Medium vs. Vocal: A Medium Writer’s First Impressions of Vocal Media
We have been Medium writers for almost 2 years now and recently decided to try out Vocal Media. We thought we would share our first impressions of the platform with you, as well as how it compares to Medium. This post will be based on our first month on Vocal. We plan on doing a follow-up post in a few months.
Vocal Communities vs. Medium Publications
When you publish a story on Vocal Media, you choose a community for it to be published in. Vocal has 48 communities ranging from Fiction, Writers, and Poets to Gamers, Geeks, and Longevity. These communities pretty well cover every subject or topic you could write about. After choosing a community, you also select tags related to that community. Readers can go to each community page to view stories in that community. These Vocal-created communities make it easy to find what you are interested in reading and simplify the process for writers. There does not seem to be an overlap between the topics of different publications, so you can usually find what you are looking to read by visiting one community.
Medium has tags similar to Vocal, but the difference is in the publications. There are some Medium-run publications, but for the most part, these publications are formed and run by “editors”. These editors can be any writer on Medium; anyone can start a publication at any time. While we have found many amazing editors and publications to work with, it can be hard to find publications that are accepting writers, and the guidelines are different for each one. As a reader, it can be hard to differentiate between a professional publication full of various authors versus an individual who started their own publication for their own stories only. You may also find a number of publications focused on the same genre or topics, leading to overwhelm. We think Medium could improve here by vetting publications and limiting to higher quality publications that offer something new.
There are pros and cons to both Vocal communities and Medium publications. Where we will give Medium the edge is when you find a quality publication with excellent editors. These editors will help improve your writing and highlight or comment on your stories. Some of our favorite publications are The Lark, The Kraken Lore, and Fiction Friends. Oddly enough, Medium’s publications offer more of a sense of community than Vocal’s communities. While there are individual publications on Medium that we enjoy and feel are run well, overall we prefer the simplified communities on Vocal.
Ease of Use
There are some minor differences in the editors of both platforms, which we think gives one an edge in this area. Medium’s editor allows for more options, like section breaks and two types of headings. Vocal does have the options for underline and strikethrough, which I have yet to figure out on Medium. Medium also lets you choose a wider variety of “blocks”. For Vocal, your choices are only text, images, and embed links. Medium additionally offers the option to add videos or code to your post.
Medium is more intuitive with its editing. For example, if you want to start a numbered list you just type “1.” at the beginning of your block and it will create the numbered list for you. Vocal does not do this automatically, but if you select the text you can choose lists from the options. I did an example with each platform, so you can see what it looks like in the photos. Medium also automatically adds bullet points and em dashes when you are typing, while Vocal does not. In fact, I could not figure out how to add an em dash or other such options with the Vocal editor.
Another difference in the editing is that Vocal does not integrate well with Grammerly. It will still show you the suggestions, but will not automatically change them when you click on the suggestion like it does with normal use of the application. In Vocal, the text is simply highlighted after clicking the suggestion, and you must manually make the changes. Grammerly integrates seamlessly with Medium. Overall, we are rating Medium as the easiest to use of the platforms for writing and editing.
How Writers Earn Money
There is a significant difference in how each of the two platforms pays their authors. Vocal pays a flat rate of $3.80 per 1,000 views. Unlike Medium, they pay for external views and reading is free. There is no membership or paywall for readers. What’s interesting about Vocal is that they are making their money off of the writers. They have a Vocal+ membership for $9.99/month that allows writers to earn $6 per 1,000 reads and participate in writing contests, where they can earn additional prize money.
The other way for writers to earn money on Vocal Media is through bonuses. These appear to be random for the most part, and there is no clear guidance on how to earn most of the bonuses. Even the bonuses that some people have discovered are not given out equally to all authors. For example, we did not earn the $5 bonus for publishing 5 stories, the $10 bonus for 10 stories, or the $5 bonus for liking 15 stories. The one bonus we did earn was a $5 bonus for Top Story in August, which was awesome!
