How I Achieved an 80% Medium Curation Rate in September
Follow the rules, format well, and cite your sources
Last month, I decided to make writing on Medium my part-time job. I published a total of 16 pieces (only 14 of which were “real” articles — two were never really meant to be widely distributed) — and 11 of those 14 articles were curated (78.5%).
Curation is a human process where a Medium staff member hand-picks pieces to distribute into various topics. This helps the post reach a larger audience and generally sets the piece up for success. Of course, curation doesn’t guarantee anything — one curated post of mine only got 81 views.
Throughout the month my posts were distributed in a wide variety of topics: Relationships, Gun Control, Work, Books, Women, Equality, Beauty, Sexuality, Mental Health, Lifestyle, Basic Income, Family, and LGBTQIA. I mostly write about feminism but, clearly, I haven’t defined my “niche” very precisely. Mostly, I just write about a topic that has been on my mind lately.
Lately, I’ve noticed a few writers struggling to get their posts curated by Medium, so I thought I would share a few details about what worked for me last month:
1. Follow Medium’s Curation Guidelines
This should go without saying, but I’m constantly shocked by how many articles I see that do not follow the bare minimum standards for curation. Medium is pretty transparent about what is considered a curation deal-breaker, so be sure to follow their guidelines.
2. Make Your Pieces Look Professional
The most common mistakes I see new writers make are in formatting their headline, subtitle, and banner image. You need to make sure all three are working together to do your piece service.
There are lots of other writers here who have advice on how to write a good headline, so I’m going to focus on formatting. Your headline should be short enough that it doesn’t get cut off in certain views, and formatted in title case rather than sentence case.
This is a headline in sentence case.
This is a Headline in Title Case
The subtitle is the second thing people will read about your article, so don’t miss the change to make a good first impression and catch their eye. The subtitle should be placed directly under the headline of the article and formatted by clicking small T.
If you’ve formatted your headline and subtitle correctly, this is what it will look like:
Being Attacked At Gunpoint Helped Me Understand Conservatives
Not enough to totally change my mind, though.
If you want to get curated, a good banner image is vital. The image should be positioned under the headline and subtitle, not above it, and should ideally be horizontal rather than vertical. Bright, colorful images that catch the eye, or pictures with human faces in them, do best. Be sure you have the rights to use the image, and the source is cited.
This is what your article should look like once it is properly formatted:
Be sure the rest of your post is formatted professionally, as well. Excessive images in a post tend to distract readers and clutter the page, so avoid them. Use the pull and blockquote features appropriately, make sure your embeds are loading properly, and break up your massive paragraphs. Use white-space generously.
3. Content Matters
No matter how professional your story looks, the content will always matter more. Although quantity can be one path to success on Medium, each post is still evaluated on its own merits when it comes time for curation. If you want your posts to be distributed, simply having a lot of them won’t help you.
The two posts of mine that weren’t curated last month (which I thought could have been) were both weak on content. They were primarily opinion pieces with few facts to back them up. They lacked a personal or emotional connection, and they didn’t really bring anything new to the discussion. I had thrown them together in under an hour, and they were clearly not my strongest work.
My pieces that do get curated are ones that I usually put at least three hours into and that have a strong research component. This is the structure that has worked for me:
- Open with a personal story that exemplifies the issue at hand ⟶
- Move into historical context and/or scientific research on the issue ⟶
- Make multiple points, with evidence, that back up my thesis ⟶
- Summarize the issue with a conclusion, often relating back to the opening.
This piece, for example, followed this formula and was distributed in two different topics, accepted into a large publication, and is one of my best performing pieces:
I’ve also found that while writers may be afraid of approaching controversy, Medium curators seem to enjoy pieces that bring a “hot take” (as long as it stays within community standards). Don’t be afraid to state an unpopular opinion — if defend it with facts. This content is often new and refreshing to readers who are used to seeing the same opinion over and over again.
4. Cite Your Sources
If you’re going to make a claim, back it up. Any statistic or number that you cite should be linked to the source of that data (ideally a peer-reviewed journal). If you are mentioning a number you found from another source (like a news article), go the extra mile and look up the original study that they are citing. Fact-checking will ensure that 1) you are not being misled by an unscrupulous journalist, and 2) that your readers know you took your research seriously.
If you are writing about a topic that other writers have written about before, quote those writers directly, giving them appropriate credit and linking to their work.
Don’t be afraid to crack open a book on your subject and quote from those resources, too. In this article, I relied heavily on two other books to make my point. This made the piece stronger and demonstrated that I was deeply knowledgable about the topic at hand, rather than just making something up on the spot. Pretending there aren’t already 17 books on the topic you’re writing about doesn’t make you look original — it makes it look like you aren’t familiar with the field.
As a newcomer to the platform, I’m still trying to find my footing here and learning how to really be successful. I certainly don’t know everything, but curation seems to have come naturally to me.
There’s no magic bullet, but by focusing on professionalism and high-quality, well researched, content — even Medium newbies, like myself, can be consistently curated.