If you’re already a blogger or writer, you might be wondering whether it’s worth writing on Medium. In most cases, the answer is a definitive yes!
That said, certain types of writing do better on Medium than others. Also, many new writers and bloggers on the platform have a lot of basic questions about how medium works.
Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons to write on Medium, as well as some of the biggest questions people have when they first come to the platform.
Can I write on Medium for free?
If you want to read an unlimited number of stories on Medium, you’ll have to pay for a $5 per month Medium membership. Many people assume that will have to be a Medium member in order to write on the platform.
Thankfully, that’s not true. You can write on Medium as much as you want without paying to become a Medium member. Being a writer on the platform is totally free.
That said, most Medium writers do end up becoming Medium members. It’s helpful to be able to read stories from your fellow Medium writers, and it’s nice to be able to support them through that reading. You’ll often find that you want to link to other writers’ stories from within your own stories, too, so it’s helpful to be able to read an unlimited number per month.
In short, although you don’t have to become a Medium member or pay anything to write on Medium, most writers do choose to become Medium members so they can more easily connect with and read the work of fellow writers on the platform.
Does Medium own your content?
No, one of the best things about writing on Medium is that they don’t take any ownership of your content. I am not an attorney, and of course, you should consult one for any details about your intellectual property.
But if you look at Medium’s Terms of Service, they clearly say the platform does not take ownership of the content you put there: “You retain your rights to any content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.”
In my years of writing for Medium, I’ve never seen any indication that the platform has done anything with my content that I didn’t explicitly want it to do.
Medium even lets you re-post content from your existing blog to their site. They have an import tool that allows you to do this and imports your existing content in a way that’s unlikely to impact the SEO of your blog.
When you agree to publish something on Medium, you do grant the platform some rights to display your content, promote it, etc. Make sure to read and understand the terms of service and any contributor agreements you sign. Again, if you have any questions about the ownership of content, you should always talk to a trusted advisor.
But in general, Medium is not in the business of taking the content you post there, and I’ve never had any issues with this happening.
Can you write on Medium anonymously?
There’s not an option to publish a post on Medium anonymously. When you publish, the post will appear under your account name.
That said, it’s totally optional to make your account name your real name. You can always write under a pseudonym or pen name by making this the name for your account.
I know many writers who write under their own name on their primary account, but also maintain a second account on Medium under their pen name. They use the pen name account to publish stories that they wish to remain anonymous.
Because Medium doesn’t charge anything to write on the platform, it’s easy enough to have multiple accounts for pen names, business names, etc.
How Much Can I Earn From Writing on Medium?
Earnings vary dramatically, but it’s very possible to earn hundreds of dollars or more per article. It’s also possible for an article to fail completely, though!
How old do you have to be to write on Medium?
This is an easy one. According to Medium, you have to be at least 13 years old to write on the platform.
Different requirements may apply to the Partner Program, where you can earn money for your content. Check out the terms of service for that program specifically for more details. Keep in mind that you’ll need a Stripe account, a bank account, etc. to earn from the program, and you may not be able to start these unless you’re over 18.
If you just want to write and publish on the platform, though, 13 is the age cut-off.
How do I get started writing on Medium?
Getting started is easy! I just go to Medium.com and then press the Get Started button in the upper right of the screen. Creating an account is easy, and you can even link your account to an existing Google Facebook or Twitter account to sign in easily.
I love writing on Medium, and I definitely suggest trying it out.
Medium recently made changes to the Medium Partner Program requiring writers to get 100 followers before they’re eligible to monetize their writing. That means many writers are probably scrambling to get to 100 followers if they haven’t prioritized followers before. Here are some strategies you can use to get your first 100 followers on Medium.
How do I know that these work? I’ve been writing on Medium for over two years, and in that time I’ve amassed 28,000 followers. My follower count sometimes grows by 100 or more in a single day! Part of that is getting established on the platform, but a big part is using the right strategies to grow a following.
Why do I need 100 followers on Medium?
The biggest reason most writers want to add to the following on Medium is to hit the initial threshold for the partner program. Once you’ve reached us and met other eligibility requirements, you can potentially monetize your Medium articles.
I would encourage you to think more broadly about your following, though. If you’re just focused on reaching 100 followers in order to monetize, you’re losing out on the opportunity to build passionate following that will engage with your content over the long term.
Getting to 100 followers is important, but these strategies are geared more towards a holistic look at your follower account. They are intended to help you grow your following over time, and ensure that you’re building an engaged audience that actually cares about your writing. In the long term, this will serve you better than rushing to 100 followers and ignoring their quality.
A few ways NOT to get followers on Medium
A lot of new writers think that the fastest way to get a following on Medium is to join follow-for-follow schemes on Facebook or other social media platforms. With these, Medium writers agree to follow each other, increasing both writers’ follower counts.
I don’t like this strategy. When people follow you just because they expect something in return, they’re unlikely to really care about your content. You also risk that they will follow you from a fake account, or even from a bot account.
That creates a wide range of problems. Even if their account is legitimate, they probably don’t care about the writing you’re putting on Medium. It’s very likely that they’ll unfollow you in a few days or weeks. You could hit the 100th follower mark, and then find the half your followers abandon you because they didn’t really care about what you’re writing. You then be back down under 100 followers, and essentially back at square one.
If someone follows you from a bot account or a fake account, you could even risk having Medium remove that follower from your account down the line. If most of your followers are fakes or bots, that could even potentially put your own Medium account in jeopardy.
Instead of using follow for follow schemes, focus on attracting real followers who actually care about what you’re posting. They’ll be more engaged over time, they’re less likely to unfollow you, and they’re less likely to be bot or fake accounts. Again, focus on building a followership for the long term, not just reaching the 100 follower number.
Ask for followers in the right way
The simplest way to develop a following on Medium is to ask people to follow you. I know that sounds so simple that it’s useless. But in reality, most writers don’t ask for followers effectively. And if you want this strategy to work, there are some good ways to do it and some bad ones.
