Medium’s New Policies Are Killing My Message, and It Shows They Don’t Understand Online Writing.
I’m not a complainer, I’m a worker. My wife and I say that “we’re a do-whatever-it-takes” family, meaning we work our ass off to achieve the life we want, no matter the circumstances.
First, I’ll say I’m grateful for Medium. They pay me thousands of dollars each month for my work (of course, I help them out too by writing awesome content for their readers and bringing people to their site all the time). They’ve helped me build a writing business, and given me a platform to reach a lot of people, people like you.
But Medium is not without its faults. And they’ve made some especially annoying mistakes recently, ones that show they don’t really understand online writing.
So I’ll just be posting this one article, then moving back to my usual stuff, helping you achieve your goals and live a better life. But here we go.
I’m probably in the top 1% of the world in terms of writing success — income, reach, influence, etc.
It’s taken me years dealing with countless rejection letters, condescending editors, mean trolls in the comment sections, and staring at stat pages reading “zero views today again, you loser!” (their words, not mine) for the thousandth time to get here.
Want to know what it takes to succeed as a writer?
You have to be a professional.
That means you have to become a student of your craft. You have to study the business and the art of writing. You have to write stuff people want to read, and package it in a way that gets people to click. That’s a very hard thing to do, but it’s the only way to make it.
And it’s exactly the strategy Medium is trying to destroy.
I’ve been writing on Medium for a while now. Back in 2017, when I first started writing here, they had a “Top 20 Most Popular Articles” section. About half of all my posts made it on that list.
I continued to write, investing in my craft, and got rewarded. The more I studied writing, the more people started reading my stuff. I bought books, courses, and hired coaches to help me.
I started to compose headlines like a composer writes symphonies. I became a student of writing, living and breathing concepts like “article structure,” optimal paragraph length, and formatting. I spent hundreds of hours learning how to blend captivating titles and images with truly excellent work.
All that work paid off. “This is the best article I’ve ever read!” is a common comment I’ve seen on my work. I have a special email folder containing hundreds of the most positive and grateful messages from my readers who’ve told me my work has changed their life. I don’t say that to brag, but to show the response I get from my work.
But Medium’s new policies are killing my message.
Medium recently introduced nebulous “anti-clickbait” policies, which have made it incredibly difficult for writers like me to continue reaching readers like you. The word is out — editors and publications are told that if they post certain kinds of content, they’re liable to get shut down.
According to their recent post, Medium wrote that they’re shutting down “content that’s designed to entice a reader to click.” They don’t want to see articles with “a hyperbolic claim, a too-wide curiosity gap, a titillating image, etc.”
I blinked when I read that.
I mean, are you kidding me? I thought incredulously.
Do they even know what online writing is??
That’s the whole point. You know how I finally made it as a writer? I started writing stuff people wanted to read, and learned how to write “content that’s designed to entice a reader to click.”
That’s the whole point. And if Medium is starting to pivot away from that, then Medium’s future just got a whole lot darker.
I studied English in college, got laughed at the whole time for my “stupid” degree. I can tell you the vast majority of my old writer friends have achieved virtually no success as a writer. It’s an extremely competitive game, it takes incredible resilience, and you have to really f**king love the work to survive as a writer.
So the only writers that make it are the ones who study headlines, article structure, and content as if their lives depended on it. Because in a way, they do. If they don’t write stuff people want to read, and if they can’t entice readers to click on their work, then no one will read their stuff, they won’t have any engagement, and thus make no money.
Medium’s new policies reveal they want to change the entire spectrum of content on their site. I don’t know who these editors are, or if they’ve spent years like me and countless other top-tier writers like Shannon Ashley and Tim Denning and Tom Kuegler on the platform learning how to become a truly successful writer in one of the most competitive fields in the world.
But Medium’s new policies reveal they don’t really understand online writing. Which makes me sad.
