Despite What You’ve Heard, Curation Still Really Helps
Over the last six weeks or so, the Medium community has been in collective panic mode over seemingly declining statistics as Medium’s increased focus on promoting their own publications and work from external sources has hurt the everyday writer.
These changes are likely designed to improve the quality of the average piece on Medium, as Darren Matthews described recently. However, in doing so, it’s become more difficult for the exact type of person Medium was designed for to have success.
At the moment, getting accepted into one of Medium’s own publications seems to the best strategy for getting views and earning money with the Medium Partner Program (MPP). No longer is curation the gold standard.
In fact, I’ve seen many people go as far as to say that curation is effectively “dead”, no longer providing any benefits. Perhaps that’s been their experience, but I’d like to refute that idea.
My current thoughts on curation are as follows:
- Yes, it seems more difficult to be curated than before, especially with many of the normal spots taken up by the content Medium is specifically trying to push.
- Changes in the algorithm may have reduced the benefits of curation somewhat, although it’s difficult for me to tell exclusively through my own data.
- Still, curation is important and provides a noticeable stats boost, particularly for smaller writers and in smaller topics.
To show the benefits that curation can still provide, here is a screenshot of the stats for my most recent five stories, all published between Monday and Thursday.
I had a nasty curation drought to start September, which I finally broke a few days ago with an article about late-game football strategy. Following a period of declining views numbers, this curated piece provided a nice bounce-back, outperforming all four of the other articles in the image.
Additionally, while a strong percentage of my views typically come from direct links I send out and from social media, this article saw a high percentage (50%) of views coming from within Medium, and about 23% of views coming from smartnews.com, which is unusual for me.
This a benefit that Medium provides. Naturally, if you’re curated and put on the front page for a topic, that heightens the visibility of the article. All but one of my top 10 posts all-time in terms of views were curated. I also think curation probably helps with your piece getting picked up by outside sources.
Still, you’ll notice that 74 views overall isn’t that many, curation aside. This is where my secondary points about curation specifically helping out smaller writers and articles in smaller topics.
While still helpful, curation isn’t as necessary for writers with large followings, as their work has a higher chance of being seen by their existing followers and becoming popular based off that initial traffic. For smaller writers, getting eyes at all can prove to be a big challenge. Curation guarantees an article won’t go completely unnoticed.
The topic is important as well. Sports simply isn’t a big category on Medium. In an effort to start making progress in the MPP, I started splitting my articles between sports (my passion) and other articles, mainly about the writing process or Medium culture.
Original, I know, but I was able to get some things off my chest, and by doing so, had worked my way up to earning around $10 per week. Now with the start of the NFL season, I decided to focus all of my efforts back on sports. Last week, despite writing as much as ever, I made less than $2.
Frankly, it’s impossible to succeed in writing exclusively about sports on this platform. There are plenty of reasons for this, but that’s a different article entirely.
What it means is that the moment I see that an article hasn’t been curated, it really has been killed. There’s no chance that it randomly picks up steam like articles in some topics still may. I suspect it’s the same for other niche topics.
Even in these times of change, curation remains a goal worth shooting for. It’s a way to guarantee some level of exposure on your articles and allows for a longer tail on stories. And as always, it still feels good to know that someone on the Medium team recommended your work.
Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.