There are two keys to asking someone to follow you:
- A value proposition
Let’s look at timing first. You want to catch your reader at a time when they’re genuinely interested in engaging with more of your content. Usually, I find that readers who finished one of my articles found my contact useful, and are likely to want more of it. For that reason, I find it works best to put a message asking for followers at the end of your articles. Readers who made it through the whole article probably like what they read, and are likely to want more of your stories in the future. That makes them a prime candidate to click Follow and connect with you.
The second aspect of asking for followers is providing a clear value proposition. Ultimately, readers don’t care about you. They care about the value of the content you’re providing. Your follower message should clearly articulate what they can expect if they follow you. That way, they know what valuable benefits to get from hitting the follow button.
Keep your follower message simple. I like using a message along the lines of “If you enjoyed this article, please follow me here on Medium for more stories about _________.” For example, at the end of a food story about Bay Area cupcakes, I might include a message that says “Please follow me here on Medium for more stories about food in the Bay Area.”
The message is simple, and it articulates a clear value proposition. The reader knows exactly what they’ll get out of following me (more stories on a similar topic to the one they’ve just finished. And by putting my ask at the end of an article, I know that I am engaging my reader at a time when they’re most likely to be receptive to the message. It’s a winning combo that can help you quickly build a Medium following.
Write a lot
Once you’ve included a clear follower ask at the end of your articles, one of the most important things is to write a lot of articles. The more stories you have on Medium, the more chances you have to pick up followers.
Remember, it’s OK if your articles are mix of longform and short form. If you write a two minute read that your audience finds helpful, and you put a compelling ask at the end of it, you can still pick up followers just as easily as on a seven or 10 minute read.
I’ve written about 400 Medium articles so far. That’s a big part of why I have 28,000 followers.
In fact, when you’re first starting it’s helpful to write shorter articles about a wider variety of topics. This maximizes the reach of your content and ensures that you engage with audiences that have a wide variety of interests. Assuming you included a good follower ask at the end of your articles, this will maximize the number of potential people who choose to follow you.
Write for publications
When you’re first starting out on Medium, your lack of followers means that your stories will likely be distributed to a smaller set of people. That becomes a chicken and the egg problem. You don’t have followers, so your content doesn’t reach as broad an audience. And because your content doesn’t reach as broad an audience, it’s harder to get followers.
One way out of this loop is to write for publications. When you write in a popular publication like Better Marketing, Start it Up, or any of the Medium in-house publications, you get instant access to their audiences. These can be hundreds of thousands of people in some cases.
One well-placed article in a popular publication with a good follower ask message at the end can easily get you 10 followers, 50 followers, or even 100 followers. Yes, it can be hard to break into these publications as a new writer. But if you are able to get established in one, it can make it way easier to build a following.
Here’s the other good news. The same loop works in a positive way. Once you have followers, your stories will be promoted to a broader audience, which makes it more likely for you to pick up additional followers. Now that I have 28,000 followers, I’ll often pick up 100 new ones in a single day without doing anything, just because my content reaches a broad audience.
Leverage your other networks
I definitely think that follow-for-follow schemes are a bad idea. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up new followers from your existing networks on other platforms.
People who follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social networks have already indicated an interest in your content. If they enjoy your content on another platform, it’s likely they’ll enjoy your content on Medium as well.
Again, when soliciting Medium followers on different networks, it’s all about showing your readers or followers on other platforms what they can personally gain from following you on Medium. For example, you could post on Facebook asking your existing audience to follow you in Medium so they can get your latest stories about earning passive income, baking brownies, or whatever it is you write about.
You’re not just hitting them up for a free follow. You’re telling them what they will gain from following you on Medium. And since you’re preaching to the choir of people who already want to follow your content, you’re likely to pick up followers in this way.
From my own experience, LinkedIn and Twitter are the two networks that are most similar to Medium, and are the best places to attract new Medium followers.
But putting it all together
To summarize, there are plenty of ways to get your first 100 followers on Medium.
- Skip the follow-for-follow schemes, and never buy followers.
- Write a simple and compelling follower ask message articulating what your readers will get out of following you . Put it at the end of all your articles.
- Write a lot of articles, prioritizing short-form articles in the beginning. This will spread your content and your ask message to a broad audience
- Try to get at least a few into publications to capitalize on their existing audiences
- At the same time, write compelling asks for your existing social networks, and post there explaining why your followers should also follow you on Medium
Use all these strategies effectively, and you should have your first 100 followers in no time.
There are tons of great reasons for publishing content on Medium. Everyone’s reason is unique and personal. For me, it’s mostly about sharing my knowledge, learning about interesting new topics, and spreading awareness of my own work and the work of my company and colleagues.
For many, though, earning money through the Medium Partner Program is a major reason to write on the platform. Medium pays writers directly, and you can earn tens of thousands per month on Medium if you reach a high enough level. The top writer on the platform earned $49,705.40 in September, 2020. So the earnings potential is definitely there, if that’s one of your main reasons for writing.
I don’t share my overall Medium earnings. But I received about 12,000,000 views on my stories in my first year on the platform. And I’ve shared how specific stories I’ve written can easily earn $650 (or more).
Medium earnings are complex, and it’s hard to know exactly how they’re calculated. I don’t work for Medium, so I don’t know exactly how their earnings algorithms work. If the algorithms are based on Machine Learning, it’s possible that no one knows exactly how they work — even Medium itself.
That said — through publishing content on the platform for a year, writing over 200 Medium articles, getting 12 million+ views, and doing a ton of research — here is the general formula which I’ve found determines your earnings on Medium.
(Average # of Member Views) * (Average Read Ratio) *(Average Story Length) * (Average Value Per Reader Minute) * Number of Stories = Earnings
Let’s dig into each part, and see how you can optimize your process using the formula, in order to maximize your Medium earnings.
Average # of Member Views
For your story to earn you money on Medium, it has to be seen. Specifically, it has to be seen by Medium members. Medium only pays you for the time that paying Medium members spend reading your stories.
For that reason, external views (like those that come from non-members via search engines, third party website like Flipboard, Twitter and the like) are great in terms of promoting your brand (and may be a factor in determining the stories that Medium promotes to members). But external views aren’t directly earning you money. Only member views do that. That’s why the average number of member views that you stories receive is a big factor in your earnings.
