As of now, early 2020, I’ve been writing on Medium for about one year. In that period I’ve published over 120 stories, built a following of over 3,300 people, and written multiple articles that have received claps from over 900 readers.
I previously wrote about my five-month (and ongoing) analysis that indicates fans are the greatest predictor of earnings despite the Medium algorithm counting member reading time.
Since fans best correlate with daily earnings, I decided to analyze my five articles that have over 900 fans and share my findings with you.
I mainly write programming tutorials; what I classify as instructive content. As a result, my headlines take on some flavor of how to, what is, or x ways to. These headlines are concise, clear, and boring. They also alienate an audience who is already familiar with whatever concept my article covers.
Three of my five top performing articles began with the words “Stop Using”. This headline is bold, drilling beyond the content by making a plea for behavior change. Moreover, the headline piques curiosity regardless of whether you know about the topic or not.
Teach Something Better, not Something New
When thinking of topics to write about, I ask myself the question: what kind of topics would I stumble upon on Medium that I wouldn’t actively search out?
When it comes to instructive content, you have to balance content that is outside the reader’s knowledge, but close enough they can find value in it. Dovetailing this notion with the question above, it’s no coincidence the top performing articles all taught a better way to do something, not a fundamentally new concept.
All five of the articles cover an optimization on basic programming skills that somebody could be fine without knowing, but is clearly better off once they’ve learned it. This situates my articles as attention grabbers rather than just-in-time learning.
This element of timing is crucial. While I would love it if my readers waited idly, clamoring for my next article, I know that isn’t the case. I write with the acknowledgement that my content sits next to hundreds of other articles and more than likely was not the reason somebody opened their Medium app.
Target Beginner to Intermediate Practitioners
Between concerns of imposter syndrome and needing to be “new”, it’s easy to get carried away and try to push the boundaries of your subject matter expertise. If your goal is viewers then this is the wrong strategy.
Imagine two headlines…
Three Exercises to Help Bench Press Your Body Weight
Three Exercises to Help Bench Press Over 500 Pounds
Which do you think will interest more readers? Which will cause more readers to think — this applies to me? When it comes to royalties-based earnings, all eyes are created equal. While it may stroke your ego publishing content that appeals to the top 10%, Medium just isn’t the right place for it.
The five articles I wrote all coalesced around readers who are still beginners, but pushing the boundary into intermediate — by learning my content. There are simply more green belts in the world than black belts.
My top performing articles — those with over 900 fans — shared many similarities that I will be leveraging moving forward. Framing my reflections as a to do list, my future articles should:
- Use headlines that evoke curiosity and address behaviors
- Use headlines with strong verbs such as “Stop”
- Focus on content that optimizes preexisting knowledge
- Focus on content that a reader “would like to know” and not “needed to know”
- Appeal to a wider audience or a bigger segment of the community
I hope you found these insights helpful. please share your thoughts, experiences, and own personal reflections from your most successful articles.
Just in case you’re curious about the articles themselves, here are the five articles I’ve published that have accrued over 900 fans.