My ‘wanking for coins’ shame: What shall I do with my $2.13 in partner payments from Medium?
On any given day, many of the most popular articles on Medium will be articles about how to make money on Medium. The entire system is a grift.
Long before Charlie Brooker became The ‘Black Mirror’ Guy, he was The ‘TV Go Home’ Guy, the writer/creator of a pseudo-anonymous satirical TV listings site. It was the origin of a phrase I often recall when I’m most scrabbling at making a living as a freelance journalist and writer — “wanking for coins”.
In a piece for The Guardian, while he was still writing the Screen Burn column for that paper, Brooker explained the origin of the phrase:
One of the earliest [TV Go Home] entries was Wanking For Coins, which was described as “apocalyptic fun as Rowland Rivron tours the seedy backstreets of London’s West End persuading the homeless to commit acts of self-degradation in exchange for pennies”.
I liked the phrase “wanking for coins” so much I went on to use it again and again. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to sum up an entire world of low-level employment. Stuck in a dead-end job? Wanking for coins. Obliged to smile at customers? Wanking for coins. Working extra shifts to pay the rent? Wanking for coins.
Welcome to Medium: Wanking for coins with terrible Silicon Valley motivational aphorisms sprinkled on top.
Yesterday, I received my Medium Partner Programme statement and was informed that my articles here have earned me $2.13 this month. I’m thinking of saving up for a t-shirt with the slogan EV WILLIAMS IS A PRICK emblazoned across it. Just another 6 months of Medium earning to go before I can make that wish come true.
The way tech companies share their spoils has meant many people are now reduced to wanking for coins — whether it's giving Twitter free content, professional musicians having their music devalued by Spotify, taxi drivers trapped by Uber’s undercutting, or restaurants cooking for coins as JustEat, UberEats, Deliveroo and the rest build dark kitchens to undercut them.
It would be possible to build a Medium type company — or any one of the other tech platforms — that compensated more than a top tier of tech bros and people exploiting the system with high-volume, low-value stuff, but it won’t happen because the vampire squid of venture capital won’t allow it.
For something like Medium or Twitter to grow, there can only be a few Scrooge McDucks at the top and everyone else has to wank for coins.