6 Things I’ve Learned About Building an Audience on Medium

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I started writing on Medium sometime in 2012. I don’t even remember how I found out about it. But the interface and the content, and everything about it resonated with me. Given that I was writing ridiculously long Facebook status updates which became the basis for my book, The Art of Being Unmistakable, having a platform like Medium which was designed for long-form content couldn’t have come at a better time.

I can’t say enough good things about writing for medium.

  • My article on how writing 1000 words a day changed my life eventually led to a two-book deal with Penguin.
  • It’s the third largest driver of traffic to our website.

Because of all this, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from other people about the value of writing for medium. In no particular order, here’s what I’ve learned

1.What You Put into It is What You’ll Get out Of it

If you look at nearly all forms of media, consistency breeds a consumption habit.

  • For a decade, we watched Friends every Thursday night on NBC.
  • Sportscenter is on at the same time every day. (Even though I don’t watch sports at all, this is what I hear).
  • We have aired episodes of the Unmistakable Creative every Monday and Wednesday for 5 years.
  • If Seth Godin didn’t publish a blog post, you would probably think he got hit by a car.

Writing for Medium isn’t any different. Like every other platform, what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. Although I have to say I’ve gotten far more tangible value out of writing for Medium than I have from tweets or Facebook status updates. Food for thought.

The objection this might raise is how the hell do you write so much? Here’s the dirty little secret of prolific writers. You don’t have to publish everything you write. Most of what I write never sees the light of day. But I write so much that, I end up having plenty of content to write something a couple of times.It’s what Erik Wahl refers to as creating for the trash can.

There are plenty of ways to come up with ideas for things to write about. Above all things, it’s important to remember that prolific writing is practice, and your cumulative output matters more than any individual piece of work.

2. Be useful, inspiring or entertaining

Some people bitch about the articles that Jon Westenberg, Benjamin P. Hardy and CamMi Pham write. But it’s no coincidence that their posts are the ones that seem to hit top stories more often than many other writers. They manage to be useful, inspiring or entertaining, sometimes all three.

Here a few filter questions:

1) What can I teach someone? 
2) How can I make them laugh? 
3) How can I make them feel good?

At its core, good content does one thing really well. It invokes an emotional response. It’s something that Jonah Berger talks about in his book Contagious.

Ideas that spread impact us emotionally.

3.The Headlines and Stories Make a Big Difference

For anyone who knows about writing copy, this isn’t a particularly groundbreaking news. The first thing that people read is your headline. This something I’ve learned as I’ve gone back and analyzed the statistics from my medium posts. Here’s a screenshot below

But let me back this up with an example. My original title idea for the secret to becoming a good writer is to become a prolific one was “99% of everything I write is garbage.” It’s really clear why that would never have worked. It doesn’t meet the criteria of useful, entertaining or inspiring.

The other thing to remember is that information is a commodity and your story is not. As human beings, we are wired for story. Stories elicit an emotional response in the reader.

4. Optimize Your Presence

In the 100’s of interviews I’ve done on Unmistakable Creative especially those that were done when it was primarily a podcast for bloggers, I heard one thing over and over.

I should have made my email list a bigger priority sooner.

Even his recent posts on the growth of his podcast, Tim Ferriss cited email as one of the most important channels he used.

We’re very fortunate to have my friend Derek Wyatt on our team at Unmistakable Creative. With a book launch coming up, and the fact that email is still the primary driver of book sales, he’s gone out of his way to make sure our presence here on Medium is optimized. At the bottom of each post you’ll see this byline:

I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here

That way if you like podcasts, and want to know more about what we’re up to, there’s s a way for you to connect with us.

5. Submit to Publications

Somehow I completely overlooked this. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me that you could only submit to one publication at a time. When I submitted two recent posts to the Life Learning publication,which is run by Chad Grills they both surpassed several 1000 views.

The thing to know about publications is that the people who own them are the ones who curate them. It helps to have a relationship with the curator of the publication. If you like a publication, you can actually email the owner and ask them to make you a contributor.

You can read more about how they work here.

The neat thing to see is how other media outlets are starting to use publications on Medium.

6. It’s not a chance to Win the Internet Lottery

By the time I started writing for Medium, I’d been writing on a blog that didn’t go very far and running a podcast for close to 5 years. If you think you’re going to write one post and become internet famous, you’ve bought into what Anne Lamott refers to as a fantasy of the uninitiated. Medium is not a magic bullet. It’s an effective channel for getting your work in front of people. And like any channel it requires work to maintain and sustain.

To Ev Williams and the team, writing for Medium has changed my life and my career. If I was looking for a corporate gig it might be at the top of my list of places I’d want to work ;).


I’m the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. Every Sunday we share the most unmistakable parts of the internet that we have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. Receive our next issue by signing up here