Is it even possible to have an ideal length to a story/article — on Medium or otherwise?
Abhishek Anand
52

First off, thanks for sharing your interesting point of view about this study. I Would say that I agree with the general idea that the prime focus is content, and that speaking of an ideal length kind of takes away the essence of writing posts. It is specifically the fact that medium posts are all so different that makes this platform that vibrant.

We should not all write 8-minute posts only.

Now let me comment a few of the points you’ve made, and try to explain differently what was my intention by making this study.

“Discovery matters. Almost as much as the quality of your product!”

I completely agree. Before knowing whether your product is qualitative to a specific audience you first have to make sure people discover it. If you’re not sure your product has been put in front of an audience that is large enough, you can’t draw any conclusion on whether it is valuable or not.

By selecting top medium writers that have quite a big following, the problem of discovery isn’t a problem anymore. Their stories are discovered by enough people, I guess. Knowing that, we can focus on the quality aspect.

How can we possibly measure quality with the little amount of data we have access to?

I think it was a fair guess to base quality on the number of recommends — what would have been better?

Yet I do agree with you, the recommend ratio is also a good metric. But what do you prefer: potentially learning something from data you have access to (= in this case, the number of recommends), or thinking there are better metrics and not making any study because you don’t have access to those metrics?

Then,

data misinterpretation is definitely a problem, and I hope I didn’t misinterpret any data here. My point with this study was to see if there were any trends when analyzing the length of a post and the number of recommends so that I could draw a hypothesis.

Now people can test this hypothesis and check if they see a difference between their 8- or 7-minute posts and the others.

Again, I said it and you also insisted on it, content rules. But what actionable piece of advice is that? I wanted to give something actionable to writers, something they can test, and hopefully, see their number of recommends increase.

Concerning the snowball effect and tipping point

I do agree, momentum does matter. Though, knowing that, I invite you to take another look at the graphs. Let’s look at Larry Kim’s one. You can see that he has quite a huge following (173k) and he wrote an impressive amount of short posts: the 2- 3- and 4-minute posts accounted for 58% of all his posts. Yet his recommend averages for these lengths are varying from 280 to 380, compared to 550 for 8-minute long reads.

My point is: this snowball effect is potentially the same for all the posts of a writer. So then, if the snowball effect is responsible for the “success” of posts (which is what you suggested), why does it seem to work better for 8-min posts rather than the other lengths? Probably because those 8-min posts were “more valuable” to his audience (that’s only an assumption of course). So now, are those 8-min posts “more valuable” because of the length? Because he took more time to craft them? Because he posted them at the right time? I have no idea, and we probably can’t know.

What we can notice though, is that those 7- and 8-minute reads regularly have the highest recommend averages among these ten writers. And I analyzed a fairly large amount of posts exactly to get rid of the exceptions — to have a real trend that is not too impacted by exceptions.
So I think it is fair to say that, generally speaking, readers tend to prefer 7- and 8-minute long posts of top medium writers of topics such as Startup, Entrepreneurship, Business, Productivity, Life Lessons… And saying that doesn’t contradict the fact that the primary focus is great content.

That was just some random thoughts on your comment, I hope it cleared a few points.

Thank you Abhishek Anand for your comment, it is important that people don’t take my study as a strict rule to follow as I said.

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