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Medium Is A Content Mill — So What?

  • 6 min read

Don’t get disheartened. The pros and cons of writing for a content mill.

The other day I received an email referring to my recent YouTube tutorial on Medium’s new blue book badge for authors.

I was asked:

“Medium is a content mill. I don’t want to write for such a platform!”


You’re probably going to hear the phrase “content mill” at some point in your writing career.

It’s crucial to understand what a content mill is because, more often than not, you may be writing for one without ever realizing it.

When I started writing on Medium more than two years ago, I didn’t understand I was writing for a content mill until much later.

So today I’m going to explain what content mills are.

What makes one stand out from the crowd, and how to balance the benefits and drawbacks of writing for one?

What exactly are “Content Mills”?

Online platforms known as “content mills” produce or market large volumes of content.

These businesses rely on volume.

They pay their writers relatively little so they can set low prices or produce a lot of content and turn a huge profit.

Content mills are the writing industry’s sweatshops

Consider content mills as the writing industry’s sweatshops.

They don’t pay writers a living wage.

In general, quantity is more important to them than quality.

The ongoing need for new and unique stories has made content mills a very lucrative industry.

Content drives the web

When you conduct a search on Google or Bing many thousands of Medium articles will appear in the search results.

Primarily on data science and software development.

Medium knows content is king and pumps out a lot.

Medium

When you’re writing on Medium you’re part of the internet publishing industry.

Here are the characteristics of Medium as a content mill:

  • publishes a ton of content by multiple writers — 75M stories to date
  • in general, writers create cheap content
  • publish a lot of content for little money — only 6% earn $100 per month
  • often writers are not experts in their fields

Problems with content mills

Content mills can cause a lot of problems.

Although it makes “economic sense” for websites to publish a lot of content for little money, this isn’t always a good thing.

In the long run, the writers and the platform may both suffer.

Here’s why:

Poor quality content

What’s lacking most content in content mills is that it's very low-quality content.

Authenticity and originality are missing because its often poorly (plagiarized) content.

The content doesn’t add original viewpoints.

Plagiarism and Copycats

The majority of work produced for content mills is simply a rewritten copy of what already exists somewhere on the internet.

The majority of writers, google specific topics and then rewrite what is already there.

If you have your own website, you could lose your search ranking when Google thinks your content is plagiarized.

Poor earnings

The good news is: at least you get paid for writing.

The bad news is: the pay is terrible. Ouch!

Quantity over quality

Even top writers such as Nicolas Cole say that you have to pump out a lot of content to be successful on Medium and really earn money.

Quantity is key.

Unless ChatGPT helps you, there can be serious repercussions to your physical and mental health from writing that much content for a content mill like Medium.

  • You’re getting frustrated.
  • You feel pushed.
  • You can’t sleep properly.
  • You develop carpal tunnel syndrome from typing out a ridiculous amount of content.
  • You burn out.

That’s why a lot of writers drop off although they’ve gained some kind of reach and built credibility.

Don’t get disheartened

Let me show you the positive side of writing for a content mill such as Medium:

You can build a reputation online

I love that Medium can help newbie writers build authority and establish themselves as professionals in their specific niche.

With every story you publish, people can fall in love with us and start following us.

Plus, you build a portfolio for potential freelance clients.

You can inspire others

With its minimalistic design Medium makes it super easy to start writing online. Medium’s built-in audience is genius!

There are millions of people who could be interested in your topic and feel inspired.

You can really make an impact with your writing if you just help one person every day with a story you’ve published.

You have creative freedom

Although there are 73 topics that are most popular on Medium, you have the freedom to write about whatever you like.

Plus, you don’t have to stick to one specific niche. I experimented a lot. I started to share my transformation as a mom, wrote about #Parenting topics, and then jumped into writing about #Feminism and #Writing in general.

You can write around other commitments

In your 5–9, there is no boss that tells you what to do and write about.

You can set your own schedule around work or family life.

You don’t even have to show up at all. haha.

You learn to be productive

At some point, you learn that in order to grab and hold your audience’s attention it’s crucial to write consistently.

At the beginning of my writing journey, it took me hours to write a short form story of 150 words. Now I write such types of stories within 20 minutes.

I learned pretty darn quickly how to pump out content consistently without losing my focus on quality.

You can earn quick money

It’s true.

You can earn quick money on Medium.

As soon as you’ve been accepted into the Medium Partner Program you can start earning money from your writing. For some, this is like a drug — even if it’s only pennies they earn. At least you earn money online!

Your first Medium dollar is a great motivation boost that shows you that you’re capable of so much more!

You learn what your audience wants

Every story published is a data point.

You can for instance take the most highlighted part of a story and write an article about this topic.

Plus, your comment section is a gold mine. You can make your audience feel as if you could read their minds by including statements from the comments in your story.

You can get freelance gigs

You can earn way more with freelance writing than with publishing on Medium.

Once you built a portfolio, you can offer your services on platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork. Another idea is LinkedIn where I get most of my freelance offers from.

You can publish your own book or course

With the audience you built on Medium, you have a great foundation to sell an ebook or an online course.

The platforms I recommend are Gumroad, Udemy, and Skillshare.

I could go on for hours about all the benefits, and new writers.

Final Takeaways

Medium is a content mill with all its cons but also with all its benefits!

Don’t get dishearted or feel trapped.

Writing for a content mill offers many opportunities that you often don’t know about.

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