How do you get more members to read your stories? Firstly, make sure you’re covering topics which appeal to Medium members. Self improvement, technology, AI, productivity, and more are all popular topics on the platform, as are creativity, tech, and finance. Always write what you know, though, and don’t pander to an audience by selecting topics based only on audience appeal. If you know nothing about AI, don’t try to write AI stories–they won’t deliver value, and your readers will see right through it.
But do consider looking at the topics you understand well, and determining which ones are the best fit for Medium’s audience. For example, I love to write about both Artificial Intelligence and food. I place my AI stories here on Medium (where I know there’s strong appeal) and save my food stories for food-obsessed platforms, like Instagram.
You can also increase member reading time by building a following on Medium. If other writers and Medium readers are following you, you’re likely to get more member views on any story you publish, because many readers who follow writers on Medium happen to be paying Medium members. I’ve written about this extensively — and shared specific strategies to build followership — in other pieces.
It’s also helpful to keep a close eye on the stories that are chosen for Medium’s own publications, and especially for communications like the weekly The Edition and the monthly Medium Writers Newsletter (both of which you’ll find in your inbox). Medium’s staff have a great sense for what the platform’s audience wants in a given moment. Looking at the pieces they choose to manually curate and highlight is a great way to see what Medium’s readers are focused on.
The bottom line is this: the more views you get from Medium members, the higher your earnings will be.
Average Read Ratio
But (and this is a big “but”), more member views alone won’t get you anywhere. The quality of those views (and overall the value of your Medium articles to your readers) is also vitally important. Why? Because Medium pays you largely based on your total member reading time, not necessarily based only on how many member views you receive.
Imagine that you wrote an article with a super compelling headline, but terrible content. Now imagine that you had a robust following on Medium. Your followers would see the compelling headline, and click through to the article. But as soon as they saw the terrible content, they’d click away. You’d get a bunch of views, but almost no reading time.
On Medium, your story’s “Read Ratio” is the main metric for determining how “sticky” your story is, or how effective it is at keeping people reading. The Read Ratio shows the percentage of readers who finish reading your entire story. In general, the higher your read ratio, the better.
You should aim for a read ratio between 20% and 50%. I typically consider a ratio above 30% to be solid. Longer articles tend to have lower ratios, so don’t stress about them too much, but in general try to keep you read ratio as high as possible.
Again, the best way to keep people reading is to keep delivering value in your stories. There’s no free lunch here–you can’t trick readers into continuing to read a piece if they’re bored. That said, there are some structural things you can do in your piece to make sure readers are engaged early and stay engaged. You can read about these in my article on the 6-15-7 rule.
It’s also a good idea to pare your articles down to their bare minimum form. I’ll often write an article and then cut 1,000 words or more. You have to be ruthless here. By axing unnecessary parts of your article, you ensure that there’s no filler or fluff. Your article will be more engaging and your read ratio will soar, optimizing this aspect of the earnings formula.
Average Article Length
Again, Medium pays you based largely on total member reading time. That means you should write the longest articles you possibly can so that readers have to spend more time reading them, right?
No. There’s no ideal length for an article on Medium —your articles should be exactly the length they need to be. Some stories require lots of time to tell. I wrote a piece called A Solar Crypto Manifesto, for example, that’s a 22 minute read. Despite its length, it still has a 30% read ratio, because every word in there is important to the story — there’s no filler at all.
Likewise, I routinely write pieces that are super short. My piece Hard Reset Your Frozen Fitbit teaches readers how to…hard reset their frozen Fibit. It only requires 1 minute to do this. Yet the piece has still received 6,300 views and a 69% read ratio, because the one minute that readers spend engaging with it is all that’s required to tell the story.
As long as your pieces are providing value to readers, they shouldn’t be any longer (or shorter) than they need to be in order for you to tell your full story. As soon as you start adding in extra words or padding your stories to artificially increase their length and bump up reading time, readers will pick up on this and stop reading. People are extremely sensitive to articles which waste their time — don’t do this.
That said, there are plenty of ways to increase the average length of your articles while still adding additional value for your readers. Including a few really helpful photos, videos, charts, illustrations, etc. to each of your stories can help get your points across, while also giving readers a reason to linger on your story for longer. This is especially true of super short form stories, like poetry.
You can also choose to tell stories which are longer-form. Medium is a perfect platform for this. Unlike with social media — where most readers want to glance at a post and then move on — Medium readers come to the platform for long-form content. A recent piece by Alexandra Samuel about Google Drive is a 94 minute read — the length of a short book. But it shares extremely helpful information, there’s no filler, and so it’s still extremely readable at that length.
You should never pad your articles to increase your average article length. But by choosing topics which lend themselves to long-form writing (like deep dives, tutorials, in-depth investigations, etc.) or adding in valuable videos, images, charts or illustrations, you can increase your average article length and optimize this aspect of the earnings formula.
Average Value Per Reader Minute
The rest of the formula up to this point has provided a sense for how many minutes of member reading time your average story will get. But there’s another part of the picture — how much is each reader minute worth, in actual dollars and cents?
Again, this varies widely across the platform, and the average value of a Medium reader minute isn’t fixed. Why? It’s likely because Medium pays you based not only on how many minutes people spent reading your pieces, but also based on how many minutes those same people spent reading other pieces. The platform calls this your “share” of their reading time.
Think about it this way. A Medium member pays $5 per month to subscribe to the platform. That $5 is then distributed to the authors of all the articles that they read during the month. Let’s suppose that a theoretical member (We’ll call them Member A) spends 1 minute on your article, and 1 minute reading four other articles. Each of their reading minutes will be worth $1.
Now let’s suppose another member (Member B) reads your article for 1 minute, and doesn’t read anything else. Their 1 minute of reading time would be worth $5. Again, the average value of a reader minute is based on how engaged specific readers are across the whole platform. That’s not something you can control.
Medium puts it this way:
Imagine an author writes about fly fishing. She finds an audience of fly fishing enthusiasts who subscribe to Medium primarily to read her stories, meaning she receives a strong share of reading time from each of her readers. In contrast, an author who writes about a wide variety of topics might receive smaller shares from a broader audience of readers, who also read a variety of other authors. While the generalist will often earn a lot through the first total reading time part, the fly fisher is well equipped to earn through this share part — even with a smaller audience.
And the value of a reader minute is probably even more complex than this, too. Medium says that reading time is a major factor in calculating earnings, but other engagement factors weigh into the mix, too. Certain members’ reading time might be weighted higher than others’. And Medium also credits reading time to writers retroactively if a non-member reads their piece and then becomes a member within 30 days.
For that reason, Medium says that it’s not possible to calculate a consistent value per reader minute, because “payouts are tied to the number of active Medium members”, “your earnings are calculated based on a mix of factors, not a straight calculation based on word or time count”, and “your daily views and reading time are not the only input into your daily earnings. Other components of your earnings are lagging, meaning that it may take a while for you to earn for each view.”
What you can do, though, is determine an average value for a reader minute on a particular story, or across a broad range of stories. Several writers like J.J. Pryor have done this, and determined that their average value per reader minute is around 3.5 cents. I don’t obsess about these things too much, but doing a spot check of several articles, my own value ranges between 3–5 cents per minute across many thousands of views.
Keep in mind that the value per minute can change dramatically for a story over time. I find that reading time from early readers is often counted at a lower value than time from later readers. It’s possible that early readers are Medium fanatics who read a ton of stories, and so my “share” of their reading time is diluted. It’s also possible that Medium is tacking on other bonuses (like reading time for non-members who I “convert” to the platform) after the fact.
How do you increase your value per reader minute? It’s all about the kinds of readers you attract. If you’re like Medium’s proverbial fly fishing enthusiast and you bring an audience to Medium who exclusively read your stories, your value per minute of reading time is likely to be very high.
Most people don’t bring their own audience to Medium. And most Medium members don’t read the work of only one author. You can, however, choose the topics that you cover in order to appeal to specific kinds of readers whose time tends to be more valuable.
I’ve found, for example, that tech articles about very specific topics can generate high-value reading time. It’s likely that certain tech professionals sign up for Medium (and are happy to pay $5 per month) to read about a very specific, niche topic — like a particular programming language they use.
They pass over all the general self improvement content, health content, and more in their Daily Digest. But if they see an article (ideally, your article) about their niche topic of interest, they’re likely to click through and read it. Because they don’t read that much, their reading time is correspondingly more valuable. Writing articles on niche topics (programming languages, fly fishing) can bump up your value per reader minute.
I find that articles which are surprising tend to generate valuable reading time, too. Again, imagine a Medium reader who subscribed to the platform at some point, but doesn’t read that much. Suddenly, they see your article with a very surprising headline in their Daily Digest. They’re intrigued, and click through. You could get their entire $5 for the month if yours is the only article they read.
In short, to maximize your value per reader minute, think about what topics would grab an infrequent reader if they saw that topic in their Daily Digest. These niche, surprising, unusually compelling topics pull in less-frequent readers whose reading time draws higher earnings.
Number of Stories
At this point, the earnings formula has given us the average value of one of your stories. But I’ve actually saved the best part of the formula for last — the number of stories that you write.
All the other elements of the formula are areas where you have limited control. You can absolutely tweak the topics you choose, the length and structure of your stories, the kinds of audiences you draw in, and more to optimize your views, reading time, read ratios and value per reader minute. But for all these factors, you’re still largely at the mercy of the platform, and you’re working with data which is helpful to consider in general terms, but often hard to compute with specificity.
There’s one factor in the formula, though, that’s totally under your control — the number of stories that you write.
Writing (and publishing) frequently has a number of benefits. Publishing more stories usually leads to move views, and the development of a following that drives still more views in the future. Frequent publishing also maximizes the chances that you’ll develop an unusually compelling story with a super high read ratio, often my mistake.
As you write and publish more, you’re likely to get better at it, too, and to figure out the patterns of writing that appeal to your readers. This means you can write longer stories in less time, which tends to naturally increase your average story length. You’ll also likely develop a broader audience — including more infrequent readers whose reading time is especially valuable.
And if you write a lot of content, you don’t need to worry about going too niche. In a single day, you might publish a niche story that appeals to a tiny handful of readers, and then a general story which keeps your broader audience engaged. Again, niche content can appeal to infrequent readers, further increasing your value per reader minute, and if you write a lot of stories, niche stories won’t bother your more general followers.
And of course, there’s the sheer power of volume. As long as the quality of your content (measured by how well it meets a reader need, not necessarily how slick and polished it is) doesn’t suffer, publishing more stories will naturally lead to more earnings. Even if you never have a “big winner”, publishing more stories means creating more chances to earn each month. Over time, even low-earning stories add up.
To maximize each element of the earnings formula, consider the steps I’ve described.
- Increase your following and promote your stories to drive up views
- Make your stories appealing (and pared down to essentials) to increase your read ratio
- Write long-form content when you can (but never pad your stories)
- Make sure you appeal to niche, infrequent readers whose reading time earns more
But at the end of the day, remember that the most important way to increase your earnings on Medium is to write content that has value to an audience, and to publish it frequently. You can tweak and optimize formulas or try to reverse-engineer algorithms ‘till the cows come home. But if you never hit Publish, you’re unlikely to earn much on Medium (or any other platform).
The earnings formula I’ve described can be valuable in building an overall content strategy. But at the end of the day, all the other factors (read ratios, time values, and the like) will sort themselves out if you keep creating lots of content that your audience finds helpful.
Focus on that, publish a lot, and you’ll see every other factor in your own earnings formula improve, and see your Medium earnings increase over time.
Medium’s recent updates have meant a lot of changes for creators. One of the biggest shifts has been from a transactional model that emphasizes discrete units of content (and where the specific author is less important) to a relational model that encourages readers to follow and engage with specific writers.
The platform’s new model emphasizes developing a following, and Medium has said that followers will matter a lot more going forward. This is implemented on the platform in a variety of ways. But one of the most compelling is a shift toward treating publications and individual writers essentially the same.
