Medium is in the midst of making sweeping changes to the platform in terms of how stories are curated, promoted, and displayed. Platform changes always cause some trepidation among creators, but they’re not necessarily a bad thing.
The biggest change on the new Medium is a move from a transactional model (where people consume nuggets of information related to topics of interest) to a more relational one (where people consume content that comes from specific, trusted creators or publications). I’ve written extensively about why this change is overall a benefit for creators and what it means in terms of your content strategy.
Another big change is to the curation process. Curation has always been a big part of Medium, but the platform now appears to be lessening its impact and moving toward a more complex, nuanced approach to selecting which content it shows to readers.
In light of these changes, many creators on the platform are wondering how their stories will find new audiences. Without as much impact from curation — and with the new relational model — how will your stories reach readers?
I’ve written about 200 Medium articles in the last year and have received about 12 million views on the platform. That means I have a lot of experience to draw from as well as a lot of data to look at — at least 100,000 views across multiple stories just in the short term since Medium began its changes.
Here are eight ways I’ve seen so far that your stories will be promoted on the new Medium.
Your Own Following
According to an article by Medium CEO Ev Williams, the platform is moving from a “transactional” to a “relational” model. The new model places a greater emphasis on showing readers content from people and publications they already follow.
A post on Medium’s 3 Minute Read blog goes into more detail about these changes. According to the post, the new Medium is “completely reoriented around following — so that readers can be sure they’re not missing anything from writers they love.”
What that means in practice is that instead of primarily seeing stories aligned with their interests, readers will primarily see stories from the writers that they follow.
As Williams writes, “While you can build followers on Medium, [before] our algorithms have played a bigger role in what gets distributed. As a result, readers have been less likely to follow writers because it doesn’t have a huge effect…so that’s the big thing that’s changing.” While Williams’ acknowledges that readers will still see stories from writers they don’t follow, he emphasizes that the new platform will be reoriented so that it “allows for deeper connections between readers and regular writers.”
If you’re a writer on Medium, your followers are about to get a whole lot more important. If you’ve already built a robust following, great. If not, then building your following should be a top priority.
The most important way to do this is to consistently write content that delivers value to readers. But other strategies are important, too, like responding to comments on your stories, writing multiple stories about the same topic (so readers will want to follow you to see your next installment), and tagging other writers in your articles when it’s appropriate.
A Publication’s Following
Writers aren’t the only ones with followings. Publications have them, too. Just as the new platform changes emphasize building relationships with writers, they also emphasize building relationships with publications.
In fact, when readers come to the homepage of the updated platform, they’ll see a graphical representation of new stories from both the publications and the writers that they follow.
The emphasis on publications is great news for new writers and those who don’t have an established following. Even if you only have a handful of followers on Medium, your stories will still be promoted to a broad audience if you publish them in publications that have a lot of followers.
Whereas curators were the gatekeepers before, publication editors are the new gatekeepers on the platform — at least for those without a following of their own.
In reality, this shift has been happening for a while. Select publications have already been able to automatically curate posts at least for several months now. And the posts of selected writers may have been automatically curated, too. For at least a few months, the platform has been gradually moving from a curation focus to a publication/follower focus.
This is a savvy move for Medium overall. As the platform continues to expand, there won’t be enough curators to keep up with the volume of new stories that get published. By spreading some of the work of selecting great new content to publication editors, the platform can keep growing without slowing down the curation process an undue amount.
If you’re a new writer without a big following, your goal should be to publish your articles in a popular publication, like Better Marketing, the Startup, or any of Medium’s in-house publications. You can then take advantage of their broad following to ensure that your stories are promoted.
If you’re already a writer with an established following, then publishing in a solid publication is a double whammy — your story will be promoted to your own followers as well as the followers of the publication where your story runs, multiplying your reach.
Curation, Topics on Medium
While curation will be toned down on the new Medium, it won’t entirely go away. If I publish a story and it’s not in a publication, it will still often be curated into specific topics, like Photography or Artificial Intelligence, so I know topic-based curation is still there.
One big change, though, is that you won’t be able to see what these topics are from your Stats page. Medium discusses this change and the reason behind it here.
In many ways, I think this is a good thing. On the old platform, writers could get so hung up on trying to reverse engineer Medium’s curation algorithms that they forgot to actually write useful content. With curators, there’s also always the chance that they’ll miss something (they’re human, after all) and a really great story will get buried because the curator didn’t immediately see its impact.
With the new relational model, it’s less likely that a great story will get buried because there are a lot more ways beyond curation that it can get promoted to an audience. But some of the benefits of curation will remain. For one thing, it appears that curators will be able to categorize a story into specific topics, ensuring that it’s promoted to people that care about those topics.
And curators will also likely have the capacity to find and flag stories that are high-quality but have been missed by publications — such as stories from a brand new writer who doesn’t yet have a following and isn’t yet connected to any publications.
Curation will also likely serve as a way to give an extra stamp of approval to stories, causing them to be promoted further. And it will likely be one of the ways that Medium helps readers find stories from writers they’ve never seen before, publications they don’t follow, and the like. Williams emphasizes that not all content on Medium will be relational to ensure that the platform’s capacity to show you new content remains strong.
