How to Adapt Your Writing to the New Medium

Focus on other writers and good writing

Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

I was upset about Medium’s changes at first.

Thanks to Tom Kugelrs’ article, I understand what their aim is now. The frustrating changes make more sense. I believe that leadership is not corrupt — which is as good as we could hope for.

They seem to want us writers to succeed, so I will have faith in that and do my best to adapt to the changes.

What are they asking of us?

Focus on writing. Focus on people.

Hallelujah. Many of us have honed the practice of “clickbait” and may be frustrated that it is not going to be as useful going forward. I know that I felt that way.

Instead, I am going to re-focus on my writing and the people that write along with me. Here’s how and why it will lead to success on the new platform:

‘Relational’ Model Rewards Genuine Outreach

OK, I can’t prove this because Medium isn’t going to tell us exactly how the algorithm works. Here’s why I think it is the case:

  • I see more articles from people I have interacted with in the past.
  • I see fewer “viral” articles.
  • My articles all perform moderately well, with no particular viral outlier (unlike before)
  • Ev Williams — the founder — claims to want it that way.
  • Deemphasis on curation. Something has to take its place.

Alright, so that is the current state of Medium — like it or not. Once we get over our resentments and frustrations, the question remains: How do we adapt?

If you want more people to see your work and interact with it meaningfully, you have to take the time to meaningfully interact with other people’s work.

Again, we don’t know the algorithm (probably for a good reason), but it is reasonable to assume that it favors content from “communities” that form on the platform. Hence “relational.”

Here’s the behavior I am experimenting with to take advantage of this new model:

  • Leave at least 10 genuine and thoughtful comments on articles a day.
  • Focus on building deeper relationships, one at a time
  • Join writing groups
  • Offer help whenever I can

Why? Because either Medium is corrupt, and it’s not worth writing for — in which case we should all just stop, OR it’s a good place trying new things, and we should have faith in the process.

Since I’m on Medium, I might as well have faith in the process and assume the best from Medium.

Worst case scenario? I build some new relationships with writers and read much beautiful content I might have otherwise skipped.

Clickbait Is Still a Thing — Just More Artful

Headlines are still important. Clickbait still matters. We just don’t want to feel taken advantage of.

“I Tried to Stop Lying Cold Turkey. It Was Not Easy.” is carefully constructed to play on hopes and curiosity. “13 Unbelievable Truths That Will Make Your Gynecologist Eat More Vegetables” is just manipulation on a cruel (and ridiculous) level.

Medium’s new updates do not mean that you no longer have to take time to craft your headlines. It just means that the goalposts have moved (sorry). If you’ve spent 5 years learning how to craft irresistible clickbait, perhaps you can move your talents to Newsbreak.

For those who want to stay on Medium, we gotta let go of the past and figure out what is being asked of us now.

There Are Faults

Of course, there are faults in every structure. Medium is no different.

I’m sure the change’s scope and meaning are beyond anyone — much less me — to fully understand. Structures are meant to be corrected as they go — not designed perfectly from the start.

Still, if you’re curious, here are my thoughts on the mistakes Medium is making. Take with a grain of salt.

Pareto distribution

99% of the mass in the solar system is in the sun. Most people live in the biggest cities. Almost all human attention goes to Kim Kardashian.

What gives? What does the sun have in common with Kim Kardashian?

It’s a Pareto distribution. It happens everywhere, and it is a fact of reality. Most stuff goes to a tiny minority.

What does this have to do with Medium’s update?

By making the platform more “relational” and doing away with curation and most aspects of virality, they try to undo the Pareto distribution.

The problem? Most stuff isn’t that good.

There is a reason Stephen King makes most book sales, and Tim Denning gets the majority of views — their stuff is the best.

Unfair? Maybe. But people want the best of the best. If you got cancer, what kind of doctor do you want? The best cancer doctor in your area — or a more “relational” approach so all doctors get a chance?

When you shop for something, what do you google? “What is the best ___.”

The possible bad outcome here on Medium? The content isn’t as compelling, people don’t check as often, and another website (willing to promote the best of the best) takes its place.

How do you judge clickbait?

Clickbait is pretty, “you know it when you see it.” But, do you?

Not all instances of clickbait are cut-and-dry. What about parody? What if the content really will knock your socks off!

They certainly have their work cut out for them. I can’t see how it can be done.

However, I am thankful for a place to put my writing that cares enough to try.

I just hope they are willing to learn and grow.

I Have More Faith Than Ever

Medium is a good place for writers—no better place on the internet (yet).

I have my reservations, but I am going to voice them and then put them aside. I’m all in on Medium, and I have full faith that this place can thrive.

We all should set our aims as high as we can manage. If all of us did that, it wouldn’t matter what Medium did. We are much more powerful than our platform.

Stop complaining without solutions, and stop reading content that does the same.

Leave A Comment, Let’s Connect

I’m so thankful for this community — and I’m thankful that leadership wants to encourage us to connect with one another.

Leave me a comment, and let’s connect. If you do, we will be much more likely to connect in the future!

Stay in touch.

(This is where you get first dibs and deeper dives.)

Written by

Lost southern boy learning to be a storyteller in Los Angeles. Interested in writing together? taylorforeman.com

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