I Was Successful on Medium Without Even Trying

Photo by Jason Tharsiman, Unsplash.

PART I

I first published on Medium in October 2018. It was the day after I moved to Budapest and the day before I started a programming boot camp.

I wrote this article on my flight from Lisbon to Budapest.

https://blog.usejournal.com/from-journalism-to-coding-bootcamp-5ba624111c09

I hit “Publish” and, exactly as I said in the article, I went out to explore my new city, without giving a second thought to what I had just done.

I had been a journalist for almost a decade and, for most of those years, I wrote for a publication that very few people read. I was used to writing for the sake of writing, without expecting anybody to read my articles. Honestly, I didn’t care.

So, it was an immense surprise when, just a few days later, I realized that more than one thousand people had read my first Medium article. It was also a surprise to get an email from a publication asking me to feature my article on their page.

I didn’t even know what a publication was.

I said yes.

And I continued writing, one article every two weeks, documenting the programming boot camp. Sometimes, I would write something more technical, other times it would be mostly about my experience.

My only reason to write and publish these articles was this: five months later when I would finish the boot camp and look for a job, I wanted to have a differentiating factor on my CV. These articles were a means to an end and, although I put the effort into writing them, I never put any effort into understanding Medium.

And yet, every time I published an article, this same publication would feature it. And almost every time, the day I published, or the day after, I would get an email saying this:

I had no idea what curation was. I imagined it was not a bad thing, so I simply ignored those emails.

During the five months my boot camp lasted, I published 10 articles. I have an average of 2.2K views on each of them and the most successful one has 6.3K views.

I was not part of the Medium Program (again, I didn’t even know that existed). And yet, without intending, and without even realizing, I was relatively successful on Medium.


PART II

Fast forward a year. September 2019. I had been living in Budapest for a year and struggling with the local language. I decide to write an article about it, and I discovered the Medium Partner Program existed. I set up my account and publish this article, my most successful to date, with 7.8K views and $141.00 in revenue.

https://blog.usejournal.com/from-journalism-to-coding-bootcamp-5ba624111c09

I got excited about writing on Medium and the possibility to earn an extra income. But I don’t have much free time, so I end up publishing only sporadically and never being able to replicate the success of this article.


PART III

Fast forward to April 2020. There is a pandemic going on, and I suddenly have more time in my hands.

I decided to start publishing on Medium more regularly. This time, I care about my success here. I read other people’s articles, I gather tips on how to succeed on this platform, I reach out to publications, I try to publish 2 articles per week.

The subjects of my writing have also changed. Now I don’t write about technology but about other topics, I am interested in, many times based on personal experience.

I expected a better result than in the beginning. But I got a far worse one.

Out of 10 articles, only one got distributed in “Books”. It had 2.4K views to date and earned me $20.00.

https://blog.usejournal.com/from-journalism-to-coding-bootcamp-5ba624111c09

All the other 9 articles do not even compare. They barely reach 100 views on average. They give me cents.


This experience raises some questions, that I think we all want answers to:

  • Is Medium too saturated now, that many people are affected by the coronavirus and turned to this platform for an income?
  • Are some topics always going to have more engagement and reads naturally? For example, programming.
  • Do publications matter that much? I published in different ones, but the views never seem to improve much compared to when I publish without a publication.

My experience seems to contradict most of the advice I read on Medium.

If you have experienced something similar, I would love to hear from you. Please drop a comment below and let us all know!

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