Curation will likely be a big way that Medium connects readers to stories that come from sources they’ve never engaged with before.
Beyond being curated, stories can also be Featured by Medium’s editors. A recent email about one of my Featured stories explains what being Featured means:
That means it will be included in our Featured Stories section, which appears at the very top of Medium.com and the Medium app — as well as in the editors’ picks area of our Daily Digest email. It will get special presence and priority in our story recommendations to the millions of readers who follow the topics your story was distributed in.
Featured stories, in short, are promoted much more aggressively — on the homepage, in Daily Digests, and more. Overall, a Featured story appears to get a bump in terms of its overall promotion by Medium’s algorithms.
This is important since the Medium homepage has changed overall. It no longer includes Medium’s in-house publications at the top of the page in favor of a design that emphasizes popular stories from across a variety of sources. Most of the stories you see on the homepage have probably been Featured. Having Featured stories will likely continue to be a great way to promote your work since it will give your work an added boost on multiple parts of the platform.
How do you get your stories Featured? As always, the simplest answer is to write articles that deliver value to your readers. If you do that, it’s likely they’ll be found and Featured on their merits alone. You can also write for Medium’s in-house publications, where many stories are Featured since they receive professional editing and vetting as you develop them.
“More From Medium”
In a Transactional model, a platform shows readers only the content that they need in the immediate moment. In a Relational one, readers see content from sources (writers and publications) that they trust.
One way this is implemented in the new Medium is through the stories that readers are shown after they finish reading a post. Before, readers mainly saw stories with similar topics to the story they just read. Now, the platform emphasizes stories from the same author, the same publication, or the same author in the same publication. These related stories are called “More from Medium.”
For Medium writers, More from Medium is an incentive to publish frequently and to publish multiple pieces in the same publication. If you publish a lot of stories, Medium will promote your other stories to readers when they finish reading one of your stories. And if you publish multiple stories in the same publication, Medium appears to even more aggressively push other stories you’ve written in that publication.
This creates a hugely beneficial network of stories — assuming you create a lot of content. Suppose a reader finds your story randomly. They finish reading it, and Medium shows them another story you’ve written. They read it. Now they see another one, this time from the same publication. They read it. And now they see another story you wrote but on a totally different topic. They read it too.
With changes to More from Medium, readers can easily end up in a beneficial “rabbit hole” of your work. If they’re enjoying themselves, they could easily read five of your articles in a row. They’re also likely to follow you if they read that many of your stories in a row — growing your organic following and thus your future reach.
Beyond Medium itself, there are tons of ways to promote your stories. These likely won’t have changed with the new Medium. But new changes — like updated profiles — will make social sharing easier.
With newly-restyled profiles, readers are more likely to come to your profile to see more of your work. Make sure to include your Twitter URL there or to include a link to your social feeds in your bio. That makes it more likely that readers will engage with you both on Medium and off-platform.
Many external websites (like Flipboard and Google News) automatically review — and often link to — stories published in selected Medium publications. If you write for The Startup, for example, it’s likely that you’ll see some of your articles land on the Tech areas of Flipboard or Slashdot. I’ve gotten tens of thousands of views from these external platforms.
These external websites will likely continue to pick up content from Medium. But with the move to a more relational Medium, it’s possible that external websites will start to grab content from specific, prominent Medium writers, not just prominent publications.
Again, keep your profile updated. It’s likely that external websites will start to review it more now that it’s a more cohesive place to find content created by specific individuals.
Medium articles can get a lot of search traffic from search engines like Google. This traffic usually builds over time and doesn’t really start to take off until an article has been online for six months or more.
Search traffic — because it doesn’t come from Medium members — is less likely to earn you money. But if your main goal for writing on Medium is sharing knowledge and building an overall audience, then it’s a great way for your content to get discovered.
With the new platform changes, Medium’s team has emphasized easing the process of making design changes, tweaking things across the platform, etc. This means it will likely be easier for Medium’s designers to make little tweaks that improve SEO and get Medium’s stories indexed in search engines more frequently.
Most of this work is probably invisible to writers. But it’s likely to result in better search placement— and more search traffic for your stories — over time.
Any major changes to a trusted platform can be scary. But overall, Medium’s changes appear to provide many new opportunities for your content to find an audience. They also remove bottlenecks to Medium’s further growth (like lessening the reliance on a manual curation process). This means the platform is likely to continue expanding — great news for people who already have content here.
To make sure your work is compatible with the new platform and gets promoted broadly, your main focus — as always — should be on creating quality content that serves your audience well. This kind of content tends to bubble up and get noticed no matter the configuration of a platform.
But you should also be taking practical steps, like focusing more on growing/engaging with your following, seeking out new publications for your work (or building one of your own), updating your profile to take advantage of new profile design changes, promoting yourself both on and off-platform, and publishing frequently to create a network of content that readers can discover and travel within.
Medium’s changes may seem strange and new in the short term. But over time, they’ll provide even more ways that your best work can get discovered.