I want to talk about Medium’s curation jail. Man, I hate that phrase. I’m going to tell you why — and what to do about it if you’re in there.
Curation “jail” sounds like a punishment, doesn’t it? When people get sent to jail, that’s what it is, right? Punishment. Except, it’s not. Not for most people.
Humor me for a minute.
Imagine this. 35 people reading content as it goes up on Medium. Okay?
And around a quarter of a million people submitting stories.
Some weekly, some even less, and others 2-3 times a day. Now, I don’t know the exact number of active writers, but the grapevine says around 200K.
200K writers. 35 curators.
Get the picture yet?
There is no way 35 people can read the amount of content going up daily. Not humanly possible. So they have algorithms to help sort content as it floods in.
Some people always get their submissions looked at. That doesn’t mean they always get curated. But it means they get looked at.
Some people don’t even get looked at. They’re not in the “read” pile.
Because, more content than 35 humans can read.
How to know which you are?
Simple. Go to your stats dashboard and select a story that wasn’t curated. Under the title at the top, you’ll see a line that says “Not distributed in topics” with a little ‘i’ in a circle next to it. If you hover over the ‘i’ it will give you the reason for non-curation.
If you get the “high volume” message, your stories aren’t getting read by curators.
A lot of people like to call this “curation jail.”
I like to call it something else. Reputation.
As in, maybe you haven’t earned one yet.
How presumptuous is it to think one can show up on a site with 100 million readers and 200K writers and just expect to get featured out of the gate? Because that’s what curation is. Being featured.
But apparently, people do expect to get curated. I see it all the time. People going to the Facebook groups and complaining that they’re in curation jail, and when I go look, they have 3 posts, or 10 posts.
No one is owed curation. You know? I wrote for 6 months before I got curated. Mostly because I had no clue what I was doing, or how to earn a reputation that would move me to the “read” pile.
Some people get curated when they’re new. That’s luck. Luck happens. But should we expect it? Like it’s just a given. Hey Medium, feature me.
The hardest part for new writers (and not so new ones) is knowing who to listen to, and there’s a glut of advice posts out there. Of course there is—writing about Medium on Medium is like showing up at the playground with candy.
Doesn’t mean the advice is helpful.
Just means the writer will get a lot of clicks.
What to do if you’re in curation jail…
First, stop calling it curation jail. You’re not being punished. You simply have not yet earned sufficient reputation to have the algorithm push you into the “read” pile.
Pick a topic or two you can write on regularly. Submit to some of the bigger publications. If you’re brave, submit to Medium publications. There’s a few of the smaller Medium pubs that take a lot of new writers.
Often, writing for the bigger pubs and Medium pubs pushes you to the read pile.
If you get rejected, work on your writing and try again.
If you focus on quality writing and earning a reputation by writing for credible publications, you will get noticed eventually.
Which means you’ve earned a look.
Then you’ll stop getting the “high volume” message and have a shot at being curated. Being curated (featured on a topic page) is something we need to earn, not expect.
When you're one of 200K bodies hitting publish, not having earned visibility is not the same as being punished. It's not jail. It's earning your stripes. Just because no one hands out free stripes for everyone doesn't mean we're being punished.
New posts this week...
—Clapping Once and 4 Other Dumb Things People Do on Writing Sites
I hate writing about Medium unless I can help. Hope this does.
—26 Weak Words That Water Down Your Writing and How to Fix Them
The point isn’t to be a pedantic jerk. It’s to find the fluff with your name on it.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.