I formally wrote my first story on Medium on Sept 5, 2019, and today is almost the end of my first month on Medium. During the month, I published 10 stories, gained 24K views, my articles got read 11K times, and gained 167 fans, 100 followers. Since I put all my stories into the Medium Partner Program, the member engagement for my stories gave me $134 in payment. I also became the Top Writer for both Artificial Intelligence and Education. It ain’t much, but to me, it is very encouraging.
It ain’t much …
Now that the numbers are out of the way, I want to say that overall I felt quite positive for the first month. This is not my first time blogging, sure, but it’s the first time my stories have such reach, and for that, I appreciate Medium and its team for the opportunity. And I want to share with you a couple of things I learned along the way. I hope this could help others who also want to start writing on Medium to start quicker and smoother.
Before I start writing on Medium, I’ve been reading Medium for quite some time. I always appreciated the high-quality content it offers. The content relevance, organization, layout, editorial standard, beautiful imagery, and the app UI, all spells quality and makes content consuming on Medium a pleasure. Now that I’m on the content-creating side of it, the high standard here also encourages me to keep the quality as good as possible to my readers. This includes, but not limited to:
Proofreading my articles (I use Grammarly plus manual proofreading) Carefully pick photos that are beautiful, relevant and license-free ( Unsplash images are a great source and built into Medium’s editor UI) Contemplate a good title/subtitle that’s catchy yet not cliche Creating my own GIF animation wherever I can to inject more ‘energy’ into my page. Cross-reference sources and embed videos wherever relevant to offer richer background knowledge. (Also to my own articles too, of course 😉) Make full use of Medium’s rich editing and layout tools, like emoji, ‘@’, blockquote, etc. to make the story less boring and more vibrant to the eyes. Contemplating good tags that are diversified and also relevant to increase reach.
The list could go longer, and no one story can cover every item in it, but that’s something very beneficial to always keep in mind while writing. I felt it is as important as the texts I put down. I always strive to make the quality of the story the best I can manage. This is ultimately respecting my own time and my reader’s time and I believe that’s what Medium as a unique media promotes and rewards.
One more note is don’t overdo this though. After some polishment, sometimes you’ll never feel that your article is ready to be published. Don’t get caught by the analysis paralysis, hit the publish button, push your content to your reader. You can always improve them later. Writing is a journey, not a destination.
I guess you can always write in your favorite software/app and import them into Medium, but I found it pleasant and efficient enough to just write on Medium’s website editor UI. Having some years of experience in UI/UX, I can say the Medium editor is well designed in that it gets out of your way. It’s what we called ‘invisible design’. It only appears when you need help and fades to the background when you are focusing on your task at hand. The interface is designed to be uncluttered yet powerful when needed. I found that getting familiar with what the editor has to offer really making my writing experience smooth and enjoyable. Take some time to read through Medium’s guideline goes a long way.
As a guy who has worked with numbers for years, stats are always what I have the most passion. Having done a lot of data visualization and dashboard design work myself, I found Medium’s stats page clean and easy to read. The layout design is beautiful and has a good hierarchy with the most important numbers front and center, and everything else with a distance in the background. The only complain will be to fold more details in the background. This way, the more data-savvy people could dig deeper and the normal writers can enjoy the minimalism. Maybe that’s another article at another time.
I found myself visiting the stats page a bit too much, enjoyed watching the number tick up, and up (don’t judge me pls). You don’t have to do the same, but I encourage you to visit the stats page from time to time, it allows you to know how well each article do and when you are trying different writing styles, new topics or social media strategies, it provides a solid benchmark so you can adjust accordingly. For example, when I tried on promoting my articles heavily on Facebook, I did find my visit from Facebook increased a lot, but still not as much as when it gets curated by Medium. It’s great insight! This kind of insight into what works and what not is obviously very valuable.
Also, for Chrome users, I recommend installing an extension called ‘Medium Enhanced Stats’, offer better UI and more information on the stats page.
