. (If you don’t and aren’t sure why, leave a comment here — I’ll check out your work.)

Lastly, just to be clear, it wouldn’t make a huge difference if everyone who was in the Partner Program paid — the “pot” would only be slightly larger. There are many times more people who pay to read and never write, as it should be.

A different Anonymous writes, Will you ever add verification (blue checks) on [M]edium?

Unlikely — but we might add green checks ✅. Just kidding (but we might).

Brief backstory: I believe it was 2008, maybe 2009, when we added verification to Twitter. The original intent was very simple: We had a lot of well-known people signing up, and we had a lot of people impersonating well-known people. So we invented the blue checkmark to signal to readers that “this person is who they say they are.” (We often had celebrities fax us their driver’s license to prove it was them. 🤦‍♂)

The checkmark wasn’t meant to connote that they were important. But, of course, people aren’t usually impersonated unless they’re well-known, and well-known overlap with “important,” so the blue checkmark became synonymous with “important” and, therefore, a much-coveted status symbol.

Though the dual-class aspect could be debated, I do still think there’s value in verification in building trust into a platform and have thought about doing something similar on Medium. I’m curious from anyone reading this if you think we should do the same thing as Twitter or something different? (Please leave a comment if you have a thought.)

Finally, Kevin, a Singapore based Financial Consultant asks: The Future of Blogging in a Multimedia World. Gen Z is increasingly consuming more videos. How does Medium stay relevant?

I have a two-part answer. Part 1: Reading and writing are going to be around for a long time. Part 2: There’s no reason for Medium to be limited to reading and writing.

Text is an incredible technology. It’s high-Lindy. It’s extremely efficient to consume, it’s lightweight to create. It has the highest ratio of accessibility/information value of any media form. Do people (not just Gen Z) watch more video today? Absolutely. They also read more text today than they ever have. Most of the world reads on the internet every day. That’s having the world’s information — in all forms — on screens with us at all times.

Also, what’s often seen as new habits of younger generations is just the difference in age. Gen Z plays more video games and watches more videos and Gen X reads more. Guess what? I played more video games and watched more video (TV) when I was a teenager than I read, and now I do the opposite. Thirty years later, based on my behavior, the trendline of text is growing and video games are shrinking!

I know, I’m an old guy denying the world is changing. But it is. YouTube is a phenomenon. When it comes to getting certain types of information — like how to do something — video is often a better answer than reading a web page. That’s great.

There’s also the phenomenon of people watching videos that are silent but overlaid text. This is a huge part of video consumption on the internet, and, wait…isn’t that actually reading? 🤯

Audio is another rapidly growing format. Podcasts and audiobook consumption is through the roof. They may or may not be reducing reading, but they’re certainly eating into the few minutes of the day that weren’t already filled with media consumption, because one's hands and/or eyes are busy but not their ears.

That brings me to Part 2: There’s no reason for Medium to be limited to reading and writing.

me·di·um: a means by which something is communicated or expressed

Our purpose is to deepen understanding and spread good ideas. We have never attached that purpose to a specific format. Rather, we are building the infrastructure, network, and tools to do that no matter what the form those ideas and stories best take.

So far, we’ve been focused on the written word — and I expect that will be our pillar for some time — but we’ve also dabbled in audio, tappable stories (words and pictures), video, and even events. The beauty of the internet is that it allows for all these forms to co-exist and coalesce. The important thing is that quality thinking and important ideas get from the brains they’re in to the brains that can make use of them and make them more useful. We’ll continue to try and make that happen even if we’re all floating in plasma consuming 3D Smellovision™.



Ev Williams

Curious human, chairman @ Medium, partner @ Obvious Ventures