Why Is Medium Hiding So Much Information?
How many people can see a story in one day without anyone looking at it? The number might surprise you!
If a story gets featured on Medium but no one reads it, does it make a sound?
That’s the question I’m asking myself after one of my stories got 1.3K views on Saturday without accumulating a single second of reading time.
I’m not exaggerating for effect — the relevant part of the stats page is right there. November 28, 2020: 1.3K views, 1.3K internal views, $0.00 earnings, 0 seconds of member reading time.
I’m having an extremely tough time believing those numbers, especially when it comes to this story.
Let’s start at the beginning
Here’s the story in question. It’s already had a strange life on Medium.
The United States Has Failed Its Most Vulnerable Citizens
More than six months after COVID-19 reached the country, there is still no safety net in place for our high-risk…
When I wrote it, four months ago, I thought it was some of my better work. However, my idea of what’s interesting has never lined up with what appeals to the Medium audience. I’ve written 93 articles in seven months — this is the 94th — with limited success. None of my stories have made $5 from the Medium Partner Program, I’ve never had a $10 month, and I made five cents in October.
Some of that is on me. I write a lot about COVID-19 and its impact on the country, especially in Michigan, and that is only going to appeal to a niche audience. I don’t write for any of Medium’s official publications and I don’t create content for the sake of creating content.
I’m also terrible at self-promotion. I have more than 12,500 Twitter followers, including some famous names, but I’ve never tried to convert them to a captive audience. I shut down my Patreon and I’ve never tried to build a mailing list.
That’s fine, though. I viewed Medium as a place to write things I wanted to say. If they made people think or laugh, great. If they were only interesting to me, at least I got it down for posterity.
Putting infuriated pen to paper
“The United States Has Failed Its Most Vulnerable Citizens” was an article written in anger about a subject I’ve returned to many, many times on Twitter. I find it reprehensible that, ten months and 275,000 American deaths into this pandemic, we still don’t have a safety net for high-risk citizens.
I’ve been out of work for 8.5 months, but we’re staying afloat because my immunosuppressed wife has been able to do her job from our kitchen table. We’re also lucky enough to have some savings, which came in handy when we suddenly needed a new roof this month.
Obviously, this is a subject I feel passionately about, and I tried to express my rage in the article. I submitted it to two publications, never heard from either one, and published it on my own. I shared the link to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and never thought much more about it.
It flopped. It earned 22 cents from 58 views in the first two days — July 26–27 — then vanished off the radar. In the next three weeks, it was viewed three times to make an additional cent.
Thanks for the honor, I think
That’s when things got a little odd. On August 18, 22 days after publication, it was curated in “Politics”, which had zero impact on its popularity. The day it was “chosen for further distribution”, it got eight views and four seconds of reading time. Two days later, one person spent two minutes reading it, giving me another nickel.
That was August 20. In the next three months, it had three views. As of Friday, November 27th — five months after publication — it had 75 views, 12:20 of member reading time, and 30 cents in earnings. Disappointing, especially after the late curation, but not shocking.
The next day, it exploded.
November 28, 2020: 1.3K views, 1.3K internal views, $0.00 earnings, 0 seconds of member reading time.
On November 29th, zero views.
The author begins to question the system
I have no idea what happened. Somehow, 1.3K people — a very vague number given their tracking abilities — saw my article without any of them reading a few paragraphs? That seems highly implausible.
For that matter, how did it get curated without anyone reading it? In the week before it was “distributed”, it had zero seconds of reading time. On the day it happened, it had four seconds.
It doesn’t help that I just had another story curated — this time in a timely fashion — but we’re no longer told how it is being distributed.
My 600-Mile Walk For Mental Health
My eight-month trip across Michigan was originally about exercise, but it turned into a way to keep myself functioning…
I’m not a big star on Medium, but I have experience with viral content. I’ve been a paid writer for multiple websites, I was in the first two Top Writer classes on Quora, and I’ve had tweets with millions of views.
Content doesn’t go from zero views to “1.3K” views to zero views in a span of three days unless someone promoted it. If 1,300 people saw it, some of them engaged with it.
If I push this, I’m sure I’ll get an explanation — either the number of views was a mistake, the zero reading time was incorrect, or it was only seen by people who aren’t Medium members.
At this point, given the lack of transparency about how our content is being used, none of those explanations would satisfy me. This is quickly turning into a deal-breaking problem.