Just as publications could brand themselves in a deliberate way and build a following on the old Medium, individual creators can now do the same thing on the updated platform. In short, on the new Medium, you are a publication.
Let’s look at what this means for writers — from a design and strategy perspective.
Medium’s changes are a broad-reaching set of updates to the platform. They affect back end processes (like how the stories that each reader sees are chosen), as well as the site’s front end design (how stories are actually displayed).
Medium goes into detail about these design changes in several recent blog posts and shares some valuable information about what they mean for individual creators. The biggest change is that when you publish a story outside of a publication, your own branding now appears at the top of the story.
Here’s an example. I published this story with no publication. As a result, information about me is now displaying in the header — my name, my number of followers, an About link which goes to my profile, etc. If I wasn’t signed into Medium as myself, the page would also display a button encouraging readers to follow me.
Images courtesy of the author.
This is a big shift. Before, this page would have displayed the categories that the story had been curated in. Instead of information about me as a creator at the top of the page, readers would have seen info on a specific topic like Writing or Productivity. Again, this was the transactional model where Medium assumed that readers were mostly interested in specific topics, not specific people.
This design shift may seem subtle, but it’s actually a big deal. It’s saying that if you don’t publish your story in a publication, Medium is going to essentially treat your own profile and Medium persona as a publication. The platform is going to encourage readers to follow you instead of following a topic and will make it easy for readers to click through from the story to your own profile page.
That Profile page looks different now, too. In fact, it looks a lot like a publication’s homepage.
Readers see information about you at the top of the screen (including a custom image that you can choose) and then a feed of your most recent stories. The page looks almost identical to if you had clicked through to the homepage for The Startup or Better Marketing. I’d be willing to bet that in time, Medium will let you “curate” your own stories into topics or menus, just as publications can do today.
These design changes take the concept of making Medium more relational and implement that concept as a set of concrete changes to the site’s user experience and appearance.
As a creator, how can you make these changes work for you? There are several things you should do right now:
- Make sure your profile information is up to date. Connect your Twitter and other social media if you want to do so. Lots more people are going to be seeing your profile with Medium’s changes and you want to push them to your social platforms.
- Make sure you have a compelling author photo. Your author photo is going to appear much more frequently in Medium’s new design, and you should make sure yours looks great. Consider hiring a professional photographer for a socially-distanced headshot session if you don’t have a professional headshot already.
- Go to the new Design section of Medium and make some updates to ensure that your Profile page reflects your own brand. Consider uploading a header image (you can find one on Unsplash or use your own), customizing your font, or choosing a background color for your page. These small changes give your page more of a branded feel. Make sure your updates are subtle and professional — a bright, neon background might make your text hard to read, for example.
- Consider choosing a custom logo. This will now display at the top of your stories and on your Profile page. I’ve kept my text-based logo, but if you have a logo for your personal brand, you can now use it on Medium. Ideally, the logo should say your name in it.
These design choices are very similar to the choices you would want to make if you launched a new publication. Again, with the new Medium, creators are being treated like their own publications.
Those are the design elements of the new change. But Medium’s changes are more than skin-deep. The platform has indicated that its move toward prioritizing individual creators also means shifts in how Medium’s algorithms recommend and surface content on the site.
Again, the changes are geared toward treating creators more like publications. On the platform, followers have always been among the primary currencies by which publications judge their success and reach. The Startup’s description, for example, highlights the fact that it’s “Medium’s largest active publication, followed by 717k people.” When publications reach out to me and ask me to send them stories, they almost always talk about how many followers they have.
Why? Because Medium has always pushed stories out to a publication’s followers. If you publish a story in a big publication, it’s likely to find an audience, even if it’s not curated. And recently, Medium had begun allowing some publication editors to curate stories themselves — a foreshadowing of the new changes we’re seeing implemented today that de-emphasize curation overall.
With Medium’s new changes, they’re still pushing out stories to publications’ followers (and probably doing this more than ever). But they’re also pushing out stories much more aggressively to writers’ own followers. This happens through “shelves” on the Medium homepage (like the collection of author photos you see at the top right of your homepage), and it is likely happening on the back end with Daily Digests as well. Again, that’s a move toward treating writers like their own publications and weighing their followings as highly as publications’ followings were weighed before.
What does this mean, strategy-wise? As a Medium creator, you should put a lot more emphasis into building your following if you haven’t already. I’ve covered this in detail in other articles.
But you should also plan to publish a lot more content. Publications have long known that publishing lots of stories is an important way to build influence and a following on Medium. Sand Farnia of the Writing Cooperative says in a recent article about growing their publication:
“I think the most important way to attract followers is consistency in publishing. There needs to be a steady flow of articles published, preferably every day.”
With Medium’s new move to treat individual writers more like publications, individuals should aim to publish as frequently as possible, too. Frequent publishing achieves a few things. Since recent works from writers and publications now appear front and center on readers’ homepages, publishing frequently maximizes the chances that your followers will see one of your stories when they come to Medium.
With the new “More From Medium” section — which highlights more of your work when someone finishes reading one of your articles — there’s also an incentive to have more stories on the platform. Having more work on Medium maximizes the number of related stories that the platform can show a reader when they finish one of your pieces. With Medium’s changes, I’ve already started to see an increase in traffic to my older stories.
With frequent publishing, you have to make sure the quality of your articles doesn’t suffer — you still have to provide value to your audience. But Medium is providing several ways to make frequent publishing easier and more valuable.
A big one is shifting toward encouraging shorter-form posts in addition to Medium’s bread and butter of long-form articles. Medium has said clearly that tools for short-form posts are coming. These are already being Beta tested. You’ve probably already seen short-form posts from some of the publications and creators you follow — Ev Williams included.
But the move away from curation is also a major tacit acknowledgment that short-form, experimental content is welcome on the platform — at least from established writers. Before, pieces less than three minutes were very unlikely to be curated, creating an incentive to write longer articles (and thus, in most cases, to publish less often, because long-form stories often take longer to produce).
Creators also had to worry about things like “curation jail,” where creators said that if a certain number of their pieces weren’t curated in a row, they would be locked out of curation for a period of time. Now that curation has become less important than building a following, Medium creators can feel freer to try new things, test more experimental content, and otherwise step outside their comfort zones without worrying about “jail.”