This is rather controversial. A lot of people don’t like a paywall. As long as it’s a paywall it is bad. I don’t hold that strong of a feeling on paywall though. Getting paid as a writer is very well justified as long as you offer valuable content. This is no less or more decent than any other business. Having a paywall may reduce your reach, but also gives you more focus on people that really values quality. As for reach, I did some experiments and found out that Medium’s 3 free paid stories actually will be enough most of the time. I put one free article and one paywalled one on Medium and promote it through Facebook. I didn’t see much difference in Facebook’s views ratio between the two. Also Medium only curates stories behind the paywall and curation is HUGE on increasing your reach. So I end up putting all my stories behind the paywall, and the results are not bad at all. The payment from my article doesn’t seem much, but it at least paid my Medium membership so I can freely read all the great contents.
You can test it out yourself and if you prefer your content the maximum reach then, by all means, set it as free content.
After I wrote 3 or 4 articles, one of them got some traction. Not viral for sure, but my views start to grow quite fast. It reaches 2k in one day and two days later, I got an email from Medium saying I am now one of the Top Writers in the topic ‘Artificial Intelligence’. How honored and humbled I was! I just start to write articles on Medium for a little more than a week and with less than five articles, I already become the Top Writer for the topic I cared most!
Once I calmed down a little from the excitement, I started to contemplate what happened and why. There is quite some luck to it, sure, one of my stories got some attention or get promoted by some of the social media. But also it shows Medium’s unique system values good quality, good content, not your track record or your brand name. So it is actually an edge for me and other people as green as me that sweating to produce great content: You will be recognized and rewarded for your quality work. The title is not permanent though, I think if I stop producing hit content it will go away, but it’s perfectly fine. It’s a good pressure to push me to write even better stories.
Well, this is the first time I got to work with publications. After my first quality stories, one of the publications in Data Science approached me and ask whether I want to publish through them. After some research online, I found that publication is good for new writers like me, it can increase my reach and also provide some advice on my writing, etc. So I gladly agreed to publish some of my stories with them. After some stories, I felt that the publication did help me a bit in getting noticed. I did some research on other bigger publishers on Data Science and start to also submit my work with them.
It’s actually OK to publish with different publishers, what I did is for the more serious and heavyweight articles, I’ll go with the big publishers. For the more entertaining and relaxed pieces, I’ll submit to other publishers and see how the reaction is. I’m still in a ‘trial and error’ process. I’m still exploring working with different publishers and will share more experience once I get deeper.
One thing I found quite unique for Medium is the response system. Responses are treated as ‘first-world citizens’ in Medium, which means it is treated the same way as a story. It will have its own stats, people can clap on it, etc. And because of that, I noticed that people really put more efforts into the responses they leave, resulting in very high-quality responses that often inspired me or pointed out things I missed or were wrong. I just love the response system. It really fosters quality communication and a clash of thoughts and ideas!
The membership fee for Medium is a flat $5. It opens up the entire Medium contents to you, you can freely read anything and everything it has to offer. To me, it is totally worth it. Not only it improved my ability to do research before putting down the first word of my article(did I say Medium has high quality and relevant content?), it also enables me to interact with other members and fit in deeper with the community.
Well, I might not be qualified to talk about this, I just joined Medium a month ago after all. Yet I still want to share some of my thoughts on this. It does feel great to get rewarded for what you already love to do. The payment system, I believe, is built on ‘member engagement’. The more members engage with your content, the more of their monthly membership fee will be distributed to you. I think it is quite fair, right? So this means you get rewarded by how deep and broad you ‘touched’ people. Otherwise, people won’t engage with you, they won’t bother to clap, response, highlight, etc. This further encourages writers to come up with genuine content, people can only feel you when you really mean what you wrote.
Overall, I think Medium’s member-based, quality-centric to online publishing really pulled some correct strings. And it is full of intelligent and diligent writes and curious, serious readers.
It’s a medium that connects us all with quality content, beautiful interfaces, and a well-designed system.