Tips on gaining net virality for independent creators.

Yellow journalism? I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.

So I’ve been on Medium for a while now and I have found that some of my articles went viral, and some didn’t. (I checked my stats.) Some posts even got cross posted to other platforms and it went viral there as well. So I just couldn’t help wondering what makes an article truly, well, viral.

Side note that when I say “viral” I mean “attention-grabbing.” I don’t mean viral as in gaining as much YouTube hits as Psy’s Gangnam Style once did.

When I write, I usually don’t really think about it. Well, I do, but I write about what I ponder during the day. I keep my phone with me all the time and write down a sentence or two about a possible article on the Medium app (very handy in those situations, I still have so many unwritten drafts). I come back home, switch on my laptop, and write about a couple of things that spike my interest. If they seem adequate, I publish it onto the Gazette (my publication), and if it’s just simple rambling like this, I leave it on my account.

Now, here’s the thing about virality. You can’t mathematically categorise what content will go viral and what content will not. Because most likely it’s really a combination of luck and effort, and also the platform that you are posting your article in as well as the time being. For example, one of the hottest issues of the time being is the women’s march and if you write an insightful article about that, your chances of gaining attention goes up.

But we all know that right? We all know that following the trend is really important. What’s the other “wow” factor that makes an article publish-able?

From my anecdotal evidence (which means nothing so it’s not a conclusion but rather a theory) I have sensed that stories that are 1) succinct (in Medium I’d say that’s about 3-min-read) 2) personal 3) refreshing/debatable get the most hits. No shit, Sherlock. One of the posts that I got a lot of attention for was my post on plus-sized women and that was written two weeks into my exam-prep period when I didn’t exactly have a crystal clear mindset. I was inspired by a tumblr one-liner about it and wrote all about it and it went viral. Makes sense because the inspiration, which was a tumblr one-liner with over 600,000+ notes. It was catchy and it was interesting and it was debatable. Thus the attention. Also I guess it kind of helped that my thumbnail picture was literally naked women all tangled up, although not too sexually. It wasn’t the standard yellow journalism, though. It wasn’t like I put a naked photo and said “10 reasons why plus size models aren’t inclusive.”

Now, I write in-depth analysis that may not seem too viral-y and they sometimes, although rarely, gets attention. And I feel like this is kind of a core problem in the extremely competitive market which is digital publishing, in which literally everyone has an access to publishing. Medium tries its best to steer away from click baity yellow journalism, but ever since huge publications stormed into this town, it started to look a lot like my Facebook feed instead of what it used to be. So I personally kind of unfollowed them, I can read those publications on other outlets. I come to Medium for authentic, individual voices, not the same old stuff that we can find literally everywhere else. It’s what makes Medium special, at least for me.

So from what I’ve seen, in order to gain authentic reads— not just clicks — you need to have something above the standard yellow journalism. What that is, I can’t say for sure, but something you can say from your heart and something that is geniuine will probably heighten your chances. Virality is a moment and it’s random and don’t let it discourage you when your content doesn’t gain the attention you feel it deserves.