All these things make frequent publishing easier and less risky. Your ideas don’t have to be perfect for you to hit the “Publish” button. You’re no longer as accountable to curators — if you’re delivering value to your audience with each piece you write, that’s what matters most under Medium’s new framework — even if you publish three or more pieces per day.
If you’ve run a publication on Medium before, the platform’s new changes (especially around the design of Profile pages) will feel very familiar. So, too, will strategies like maximizing the number of quality articles you publish.
If you’ve never run a publication, now’s the time to learn more about what’s involved because your own brand on Medium is effectively a publication now. Read up on creating custom logos and headers, polish up your profile, and think about what you’d publish in the short-form world that is likely just around the corner.
You’re a publication now. Optimize your design and strategy to leverage Medium’s new changes, and go publish great things.
About 90% of the notifications on my phone relate to Tim Denning. Why? I follow Tim here on Medium, and he produces a lot of content.
And by a lot, I mean a lot. He’s been publishing about 2 new articles a day for this whole year, and most of them are things I want to read. Since I don’t follow too many people on Medium, nearly every article he publishes appears as a push notification on my phone. Sometimes it’s exhausting. But often it’s nice to see one person’s output, and especially to see (and be inspired by) how extremely prolific Tim is.
With new changes from Medium announced this weekend, the kind of one-to-one connection between readers and content producers that I’ve inadvertently created with Tim is going to become a lot more common.
Toward a more relational Medium
Why? Medium has announced that they’ve moving the platform — and especially the mobile app — towards a more “relational” approach to content instead of a “transactional” one.
What does that mean overall? And especially, what does it mean for prolific content producers? Let’s explore in more detail.
Content is Becoming More Relational
Right now, Medium essentially follows the dominant model for content across the Internet — treat each interaction as a discrete one, and focus on what the reader is looking for in that specific moment. If you go to Google and search for “tomatoes” for example, Google will probably find you a website about cooking or growing tomatoes, like Burpee.com. If you then search for “election”, Google will find you a totally separate website related to politics and whatever election is upcoming where you live, like CNN.
Each transaction is discrete — you’re unlikely to get a political article from Burpee.com, or a tomato article from CNN. That’s a “transactional” interaction — you’re looking for one thing in a discrete transaction, and each transaction is separate.
Usually that makes sense. But when it comes to reading content, it also means that much of the context of how your content is produced gets lost. If you love reading CNN, maybe you would prefer to see a CNN article about tomatoes (they exist) than a page from Burpee.com. Maybe you’ve established a relationship of trust with CNN over time, and you’d really like to know what they feel about tomatoes.
That’s a “relational” interaction — one where you’ve established a relationship with a content source over time, and new content from that source is prioritized in your future interactions.
Medium’s new move focuses it on relational interactions instead of transactional ones. That means that content from trusted sources (or at least sources you interact with a lot) will be prioritized over ones that might be more objectively “relevant” but with whom you haven’t established a relationship already.
Follows and Publications Will Matter a Lot More
What will this mean practically? Follows and publications on the platform will matter a lot more than before.
Follows and publications on the platform will matter a lot more than before.
Follows have always shaped the content that you see on the platform — again, just look at my relationship with Tim’s prolific output. But now they will matter even more, with the newest content from the writers and publications you follow receiving first priority in the mobile app, versus content selected from a nebulous algorithm.
For prolific content products that have established a following already, that’s great news. Your follows are about to become a much more significant and helpful force in getting your content seen.
For new producers with few followers, it means publications will become a much more important way to get started on the platform. Even if you don’t have a following yourself, you’ll presumably be able to submit to a great publication and take advantage of the fact that their followers will be more likely to see content from the publication, including the content you produce.
Publications will become a much more important way to get started on the platform
Follows are a new source of engagement for creators — and publications appear to be emerging more and more as the gatekeepers to the platform for new content producers who don’t yet have a following of their own.
Build Your Brand, Then Ignore It
Of course, there’s a danger here for prolific creators. People like Tim tend to write about whatever strikes their fancy in a particular moment. Sometimes that’s the details of how Medium works, sometimes it’s money advice from Warren Buffett, and sometimes it’s deeply personal chronicling of their own struggles or life challenges.
With a transactional model, staying “on brand” doesn’t really matter. Each content interaction is separate, so with a content producer like Tim, people who care about finance would be directed to his Buffett articles, people interesting in life fulfillment would be directed to his more motivational pieces, etc. The finance articles wouldn’t annoy or distract people interested in motivational life advice, and vice versa.
With the new model though, that’s at least nominally not the case. A relational model encourages creators to stay “on brand”, creating a specific type of content that will appeal to all of their followers. This kind of model would say that Tim should choose one thing and stick to it. Maybe he should become a finance blogger, build his following around people who care about finance, and stop publishing motivational articles that won’t appeal to that audience.
Should prolific content producers like Tim actually choose one brand direction and stick to it? Absolutely not. Because here’s the thing — even if a content producer is “off brand”, it’s still really interesting and helpful to at least be exposed to all of their output.
Here’s an old-school example. I read the Economist magazine. Yes, the real physical, magazine. When I get it each week, about 20% of the articles appeal to me (usually the ones about business and science). About 70% are totally uninteresting to me (usually the deep dives on politics).
But about 10% are things I wouldn’t seek out myself in a transactional model, but that I end up reading and finding really engaging (maybe a political article that relates to food or something else I care about). It’s often those 10% of articles where I really learn something new. And I’m only reading them because they’re in the Economist. I wouldn’t seek them out in a transactional model.
That’s the power of a relational model — once you establish a relationship with a content producer, you’ve more willing to try out new things from that producer, even if you wouldn’t ordinarily be interested in a specific subject.
The same thing applies to content producers here on Medium. I probably wouldn’t seek out Tim’s motivational life advice pieces in a transactional model. But because Medium pings me with everything he produces, I occasionally see one of his articles that I wouldn’t seek out myself, but that turns out to be fascinating and teaches me something new.
