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Creating a Value Loop to Fuel Your Publication

Building a successful publication on Medium is primarily about relationships

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Great publications require great humans. You can wring out the most SEO-friendly titles, promote your work far and wide, and incorporate eye-popping graphics. But if your goal is to build a loyal repeat audience who are passionate about your publication, you’ll need credibility, and that can’t be acquired without a team of great humans at the centre.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a story titled Three Simple Rules to Build a Successful Publication on Medium. It touched on three key rules that underpin a successful publication. One of those rules is cultivate great relationships. Here’s an excerpt of what I said in the original piece:

“The team” extends to anyone who has ever written for your publication, even if they’ve only submitted one article and you publish dozens every month.

Cultivating great relationships with writers isn’t just the right thing to do as a human being. It’s also something that has limitless benefits and zero downsides. You will form close relationships with folks who end up becoming regular contributors, who believe in your WHY, and who work with you to shape and enhance the HOW and WHAT. These people will continuously fill the creativity tank. They will give your publication a life of its own, and help it reach unimaginable heights.

It is important to ensure that writers always feel like they are having a good experience with your publication, even if their submission is not accepted. Remember that it takes time and effort to write a piece in the first place. Submitting it to a publication is an act of vulnerability and trust. Make sure you always honour that, and you approach each submission as a collaboration rather than a transaction.

It’s too obvious to say “don’t be a jerk” — besides, that should be a given. The key piece to pay attention to here is the idea of a collaboration rather than a transaction. That means something very specific in the case of my publication, SUPERJUMP.

Seesaw problem

Eligible writers on Medium can participate in the Medium Partnership Program, which offers folks a share of paywall revenue based on an engagement formula. I have no doubt that there’s a lot of value here if you’re a prolific writer who is active across the most popular topics on the platform (like programming, for example). But if you specialise in gaming, for example, you may find that paywall income isn’t remotely comparable to the freelance rates you’ll get working with large publications off Medium (of course, that path comes with its own drawbacks, including a fairly high barrier to entry in most cases).

The challenge for SUPERJUMP is that we are both large and credible enough to attract interest from new writers wanting to work with us. But we don’t have the traffic volume to provide a sizeable income for writers. I refer to this as the seesaw problem. Smaller indie publications might not be too concerned about this, because they will regard writers as hobbyists who are simply “building a portfolio” as they progress towards paid work at larger publications.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Many folks — myself included — wrote for free at fan sites to build experience before we jumped into the deep and murky freelancing pool.

But I didn’t want SUPERJUMP to simply be a pit stop. