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Can You See Where Medium's Boost Program Is Really Heading?
Why "Boost" might be the best thing Medium has done in a very long time.
If you’ve been writing at Medium a while, you might remember the days when stories were curated in the past. It was long before Tony, back when Ev was at the helm.
The whole mess started out so innocently.
It started as a pretty decent idea. But it became a mess.
Hey, we can drive more views to good writing, Ev had announced. We have a team of curators on board and they’ll be curating great writing. And we want to involve the whole community. So if you spot a good story, here’s where to email us.
You know what happened, of course, right?
People started emailing curators to get their own stories curated. Please would you curate me? Did you see my story? I think it’s really good. Please, please, please?
And the folks giving Medium ‘tips’ jumped on the bandwagon and encouraged the whole mess. They said if you emailed the curators and they didn’t curate you, maybe they just missed it. They get a lot of email. Just email again. So they did.
No matter how much the curators said please don’t do that, people kept on doing it until curation got the Anne Boleyn treatment. Off with its head. Gone.
Then it went to secret distribution, where they still distributed stories, but they didn’t tell anyone what was distributed and what wasn’t. Which made people mad and resulted in a whole lot more meta posts because that’s how we roll.
Well, curation is back. With a twist.
There are curators again, but writers in general do not have access to suggest stories. A handful of publication editors do. Those editors can submit a small number of stories per week to the curators. The curators accept or decline.
Some people thought it was going to be a favoritism thing, where a handful of editors keep nominating the same writers over and over.
Nope. Sorry. Happy to say that’s not how it rolled.
The program started with 15 editors back in March. Now there’s 62. Their goal is to hit 100 editors by September. They’re looking for diversity in the publications that participate, so they can have boost nominations across diverse topics.
History. Poetry. Art. Music. Topics that didn’t get much traction in the past.
There’s an entire post about the boost program on the official Medium blog.
Knock on wood, the program is doing well…
In the Boost Update post, Ariel showed how much traffic boosted posts are getting.
95% of boosted posts get 500 more views.
73% of boosted posts get 1K more views.
20% of boosted posts get 5K more views.
8% of boosted posts get 10K more views.
1% of boosted posts get 50K more views.
So what determines whether you get 500 or 5000 views?
When a story is selected, they roll it out to a small number of new faces. If the response is good, they roll it out to more. And more. Until response taps out.
Some of that will be affected by topic. If you write on a super esoteric topic, you might not ever hit 10K or 50K views because there aren’t that many people interested in the topic to begin with. You know?
But it’s not a favoritism game. Reach is determined by response. They keep expanding the reach, widening the audience, until response taps out. When people stop clicking, they stop boosting. It’s about as fair and impartial as it gets.
Can you see where that might be going?
In the old days of curation, where there was a tiny number of staff looking for posts to curate, it would be really easy to have the whole thing look like favoritism. Because generally speaking, someone who can write well does so fairly consistently.
It’s easy to see how curators might have watched the people they could count on to write good stuff that people click and read. No one hits it out of the park every time, but a good writer is a good writer. So it would have been easy to lean into that.
But what about when there’s 100 (or more) curators?
Favoritism goes out the door.
Personally? I think Boost will become a way to make low quality stuff disappear.
A way to downvote without actually downvoting.
The stuff everyone complained about will all but disappear.
Meta posts and posts about making money on Medium will not get boosted. All those spammy ‘money’ posts filled with affiliate links won’t, either. That stuff will still exist. But it won’t be all over the homepage. Not very many people will see it.
Ariel’s post about the boost program pretty much says exactly that.
“We encourage nominators to amplify stories that feel like feature stories: constructive, well-crafted, memorable…”
They want actual writing. On a writing site.
Not clickbait or posts about making money on Medium or the internet. Not people slamming each other, which happens more often that it should given that we’re all adults, ffs. The Boost criteria actually says no meta posts, no take-down posts.
Actual writing. Constructive, well-crafted and memorable.
I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think Boost might be one of the best changes Medium has made in a very long time.
What do you think?
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