So should content producers pick a niche and stick to it, building a brand around a specific subject? For some, the answer might be “yes.” But for prolific content producers, the answer is a resounding “no.” Like Tim does, they should continue producing content about whatever interests them. Their followers will see everything they produce, including some irrelevant content.
Unexpected departures from normal reading patterns will help readers discover new things, while also deepening their relationship with the creator.
But at least some of the time, those followers will likely see something they wouldn’t ordinarily seek out, and click through it it just because it comes from a creator or publication that they care about enough to follow. Those unexpected departures from normal reading patterns will help readers discover new things, while also deepening their relationship with the creator.
You might take a chance on new content that comes from someone you follow, even if you wouldn’t seek it out directly. And you might find that the new content your favorite creator produces is actually more relevant or interesting to you than you expected.
Mixing it Up
There’s one more caveat here. Relational models for content can be great for prolific creators, since they push everything you create out to your followers, and deepen your relationship with those followers over time. They also, as I described above, encourage your followers to engage with all aspects of who you are as a creator, and to come along with you as you explore new directions that your followers might not take on their own.
But a relational model also creates the danger of filter bubbles and silos. If you develop a relationship with MSNBC and only see content from them, that will shape your worldview. Likewise, if you like Fox News and only see their content, that will also shape your worldview in a totally different direction.
Relationships with content sources can be good. But they can also create group-think and discourage you from moving outside your own bubble.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential that in Medium’s new move, they focus on relational content from people and publications you follow, but also sprinkle in a hefty dose of new content from people you’ve never heard of. From the platform’s announcement, they seem committed to doing that. And because Medium doesn’t rely on advertising for revenue, they’re in a great position to do this without having to care about feeding a filter bubble to keep their advertisers happy.
Getting the mix of trusted content from familiar sources vs. new content you’ve never heard of right will be essential to the platform’s new pivot. Especially for prolific content producers, the focus on followers and relationships is important. But you also want your content appearing in front of totally new audiences, so they have a chance to engage with it, decide they like you, and follow you.
In short, you want to speak to your audience. But you also want the chance for that audience to grow through chance encounters with your content beyond your existing followers. That’s important so that you reach the maximum number of people, and so that your followers don’t get locked into a bubble or a specific worldview that becomes self-reinforcing.
I think Medium is in a great position to walk this line, and perhaps other platforms who curate content will follow it if it proves successful.
Stay the Course
What should prolific content producers like Tim do in response to these new changes?
Immediately, they should do nothing. Or rather, they should keep doing what they’ve always done — producing interesting content (and lots of it), creating value for their audience, and engaging with a variety of topics and audience categories. That’s always been a model for content success, and it will continue to be.
You shouldn’t alter your content strategy because of changes to a platform — if you’re creating great content that’s helpful to an audience, any platform should help you find value from it.
What it does mean, though, is that certain elements of content creation here at Medium will be reinforced and enhanced. Developing an ongoing relationship with followers will become even more important. Submitting to many publications (or running your own) will become more significant, too. This is something most prolific creators already do. But again, it will just be enhanced and made even more important going forward.
For new creators, the changes are more significant. Curation will likely matter less in terms of content discovery. Engaging with publications that already have a robust following will likely matter more.
Rather than focusing on trying to outsmart an algorithm or reverse engineer what goes into curation, new creators should focus on building an organic audience of followers, and especially on submitting content to relevant publications that already have a large follower base of their own.
Successful prolific content creators like Tim already follow a range of best practices — creating materials that are relevant and valuable to an audience (even if they’re creating materials for 10–15 different audiences), working across a variety of platforms and publications, cultivating ongoing relationships with their followers, and sharing everything that’s of interest to them without worrying about staying “on message”.
With the new platform updates, none of those best practices will change. But for prolific creators especially, following them is about to get a lot more rewarding.
This article originally appeared on Storius on Medium.
If you’re already an established blogger, you should also be on Medium. It’s an ideal way to expand your audience, and potentially earn an extra income stream through the Medium partner program.
One of the nice things about Medium is that they have no problem with republishing articles, as long as you own the original article. They even provide an easy tool that allows you to import content from your own blog, and share it on the Medium platform.
Will importing content onto Medium hurt my SEO?
Having duplicate content on the Internet often hurts SEO. Search engines generally like to index one copy of a page. If you have your content in multiple places, it’s possible that another page will essentially steal traffic from the content on your own blog.
The good news is a Medium has thought about this. When you import content from your own blog to Medium, the site automatically includes a canonical link. This alerts search engines to the fact that the post on your own blog is the official version. Most search engines will index the post on your blog, not the one on Medium.
In a nutshell, that means you should get the benefits of publishing the content on Medium, without the drawbacks of damaging your own site’s SEO. As a benefit, the link at the end of the imported article on Medium provides a way for readers to quickly jump to your blog and continue reading more articles there.
Using the import tool
There’s a catch though. In order to import posts to Medium without damaging the SEO of your own blog, it’s essential to use Medium’s Import tool. If you just copy and paste the text and images from your existing blog over to Medium, the new post may be seen as duplicate content and may hurt your SEO.
Medium has simple instructions for using the import tool. It’s incredibly easy.
Go to your homepage on Medium, click your Profile picture, and go to Stories. Press Import a Story.
Enter the URL to the story on your blog, and click to import it. Medium automatically sets the date of the imported article to the date that you published the post on your blog.
One caveat; that means that when you look at your Medium stats, the post will display in the month that you were originally posted it on your own blog, not the month that you imported it to Medium.
After using the Import Tool, your post should appear as a Medium Draft.
Make sure to get formatting right
When you use the Medium import tool, Medium will take its best shot at formatting the post to match the site’s standards. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t get everything right. The title of your post might appear differently on Medium versus your blog, or some of your images may not be imported properly.
For that reason, it’s important to manually review each post that you import before you publish it. I like to use the import tool to bring a post over, and then go through it to ensure that all the images are present, the title is correct, there are no links that work on my own blog but not on Medium, etc.
I also like to write a new subtitle for my imported articles, and to assign tags to them on Medium before I publish them. Granted, these steps add a bit of extra work to the importing process. But it’s important to ensure that your post ends up looking great on Medium.
