It’s still a big win in my book…
One thing I learned from 10+ years in the tech industry: it’s not enough to track your metrics, you also have to take the time to analyze them — and adjust accordingly. As a creative in a data-driven industry, I always hated that part of my job the most.
But here I am, at the end of a challenge to write and publish every day for 30 days, and I feel obligated to look back and see what went right and where I went wrong.
First of all, I have to own up to the fact that I did not accomplish the goal of 30 posts in 30 days. I found the pace of daily posting unsustainable, quality was suffering, and I crapped out about two-thirds of the way through, posting only 20 times in total during May. But I do not consider that a failure, not by a long shot.
My first post ever on Medium was on April 21. I posted a grand total of three times in April and one of those posts, a personal essay called A Blue Bicycle, was picked up by the publication Future Travel. (I’m still not sure what the story has to do with travel but hey, I took the fact that they wanted it as a positive sign.)
Because of that modest success, I decided to dive into the challenge of posting daily for 30 days in May.
As of May 1, these were my numbers:
- Views: 231
- Recommends: 39
- Followers: 29 — and to be honest, most of those followed me to Medium automatically when I connected my Twitter account.
And as of May 30:
- Views: 1076
- Recommends: 319
- Followers: 155
They’re not great numbers, I know. In fact, they’re pretty terrible, in the grand scheme of things.
But the growth I did see is encouraging, nonetheless. No one knows better than I do that the things I write are never going to go viral, so it’s no surprise that finding my people will be a slow — and hopefully steady — process.
So what was it that did engage people? Let’s have a look at the stories with the most views and the most recommends. (For these numbers I’m including the posts from April because, well, there were only three of them, and because more people have found them as time has passed — the long tail at work on Medium?)
Top Five Views (w/reads)
- How Facebook Creeping Broke My Heart A Little — 180 (116)
- A Blue Bicycle — 166 (95)
- How to Get Fit and Flexible by Pretending to Be Dead — 96 (60)
- Want a Sure Fire Way to Piss Me Off? — 92 (58)
- The Blue Dress — 80 (27)
Top Five Recommended
- How Facebook Creeping Broke My Heart A Little — 38
- A Blue Bicycle — 27
- The Conundrum of Television and Not Being Seen — 24
- The Blue Dress — 21
- 6 Things I Will Never Write About — 20
Do these numbers mean these pieces represent my best work? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?
All these numbers really tell me for sure is that views don’t necessarily translate into reads and reads don’t always translate into recommends. And even when they do, that fact isn’t always an indicator of quality. (The Conundrum of Television and 6 Things were thrown together, throwaway posts that I published for the sake of getting something — anything — out there.)
But regardless of all these boring numbers and what they might or might not mean, there are…
Other Indicators of Success — ‘The Wins’
Getting Noticed by Publications
After I received my first request from a publication back in April, mentioned above, a few more trickled in through May. Truth be told, though, it’s difficult to gauge the impact of appearing in these publications from the ‘referrer’ data. I can only assume that referrals from mobile apps, RSS readers, and ‘email, IM, and direct’, must include publication subscribers.
How to Get Fit and Flexible was picked up by Fit Yourself Club.
Enemy Territory appeared in Poets Unlimited.
The Blue Dress was picked up by the publication P.S. I Love You.
And When Technology Sucks, Big Time was picked up by Startups & Venture Capital.
Getting Noticed by Medium Editors
By far the biggest boost, to both my stats and my ego, came when Medium’s editors noticed me.
Earlier last month, I noticed a sudden spike in views for my story The Blue Dress. At first, I attributed it to its appearance in P.S. I Love You but as the month went on, the numbers kept growing. So I had a closer look at the story’s referrers.
That’s how I discovered Medium has a staff-curated ‘Lit’ topic page, described as, “Lit on Medium: Fiction and wordplay with depth.” I also discovered that, unbeknownst to me, my story was featured on that page. That’s where most of the traffic was coming from.
It’s still there, and still generating traffic, just lower down, in the ‘In Case You Missed It’ section.
There’s also a Social Media topic page*. I found it the same way — researching referrers for How Facebook Creeping Broke My Heart a Little, which, as it turns out, is featured there, resulting in views, reads, and recommends. (I suspect a growing number of followers are finding me through this page as well but have no way of knowing for sure. See The Missing, below.)
And finally, early in June I received a message from a Medium editor letting me know that they want to create an audio version of my story A Dime for Every ‘Sorry, No’ for the Members Only area. The pay is minimal but still…
So if you’ve ponied up for a membership, keep your ears peeled for it.
Of my 20 posts in May, five were poems. That’s 25%. But combined they only account for 11% of my total views for the month and 17% of my recommends. Those aren’t great numbers. In fact, they’re bad enough that if they were all I had to go on, I’d be rethinking my poetic impulses.
But there is more. My poetry also accounts for a full 25% of all the comments I’ve received. And some of those are the most encouraging responses I’ve seen.
Ultimately, poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s mine. So I’ll keep reading it and writing it and, when the urge strikes, I’ll even publish it. Even if that handful of people who’ve been commenting are the only ones who care.
There is one stat Medium doesn’t track and I wish they would — where did readers click that little, green ‘Follow’ button? On which story?
Or did they find their way to my profile and click it there?
In other words, how often does a ‘view’ or a ‘read’ turn into a ‘follow’, even when it doesn’t result in a ‘recommend’?
And when that happens, wouldn’t that follow have more value than a recommend?
In many ways, I think knowing that statistic would be more useful than counting green hearts.
Edit — June 2, 2017:
I discovered this morning that Medium email notifications about new followers and weekly stats include a teeny bit of help with figuring out where followers come from. The information is vague and incomplete, but it’s something.
The new follower notifications are the emails with subject lines like:
Jane Smith, John Jones, and 5 others started following you on Medium
Inside the email, in very tiny font towards the bottom, there will be a sentence like this:
One reason they found you is because you are a suggested writer in Humor.
That’s it. Only one reason, no matter how many new followers the email is notifying you about.
The weekly stats notifications have subject lines like this:
Stats for your stories: May 26–Jun 2
They offer a bit more information but it’s still incomplete. Towards the bottom of the message is a section called Audience Insights. It only includes the top 3 ways people found you but it’s better than nothing. It looks like this:
So, apparently, Medium does track where your followers come from, they’re just less than generous when it comes to sharing the data.
Will any of this change what I write? Actually, no, I don’t think so. I’m too new to this whole Medium thing and the numbers are much too small to take any of it very seriously.
The Wins, however, tell me I must be doing at least a couple of things right. And the fact that I’m actually writing again, after a very long dry spell, is the biggest win of all, one definitely worth celebrating.
So I’ll just keep experimenting, writing and posting the kinds of things I like to read — but not every day — and then I’ll re-evaluate in a month.
More data required.
Until then, metrics be damned.
* Medium apparently has many mysterious topic pages, curated by Medium editors but impossible to find unless you have them bookmarked or you're a paid member — which quite a few people must, because these pages continue to send me pretty significant traffic. Find out more here: