What I’ve Learned About Curation, Top Writer Status, Read Ratio, & Fans
Interviewing my past self about writing on Medium-8 months in
Interviewing my past self about writing on Medium—8 months in
When I joined Medium as a member in late April 2019, I was excited about the prospect of building a brand here.
In an effort to correctly manage my goals and expectations, I asked myself some questions before I started. These became my short-term goals.
After a period of quiet reflection brought on by the new year, I decided to review my answers from eight months ago, to see what goals I’ve hit and how they’ve changed.
Hopefully, the lessons I’ve learned can help you as a writer.
What Is Your Goal With Medium?
2019 me: Someone has just bought my website from under me. It was attached to a GoDaddy account on an old email address, and I’ve missed the renewal.
They’re trying to sell it back to me for £2,500, and it’s honestly not worth it.
My goal short-term is to transfer relevant, high-quality pieces across to this new platform and see if I can build an audience here instead. I’d love to be curated and be worthy of writing for a few publications.
2020 me: This instance of minor extortion was actually a blessing. Finding the Medium platform helped me break away from my established personal brand in the “magic” niche to start again with a brand new audience focussed on something much broader: Business & Marketing.
What Timescale Are You Giving Yourself to Be Curated?
2019 me: Within five posts. From what I’ve seen there are a lot of “finger-in-the-air” motivational pieces curated on the homepage and in topics. Stories that aren’t giving practical steps but instead dishing out generic tips.
“Nurture your audience and it will come.”
That’s great, but you don’t ever know you’ve failed until you eventually succeed.
Their advice isn’t always practical or repeatable with the same results. I want to give readers exact steps and tips to follow, from personal experience.
I believe that style of content might break through some of the noise and help me stand out from the crowd as a writer and mentor.
2020 me: This was a humbling realisation from an echo chamber of early perusal. I saw some posts early on that were so vague in their advice.
The reality definitely took me down a few pegs.
There are a lot of great writers here, but those pieces are drowning in a sea of competition.
Some people write daily as a strategy for growth, but in my view, it’s impossible to write a piece of quality work every single day without either:
Repeating yourself constantly.
Getting sick of writing.
That frequency of daily content from the writer-base here creates a certain level of saturation.
I don’t want to go through the motions for the sake of it. I want to write with passion and only post when I feel I have something of value to share.
Side note: This post you’re reading has been revisited daily over three different days before I’m happy to submit it to publication.
This attention to detail should guarantee at least one of my stories getting curated, right?
Despite knowing the terms and studying them vehemently, I avoided curation for my first 19 stories.
That was so demoralising for me. 19 stories unworthy of an editor’s approval. How is that possible?
I poured my heart and soul into a long ten-minute article and got zilch, nothing, nada.
So how did post #20 break through? How did future posts get curated?
There was one secret for me. Copy edits.
Lessons from Niklas Göke were invaluable.
This took the form of letting his publication “Better Marketing” tweak my writing where necessary. Usually making my titles less “clickbaity” … Yes, that is a word nowadays; I had to google it too.
Despite my belief that short titles hook people faster, I’ve learned that longer-form titles work better. Posing a question draws more readers in.
My old title: “50% vs Buy One, Get One Free”
Their new title: “Should you offer 50% off or buy one, get one free?”
My first curation came from working with a publication that offered these copy edits as part of their approval process. It really does help.
Since then, I’ve been curated in almost all of my recent articles, including one that wasn’t associated with any publication at all.
Seeing how they changed my writing taught me more about curation than any “be consistent” or “believe in yourself” advice that I’ve seen others offer.
Don’t assume you’ll always be right. Sometimes a pair of fresh eyes will spot something in your article that deterred a potential audience or an opportunity to expand on something that encourages more readers to clap your story.
Be open to being wrong.
How Many Months/Years Will It Take to Get 1,000 True Fans?
2019 me: I’m giving myself exactly one year. I think if I can write 52 pieces, one per week, I should be able to attract a readership of 1,000 followers.
2020 me: Without a doubt, the most followers come from working with publications. Their legitimacy rubs off onto you.
If a Michelin-starred restaurant is serving wild salmon, you assume it’s good. The same logic applies to publications.
Being on their menu gives you an invisible accreditation. Readers will assume your article is worthy.
Don’t court Medium. Don’t court curation. Take a publication out on a first date and deliver the goods, pay the bill, and walk them to their car when it’s over.
Of course, that’s not literal. I’m saying you need to be respectful, show your value, and appreciate theirs.
At the time of writing this, I have 899 followers built from nothing. Over 80% of the way to my initial goal.