Medium technically does not pay writers by views; they pay by reader engagement. This includes read time, claps, highlights, and replies. There are also adjustments made for boosts, read ratio, and whether a reader is a follower. This can make it complicated to predict your earnings, but what matters is whether writers end up being paid better with this model. Personally, we have earned much more for reads with pay calculated this way instead of the flat per-view pay of Vocal.
We wanted to compare our earnings for the first month on each platform, so you can see the difference. We posted the same first stories on Vocal in the order that we posted on Medium. The only difference was that we posted more often on Vocal because we were trying to hit the 5 and 10-story bonuses to see how that factored in (which we did not get). There are really two ways to compare earnings: first, we will compare overall earnings, and second will be reads-only (no bonuses). However, we realized that with the changes to how Medium calculates earnings in August 2023 (the month we joined Vocal), we felt we should compare Vocal earnings with these new Medium earnings since the difference for us was significant.
Our first month on Medium, we earned $2.77. For Medium, we had to gain 100 followers before being eligible for payment, so we didn’t actually start earning until the 12th day of the month. On Vocal, in our first month we earned $5.16. However, $5 was our bonus for Top Story, so we only earned $0.16 on views/reads. Another thing to consider is that $0.13 of the views were for our Top Story. Without this boost in circulation, most stories are not getting enough views to see more than a penny. As you can see above, most stories on Medium are earning $2 or more in the first month posted. We also started Vocal on the 13th day of the month, so the earnings can be comparable to our Medium earnings that first month. If you just go by reads, Medium is the clear winner, but with bonuses, Vocal Media pulls ahead early on. However, we mentioned needing to take into account the new Medium earnings.
With the new Medium earnings, more focus is on engagement, not just the number of reads or read time. This has helped us significantly and will benefit anyone who isn’t writing clickbait and is focused on writing quality content. The first month with these changes, we received $7.85 from Medium. This total beats out the Vocal total for us during the same month, even with a Top Story bonus. When you also take into account that we posted two days a week on Medium versus posting nearly daily on Vocal, you can really see the difference in earnings. However, you also need to consider that we’ve had time to build up 662 followers on Medium, while we have only 13 subscribers on Vocal.
So, which platform will you earn more on? If you are a fiction writer who is not seeing a lot of views on Medium – a typical complaint of fiction writers on the platform – you may be better off on Vocal if you can consistently hit Top Story at least once a month. However, with Medium’s new pay guidelines, you might still earn more on Medium if your stories generate a lot of comments or highlights. If you are someone who has a large following and can pull in a lot of external views, Vocal would be better for you because your readers don’t have to pay for you to earn from them. Our recommendation would be to try out both platforms, as you can cross-post the same content and earn additional money for the minimal work of copy-and-pasting.
Discovery & Engagement
Discovery and engagement on writing platforms is not only important for your income, but also to give you encouragement on your writing journey. For us, the most rewarding and motivating aspect of publishing is how it impacts our readers. If you are new to publishing, engagement on your stories can be the difference in whether you continue to put yourself out there. So which platform will leave you excited and feeling part of a community?
For Medium, we hit the 100 subscribers needed to join the partner program in about 3 weeks. In this timeframe on Vocal, we had only 13 subscribers. It seems there are not as many readers and writers on Vocal, so this is likely why we have fewer followers on the platform. As mentioned above, if you have a large following already, you can bring those followers to Vocal and you will see earnings and engagement this way. However, Vocal doesn’t seem to be the best place to go to build your audience from scratch.
On the other hand, Medium has allowed us to find many new readers and followers: over 650 and counting! These readers also do not seem to be one-off readers, for the most part. We consistently see dedicated readers comment, clap, and highlight when we publish new stories. It is a great feeling to get this kind of encouragement and feedback. When we first joined Vocal, we did get engagement on our Top Story, but the rest of our posts didn’t receive much feedback. We added the screenshot above of our notifications on the two platforms, so you can see the difference in amount and type of engagement. If you are looking to build a community of new readers and find encouragement, we would recommend Medium over Vocal in this area. However, we have reached different audiences on both platforms, so if you are wanting to maximize your reach, we recommend joining both platforms.
What Do You Think?
Have you tried publishing on Medium and/or Vocal? What are your thoughts on the platforms? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks so much for reading!
-Clever & WTF