It’s not a pay-for-hearts in the way I meant, since it looks like Medium won’t be buying any existing stories. They are buying ideas and drafts which could not have gathered hearts — they aren’t published yet. Yeah, they probably will gravitate towards writers who have collected quite a few hearts on previous stories, but that simply sounds like good business sense.
The part about it only being about the stories Medium has picked out seems unfair as well. The way my homepage is set up, it begins with stories from writers I followed (that’s me), followed by stories recommended by writers I follow (that’s my friends), followed by stories from publications I follow (that’s me) followed by tags I follow (again, me) followed by popular on medium (that’s all users) and then followed by staff picks (that’s medium) and last, things I might like (that’s the algorithm). In my experience with Medium’s free usage, it’s a complete reversal from what I got before.
If we’re going to be cynical about it (and why not, a good dose of cynicism is healthy) Medium will/is dictating what users read much more in free Medium than in paid Medium.