Only import posts that you own
One other important thing to keep in mind is that you can only import posts to Medium that you own. Make sure that you either wrote the post or have permission from its author before you import it. Importing posts that you don’t own or have the rights to could potentially land you in hot water with Medium, or the author.
If you have an existing blog, go ahead and try importing some posts to Medium. You’ll get the benefit of engaging with Medium’s audience and potentially pick up new readers for your own blog, too. Because Medium is clever about how they do imports, it shouldn’t impact the SEO of your existing blog, either.
To do Medium imports right, though, make sure to use the official import tool. Don’t just copy and paste your content over. And once you do move it to Medium, make sure to check it over and clean it up so that it looks great in its new home.
If you’re a Medium writer, you might take the “Field of Dreams” approach. Remember that movie from the 80s? The main message was: “if you build it, they will come”. A lot of writers take the same approach with their writing. They assume that if they publish an article on Medium it will immediately start to get views. Really, it’s much more effective if you promote your Medium articles yourself, as well as letting Medium do some of the promotion for you.
Will Medium promote my articles for me?
Yes, one of the cool things about Medium is that they will promote your articles for you. If your article meets their standards and is a good fit for their audience, Medium will promote it to their members. There are hundreds of thousands of members, so this can be an amazing way to get readership.
If your article is especially good, Medium might tweet about it to their audience of over 2 million followers. A single tweet from Medium‘s main Twitter account can bring in hundreds of readers. This has happened to me dozens of times and it’s a great way to get tons of interest.
There are also ways that Medium will promote your article indirectly. Many medium publications are monitored by aggregator services like Flipboard and Smart News. These aggregators will automatically pull in stories on big publications like OneZeo or Elemental. If you get an article into one of these publications, aggregators can bring in thousands of external views to your piece. There are tons of ways you can monetize these views, even if they’re not from Medium members.
In short, one of the best ways to promote your Medium article is simply to publish on Medium. That will get you a lot of the way towards building an audience.
That said, you shouldn’t rely on Medium alone. Especially if you’re just starting out as a writer, it’s important to promote your articles through a variety of sources. For one thing, Medium is more likely to promote articles that are already gaining traction.
If you want to take advantage of Medium‘s promotion of your articles, it pays to promote them elsewhere, too. And even if Medium is promoting your articles to their own audience or external audiences, you can add even more views and interest by doing some promotion yourself.
Post your article to social media
If you already have a social media following, it’s a great idea to post your article on social media after you publish it. Some social networks do better than others when it comes to Medium articles. The two best networks to use are Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter and Medium are closely integrated, and they share a similar audience. Tweeting about your Medium article can easily reach a lot of interested viewers.
Especially if you’re publishing professional content on Medium, LinkedIn is also a great place to post your articles. You can take advantage of your own professional network, sharing useful information with them and also promoting your writing.
Facebook can be a good place to promote your Medium articles too, but only for a certain type of article. Facebook does less well for technical articles, political articles, health articles, and the like. Their algorithms are trained to filter out many of these articles to avoid the risk of misinformation. Personal essays, food reviews, and relationship or parenting advice can do well if you post them to Facebook. Stories can also do great if you post them to a relevant Facebook group.
If you write technical articles on Medium, or articles about tech topics, two places to consider are Hacker News and Reddit. Both cater to a technical audience, and a post on either can bring in hundreds of users to a Medium article.
Tread carefully, though. Both sides are extremely sensitive to spammy posts, and you can easily get yourself banned if you’re too self promotional. A good rule is to post 10 unrelated, valuable things to these networks for every one post about your own article.
That said, if your article genuinely develop delivers value to these communities, it can get a lot of traction. I wrote a technical article about OpenAI’s GPT-3, and people on both sites loved it, bringing in over 975 views from Reddit alone.
Your email signature
How many emails do you send per day? Probably at least 10, and maybe over 100. Every one of those emails can potentially be an opportunity to let people know about your writing on Medium. Include a link to your Medium profile in your email signature. I do this, and it could be a great way to spread the word about your newest articles to your existing network.
Post the Article to Nextdoor
This is an overlooked and extremely powerful strategy for promoting local articles. NextDoor is a local social media network where you have to prove you live in a particular neighborhood to join it. The network specializes in hyper-local posts.
If you write stories about your local area on Medium, try posting them to NextDoor. People there are very passionate about anything having to do with their own cities. Even though you’ll be limited by geography, you can still get hundreds of views from a NextDoor post.
When I post, I find that it’s important to deliver some value to the community beyond the article you’re sharing. I’ll write a little summary of my article in my post, include a photo, or ask a question.
For example, I might post a review that I wrote of a local restaurant, and then ask people if they agree with my review. People love to chime in and share their own opinions, which creates dialogue and also helps to promote the story.
Remember, when your posting from NextDoor, you’re communicating to your actual neighbors. You’ll probably see these people on the streets, and they may recognize you by your writing. Make sure that the things you post there are articles that you would want everyone in your neighborhood to see.
Create Content on Other Platforms
Medium is a wonderful platform for written content. But there are plenty of platforms out there for other types of content, too.
YouTube is great for video, and so are TickTock and Instagram. Many Medium writers also write on Newsbreak. Some write on Vocal. Still others contribute articles to other publications or blogs.
If you do any of these things, you can link back to your Medium profile at the end of your content on other platforms. For example, I often link my YouTube videos to my Medium publications in the YouTube description section. Likewise, if I contribute an article to a local newspaper, I’ll ask if they can put a link to my Medium profile at the end of the story. All of these things help to send viewers to Medium from your other content.
Medium’s built-in audience is one of the best things about the platform. Distinguish yourself on Medium, and they’ll promote your stories far and wide.
You can give yourself a leg up, however, by doing some of the promotion yourself. Try the strategies and see if it brings in more views to your Medium articles. Over time, you should get a double bonus. You’ll get views directly from the strategies, and the influx of views will also potentially cause Medium to promote your story to more of their own islands. It’s a win-win!
The Field of Dreams approach is tempting because it’s hands off. But if you put just a little time into promoting your own Medium articles, the payoffs can be big.