ASK CHRISTINA

Ask Christina: Questions About Curation

Answering a few questions from a Medium writer about Medium’s curation process

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Today’s question comes from MDSHall from a comment he left on one of my articles a week or so ago. I answered him there but thought a post may be warranted.

Because of your more extensive knowledge and experience with Medium, I thought that you might have some helpful insights on this subject to help me better figure out Medium’s process of curation. At this point, do you think there’s any rhyme or reason behind Medium’s curation methods and processes? Or, do you believe it’s become pretty much random?

My answer to this is twofold. No, I do not think it is random. Medium has some 35+ actual individuals as curator staff. They comb through thousands of posts daily and select those for curation. For poetry, however, I question the selections quite often and wonder if it is more random due to the lack of dedicated, trained, professional poets on the curation staff.

The second part of my answer is about how they determine these choices. Clearly, they have style guidelines they go by, but I have seen curated pieces that break the mold. There may also be a quota for what topics they are looking for more curations in than others, which may be a factor in the curation choices. For example, a top trending topic on Google may warrant more curations in this topic so that Medium can drive more traffic to its site.

Another question I have; Do you think certain publications have in-house curators that more or less pass choices along to the actual Medium curation team?

In-house curators actually curate articles for Medium viewers, but how this is handled internally, I can’t be for sure. But curations for PS I Love You, for example, are curated at the time of publication, so there cannot be a Medium curator/staff member’s input.

Whether or not they recommend any other articles for curation to the curation team is unclear but in my opinion, unlikely.

I have experienced a recent wave of pieces chosen for further distribution by Medium. Though I know I should be elated, I feel a little cheated by Medium, when I think of numerous better pieces I’ve posted since being on the platform that were either ignored or overlooked.

Just a comment here — I feel you on this.

I once discussed this with a curator on the Medium staff and was met with the obligatory “these choices of value are subjective” (paraphrased) which means that your idea of value may differ from the Medium curator’s opinion. But I think it is more than that.

Medium has an agenda and that agenda is to promote work that will drive traffic to the site and convince people to become paying members. Which means, they are out to please the most wide audience they can. Literary merit, therefore, may take a backseat over emotive materials or informative ones that provide a clearer takeaway for the reader/potential paying Medium member.

In 2021, just since the end of March going into April, my last 4 straight pieces have been chosen for further distribution. It’s ironic to me though that I received notification about those published in some pubs but not the others. It doesn’t make total sense to me.

Yes, Medium used to be much more transparent about what has been selected for curation and would sometimes alert a Medium notification on your profile or generate a notification by email. To my knowledge, this has all but completely stopped (or so largely diminished it is unusual to receive notice) as a part of a larger strategy to pull away from the quest for curation and to make Medium more relational for readers.

This does help to sway the larger body of Medium writers to put the focus on quality work and on their engagement with followers and fans of their work. However, for working content creators who use Medium as a viable income stream, it makes it much harder to track and measure their most lucrative stories and potential earning potential. We run and crunch the numbers to tailor our approach to the platform from a business standpoint and that can be more tedious to do when the curations and curation topics are more mysterious.

In my opinion, Medium needs to be more transparent about how our articles are performing, not less. Overall, if the goal is quality — we need to know exactly what Medium wants from us (as demonstrated by promotion selections) and what our readers want as well (as demonstrated by article performance and earnings as a result of promotion.)

Thatnks MDSHall for your questions about curation selections. As an experienced Medium writer but not a Medium staff member, I can only speculate on some of this — but then, that’s what we need more transparency for, right? To your questions, yes, there are many layers to peel back to try and understand the process of selection for distribution, but to some degree, we’re not meant to have all the answers. I guess they want us writing instead of crunching numbers.

A few weeks ago I launched Ask Christina, in an effort to answer some of those questions that come my way. I often get questions from my readers or from other writers — so I thought, why not make it a thing?

Here’s the info about this ‘thing’ if you’d like to send in a question.

About “Ask Christina
Have a question? About Medium? About freelance writing? About poetry? About your life or your relationships or parenting — or anything really?

Send your questions in an email to fnfwriter@gmail.com with “Ask Christina” as the subject line. (Please allow me some time to respond. I’ll respond to any inquiries to which I feel I can contribute value.)

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◦•●Christina M. Ward ●•◦

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