I wrote it with the goal of cracking the top 5 on Medium. I’ll explain why.
Right now there seems to be two types of articles that dominate the rankings on Medium. It’s either rants or self-help “inspiration porn.”
This article will probably not attract much attention because it’s not extreme enough. Medium needs to figure out how to tweak their algorithm, much like Twitter created their “Bieber rule” so the singer wouldn’t always dominate the trending topics. Maybe they will shift to a more hand-curated model.
But right now, the best way to gain attention on Medium is to inspire or complain. It’s about appealing to emotion, which of course isn’t exactly new on the Internet or anywhere else.
I was part of the camp that got discouraged with low readership of articles I put a lot of thought into, like my 100 podcasts project.
So I figured I had a few options: 1) Do nothing and just keep writing mostly for myself. 2) Leave Medium, like a lot of other writers have been doing. 3) Attract a wider audience.
I opted for No. 3 as a Trojan horse strategy. In my “52 Medium articles” post, I included a link to sign up for my weekly Tinyletter emails, where I share what I’m writing, reading, watching or doing.
Getting people to sign up for my email may seem like the epitome of a sleazy digital marketer move. But the benefit is I can actually share works of substance and not worry about the whims of an algorithm. People can choose to read their email, delete or unsubscribe, but at least I know it’s their actions and not an algorithm filtering it from their newsfeed.
It was important for me to link to all these articles to expose Medium readers to more authors than just those that show up in their newsfeed. I wanted to include articles that might not get us much attention on Medium, like a Jesuit priest friend and students I work with.
I’m proud of my “52 Medium articles” post on its own merits. I refuse to feel guilty about it and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you gained something from reading it. I included the articles I did because I genuinely enjoyed them.
Chuck Klosterman wrote something about so-called guilty pleasures that has always stuck with me:
“The only people who believe in some kind of universal taste — a consensual demarcation between what’s artistically good and what’s artistically bad — are insecure, uncreative elitists who need to use somebody else’s art to validate their own limited worldview.”
I think this debate about content on Medium (and elsewhere on the Internet) is healthy. Let’s just not assume that if people aren’t perusing listicles on their phone, they’re digging into Shakespeare and debating the finer points of the canon. In reality, they’re probably just on Facebook.
Listicles and inspiration porn will never go away. But I think the backlash against this type of content on Medium (something I’ve done myself) is a sign of a strong community that demands more substance, more diversity and more depth. That’s a community I want to grow with, too.