Which One Wins In The Race For The Most Claps?

Is it Quality or Quantity?

Darren Matthews
Aug 16 · 6 min read

I, like most writers on Medium, want to earn money, I’m not going to deny it. Having been a blogger for two years and seen the pain of trying to become an SEO expert, Medium was a revelation to me. As much as I moan about the challenges of curation, I get more views in a month than I’ve had in the entire lifetime of my blog. Thanks for the reminder Kristi Keller, I should be more grateful for what Medium gives me.

But, despite all of that, I’m stuck. I want to earn more, a lot more and yet I’m not sure what to do. I’m confused, unsure of the strategy I need to follow to increase my earnings from writing.

You see, writing has captured my heart and my head. At last, I have found a challenge worthy of my efforts. It is extremely tough for me though. I’m a very logical, process-led thinker and doer. Traits which are more akin to numbers than words. For me, that is a big hurdle to overcome. Opinions on the written word are very subjective, something not found with numbers. Either you are right or you are wrong when it comes to maths. Not with words though.

But, back to my strategy. When I look at the thousands of other writers on Medium all battling to do the same as me, I see different games in play.

A closer look suggests two strategies form the basis of how most writers work. The first is an absolute focus on quality, the other on quantity. The goal with the later to produce as many articles as possible. So, which one wins the race for the most claps? And more importantly, which one should I choose?

The urge to publish again and again

It’s those three words in that green box that pose the most daunting question of all to me. Ready to Publish?

It is so easy to press it, to send my article off to the mercies of publications, curators and readers. All in the hope that someone will like it, even better if it’s a curator as this gives kudos to the article.

I hesitate for a bit, is it ready I ask myself. Will the article be good enough? The stats show me it’s been a while since the last article went out. My view count is dropping by the day, the article has to be ready. It’s sent.

Then it’s time to pray. I’m not a believer so I’m not sure why I say it to myself. Whether it collects lots of views or not, I need to start writing again. I don’t want my stats to diminish. So, I write again, driven by the urge to publish again and again.

Quantity, the need to keep writing

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

I realise now why so many writers end up driving up their output. In part, it’s the mindset of chasing the numbers shown by the stats page. I’m guilty as charged. Sucked into a game of thinking all I need to do is to keep publishing. Surely one of these articles will be successful.

Even if it isn’t, more articles mean more claps and thus, more money. Won’t that be the same as one great article?

As I write this, I’m beginning to make sense of the weakness to keep producing article after article. Trying to deliver one every day. Practice makes perfect, that’s what my mum used to say. The more you do something, the better you will get at doing it.

We all need to practice, but does practice work if you’re doing the same thing over and over again? Didn’t someone define that as a sign of insanity?

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

The reality of publishing every day

I can see that I have been following this strategy, and I'm not cut out for it. For one, I don't have a never-ending stream of ideas to create new articles with. It isn't only the ideas, its the time. When I see people publishing twice a day I'm staggered, I couldn't do it.

The biggest issue for me though is that its not even a deliberate strategy. This has been my problem, I have been caught up in a race to keep churning out articles. My belief that I will get better through practice is a falsehood.

The shift to a Quality focused strategy

The power of writing is the way it enables me to get the chaos in my head out and onto paper. I have been battling this demon of quality vs. quantity in my mind for a while now. As I have written this article, my mind has laid out its thoughts for me to see things clearly.

This is what I love about writing. Talking this through could have drawn all this out, but I’m an introvert, happy in my own space. The magic of writing is the order it brings me.

But, I digress.

If I had any doubt about my decision to focus on quality, then this article from Michael Thompson killed it. His article, 8 Steps To Making Money on Medium struck a chord. There was no doubt in my mind what his focus was on, quality. When you read the article you will see what I mean.

9 of Michael Thompson’s articles this year have exceeded 40,000 views! This is 4 times more than his best article from the year before which was a rather poor 10,000. I can only dream…

I’m not going to go into detail about the 8 steps Michael talks about in his article. I’ll let you read it for yourself. But, the overriding message is quality.

Quality, this is my strategy so how will I deliver it?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

To start with, I have to reduce the number of articles I have been trying to publish. When I look back at my stats, one thing is clear. The quantity has weakened my performance.

From January to May I averaged 3 articles a month and an average of 20 views per day per article. In June I published 5 articles and then 8 in July, with a further 6 in August already. Views have plummeted down to an average of 5 per day per article. The change in claps was even worse with a decline from 17 per article to just 7.

The biggest factor behind this, without doubt, is curation. I was hitting a 60% curation rate from January to May, from June onward this has fallen to 18%. I realise that one of the reasons behind this has been the writing prompt from human parts. I’ve accepted the challenge of the writing prompt and I’ve come to realise I’m not an emotive writer. My attempt to be one has been a distraction.

There will have to be other changes to my writing process. With more focus on editing, something my acronyms will help me with. All with a focus on adding quality to my writing.

Which One Wins In The Race For The Most Claps?

I started out with this question in my mind, and I feel I have answered it. Not from looking so much at what others are doing, but by looking at myself. In writing this article, I have been able to expose my thoughts, with it clear what I need to do now. My focus has to be on quality, not quantity.

I can see it now, how naive I’ve been in trying to write more and more. This wasn’t a deliberate strategy, but a response to chasing the dream. Delusional? For me, yes it was. I’m not saying it can’t work for others. But it won’t work for me.

Greed drives us to want both quality and quantity. There might be some writers that can achieve both, lucky them. Personally, I don’t think that place exists, even more so if you’re a part-time writer like me.

Quality for me is the only way to achieve the claps I desire.

Darren Matthews

Written by

I’m a passionate writer who normally finds angst within the world of leadership and strategy. All framed within subjects such as business, politics and writing.

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