Follow for follow does not work. Before a recent article about personal branding, I had 614 followers. After it hit 2,000 views, I had 780—that’s a massive jump.
I’m three months away from my one year target and making excellent progress towards reaching that goal. However, with one post giving me a growth of 27% in such a short time, I believe that your next quality piece could potentially double your fan/reader base.
What goal are you going to set yourself?
Top Writer Status. How Are You Going to Get It?
2019 me: I give myself three years to try and achieve this status. I believe in that time, with consistent quality, I can give enough value to be considered worthy of Top Writer status as a contributor.
2020 me: I woke up one morning this month (January), and I was a Top Writer in the Business category.
I don’t know how I got it; I don’t know how I can keep it.
My guess is that consistent tagging of “Business” and curation within that category helped me achieve this goal more than two years early.
I write business-related pieces mostly, if not always.
Even my posts about life lessons can usually be applied to business too.
My advice would be to remain consistent to your core values of writing. Pick a niche that you can add real value in, then give that value for free.
Forget about building a mailing list this early on. Forget about selling your $0.99 e-book.
Top Writers are those who give without the caveat of reciprocation.
To quote Gary Vaynerchuk:
“People overestimate what they can achieve in a year, but underestimate what they can achieve in 5 years.”
Play the full game. Don’t skip straight to collecting the trophy at the end, because it won’t be there.
Give yourself a few years and give everything to a topic that suits your expertise. There’s no point in writing about ten subjects a week, unless they’re related.
Followers from your cryptocurrency article won’t always care about your poetry. Fans of your marketing advice may not want to know about your top five parenting lessons.
Your brand as a writer here needs to remain consistent if you want to grow your fan base.
For help defining and carving out your brand, you could read my other post.
What Is Your Aim for Read Ratio?
2019 me: I’d like to hit a 50% read ratio or higher with all my stories.
2020 me: This was a naive goal to say the least.
My current average read ratio across all stories is 43%. 42.58% if you’re being precise, but 43% sounds more impressive, and it’s mathematically justifiable.
Think about how you consume Medium articles
Maybe you read half of it and realise it’s not for you.
Perhaps you get a call one minute into an eight-minute piece and forget about it.
Are you on a commute and need to put the article down to sign into your office?
It only counts as a read if they finish your article, and people are extremely busy.
Between your title and the last word of your piece … is their life.
You can’t expect people’s time; you can only hope for it.
Here is a screenshot from my most viewed stories. Let’s see if you can spot anything?
My top five most-viewed stories all have a read ratio lower than my average of 43%.
What else do you notice?
They’re all eight-, nine-, or ten-minute-long pieces to read.
Conversely, my 5 highest ‘read ratio’ stories are:
These are all two-, three-, and four-minute-long pieces to read.
Most have low amounts of views too. These articles aren’t curated, so the few views you do get are usually coming from your own fans on Medium, thus a higher read ratio. They like your writing already.
Things you can do to increase read ratio
Experiment with shorter pieces where possible.
Format with titles throughout your article, so new readers can skip to the “juice.”
Add bullet points (like these) to allow key information to be easily consumed.
Don’t believe me. How do you think you got this far?
How Do You Implement What I’ve Experienced for Yourself?
My first month on the platform looked like this:
Early posts shared across my social media, with a current fan base for magic, not writing, caused a spike in attention. “What is he doing on Medium?” they thought.
This new writing venture was completely unrelated to what they knew me for, and their attention and readership quickly dwindled.
My most recent/current month on the platform looks like this:
By following the tips above, the results are a lot higher and a lot more consistent throughout the month. My readership consists of readers and writers. A completely new audience to what I launched with.
It’s not incredible, viral growth. However, it is trending upwards and something to be proud of.
I wrote this piece because, when I see someone ripped in the gym, it’s hard to see that they were ever overweight. They seem so far from the starting point that it’s hard to relate to them or take their advice.
We can all look up to writers here on this platform, but the majority of us don’t have 50,000 followers, and we’re not making $500+ per post.
Most people want to run the marathon with others at the same fitness level as them, not people who finished it 3 hours ago.
I hope that what I’ve learned early on can help people doing the same and motivate more writers with goals that may seem overwhelming.
A Top Writer with 50,000 followers might seem like an impossible goal to achieve, so maybe you don’t bother trying? The path they took is unclear.
With this view, eight months in, I can tell you the aim is to set realistic, short-term goals—and exceed them.
That elation for meeting your targets will inspire you to go harder and further than you potentially ever imagined you would as a writer here on Medium.
There’s only one way up.