Medium Isn’t Dead: Thoughts From a Medium Veteran
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I’ve been here longer than pretty much every other writer on the platform.
I’ve seen all the changes. I was here before the clap feature: you used to be only to tap the ‘heart’ button once. I was here pre-partner program. That’s right. I wrote articles on Medium, gasp, for free.
I used Medium to do all the things writers had to do before having the luxury of making money directly from their writing with Medium – hone my voice, build an audience, and grow my email list to have a functioning business that didn’t rely on one single platform.
I was here when we were paid for claps instead of read time. I was here during the ‘gold rush’ a lot of new writers like to complain they missed. And I’m here now, like I always have been and like I always will be as long as Medium is still around, which it will be for a very long time.
I’m coming up on year seven of my writing career. I started writing before Medium ever really existed. I’ve earned the right to write about writing and to write about Medium since I’ve been here longer than all of you spring chickens.
So, settle in and read to get some of the tough love you desperately need.
A Rule to Follow Not Just For Medium, But For Life
Medium doesn’t owe you a damn thing. It’s a for-profit business, not a charity. Nobody owes you their attention either. There’s this belief among new writers, hell even experienced ones, that people should read your writing just because you wrote it.
I’ve seen so many writers complain that the readers ‘just don’t get it’. You can talk about what’s quality and what isn’t, but the market always decides.
I’ve been able to write for a living for the past three years. Everyone looks at the quality of my writing as it exists right now and acts like I just learned how to write out of nowhere. I’ve been banging the keyboard for the better portion of a decade. I’ve done the work. You need to do the work.
When you focus on doing the work you come to this realization.
There’s Only One Variable You Can Control
Back in 2012, you could throw up garbage articles, jam them with keywords, and rank number one on Google. Those days are gone, so everyone pronounced SEO dead. Thousands of people visit my personal website each month through Google, SEO works just fine.
There was a time where you could get insane organic reach on Facebook. The algorithm changed to favor paid ads. In general, being an early adopter to a platform makes things easier, but a platform maturing doesn’t mean you can’t be successful on it.
The rules to being successful on any platform are simple: figure out the basics of how the platforms work and create your best quality work. That’s it. There are ways to increase your reach on Medium, but you become a hack the minute you start trying to game the algorithm.
So, don’t try to game the algorithm. Write good stuff. Pay more attention to the comments on your work. Are people finding value in your articles? Are you getting good feedback? Do you feel you’re doing your best work? Those are the questions that matter.
The Truth About Income on Medium
Every few years or so, there’s a new guard that comes onto Medium. I always see a handful of newer and intermediate writers that rise to prominence on the platform and become a household name.
And they all start the same way I started. At zero. How could it be that Medium is discriminating against new writers when I see new writers gaining traction on Medium all the time?
The new guard that makes it on Medium is always a small handful of writers among the massive wave of newbies that come in. It’s always been that way.
Even in the ‘gold rush’ days, the vast majority of writers who tried to make it on Medium failed, not because of Medium but because of their own actions:
- Most new writers won’t change their strategy if they’re not getting views. They’ll keep writing stuff no one wants to read. I had a student in my Medium course who finally started making more money once she decided to, um, listen to me instead of trying to keep doing things her way.
- Most new writers don’t write enough. You don’t have to publish every day. But you should be working on your craft every single day.
- And last, most new writers love to complain in Facebook groups about why people aren’t sharing their posts. Trust me, post pyramid schemes don’t work. Never have, never will.
You can start from scratch and win. I’ve even seen experienced writers make new profiles and start making money from them. Success is always going to go to the few instead of the many. Just the way things work. Become one of the few.
A Note For Intermediate and Experienced Writers
It’s tempting to become a one-trick pony when your style seems to work for you. But, if you always write the same stuff in the same way, your readers will grow tired of your work.
I really enjoyed Sean Kernan’s piece about the 70/20/10 rule for switching up your content style:
70–20–10 of Variety: Keep 70% of content with a few comfortable topics while expanding with experimental stuff in the outer 30% (with 10% being the most off-the-wall).
He jumped onto Medium a few years back and was a breath of fresh air because he played around with different styles – self-help, relationship advice, satire, fiction, business profiles, history, personal essays, you name it.
And instead of coming up with their own style, other writers just tried to copy him. Totally missed the point. You want to build a niche that works for you and helps you get traction to start. After that, though, you have to experiment and switch things up.
Some of my favorite pieces are the ones where I stepped outside my usual box. I’m branching into new topics as well. It’s fun for me and keeps things from getting stale. It also keeps my readers on their toes.
How to Succeed Medium 3.0
My friend Tim Denning calls this version of the site Medium 3.0.
The layout of the site is different. Medium is rolling in other features and buying up different Medium companies. It’s the ‘relational’ phase, which means there’s more of an emphasis on building a connection with your readers. I don’t see a problem with that at all. I’m game.
Here are some tips to be successful on Medium now and into the future:
- Be an active participant – Are you reading articles on Medium daily? Are you highlighting, commenting, and sharing articles? Do you actually want to be a part of the community or are you just in it for yourself? If you want to succeed on a platform, get to know the platform.
- Keep your eyes peeled – Often, during coaching calls for my program, I’ll show students how I observe what’s going on with the site. I check the top articles for different tags. I’ll notice when a new publication has popped up. I pay attention to what topics seem to rise to the surface. Again, the point isn’t to game the algorithm, but to be aware.
- This gets overlooked – How many of you actually, you know, read the stuff Medium puts out? Do you follow the Creator’s Hub? Have you read their guides on how to build an audience, write titles, and connect with readers? Maybe try getting your information directly from the horse’s mouth.
- Buy a course – Doesn’t have to be my program. There are several courses out there that can help. Mainly, they help you become a better writer, which is your main issue. I spent a few hundred bucks on a writing course a few years back and got a literal 1,000x ROI from it. Imagine wanting to make money without investing in yourself.
- Stop crying – Notice how I just keep on writing? The irony of some of you guys is astonishing. You write self-improvement content but hide in a corner when you’re not getting the results you want? Makes zero sense.
Warren Buffet famously said:
Be greedy when others are fearful, and be fearful when others are greedy.
I remember a few years back when a bunch of writers quit writing on Medium. This was pre-partner program. The partner program kicked in and I was in the perfect position to take advantage of the opportunity.
So many of them tried to jump back in but they didn’t have any momentum. So, they just quit again.
Right now is your time to decide. Are you going to keep writing while so many are complaining? Or will you fold like most people tend to do in life?
Me? I’m still going to be here making great money and building a writing business I love.