Frankly, it’s been this way for a while now. Back in 2017, I woke up every morning and read Medium. Their algorithm showed me exactly the stuff I wanted to see. The writing was incredible, and I spent nearly an hour each morning taking notes and getting incredibly inspired by the platform’s top writers. (If I still needed to find great content, I just clicked on the “Top 20 Most Popular Articles” tab!)
But then, Medium started making silly changes that really hurt my interest in the platform. Suddenly, I was seeing a flood of random articles from random people about social issues, journalism, politics, and tech. Those topics are fine, but I never expressed any interest in them. Where was my usual stuff, from writers I wanted to read?
Their “Most Popular Articles” tab was the worst part. It became a total crap shoot, wildly inaccurate and confusing. An article I wrote would get 20,000 claps on the first day, but it wouldn’t be featured in the most-popular tab. You know what was? Some random writer’s musings about some random tech company’s series A funding update, boasting a whopping 214 claps with two comments.
I don’t know who chooses what articles make it to the most-popular tab, but it’s definitely inaccurate. At best it’s irresponsible, at worst it’s dishonest and wrong.
So I stopped reading Medium in the mornings. I had to manually search out the writers I liked, wading through Medium’s torrent of off-topic junk they were promoting in every area.
What Writers Like You Should Do
Again, I’m not complaining here. Part of me still really loves Medium. I’ll always be grateful for them, and for giving me a place to build my dream life —making a living writing content and helping people like you.
But Medium’s new changes are signaling major changes writers need to consider. As Nicolas Cole, one of the top writers on this platform, recently remarked in his newsletter about Medium’s new changes:
“I’m pulling back on my bullish predictions for Medium becoming ‘The Spotify of Online Writing,” and I’m back to 50/50 on whether or not the platform has a real future. So if you’re earning money on Medium these days, I’d say enjoy it while you can.”
I have to agree. Shannon Ashley recently wrote an interesting piece about a sudden plummet in her views practically overnight, a common situation for many top Medium writers. Whether it was an algorithm change or something else, she saw her lowest views in a single day in “years,” despite changing virtually nothing in her strategy.
My views have steadily decreased as well. And if top writers like me are struggling, I can’t imagine what it’s like for writers even one or two tiers below me.
This sucks, right? I wish I could go back to being one of Medium’s top evangelists, encouraging every writer I meet to put all their focus on this platform.
But I can’t. If Medium isn’t respecting decades-old proven content strategies taught by virtually every single top-tier writer on the Internet, then we’re forced to consider other options for platforms that actually respect online writing.
For me, I’ve been steadily shifting my focus off the platform. I’ve been putting a lot of time building relationships on other platforms like The Ladders, Oberlo, Newsbreak, and my personal blog. There are lots of online publications that are willing to pay writers to post great content, ones that aren’t currently attempting to strangle anyone who uses phrases like “This Strategy” or “How To” in a headline.
I’m also seriously investing in developing my email list, and using my personal audience to build out information products like my book, online courses, coaching packages, and other sales funnels. Great writing is great writing, and it’s a really smart investment to learn how to write great content, because great platforms (excluding Medium, apparently) will respect that, as will their readers.
I’ve written lots of pieces recently that receive almost no views, articles editors from top publications sadly informed me they couldn’t accept due to my headlines or content. Those same articles get glowing comments, people saying how incredible the article was, and how helpful it was.
It makes me sad, because I know thousands of people will never even see my article in their feed. If Medium is bent on choking out my influence, then I sadly accept.
But please, Ev Williams. This new strategy isn’t working. It’s making Medium worse.
Still, I’ll keep writing here, hoping my readers get to see my work. Honestly, part of me is really grateful for Medium’s strange new stance against “self-help” writers like me — I always relish the chance to stare uncertainty and fear in the face, becoming a better, stronger, more resilient person in the process.
I wish it wasn’t this way. But as a professional, I’m still focusing on working hard and creating great content, and I’ll be posting it where people can actually see it.
Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts on Medium’s new policies, I’d love to hear them.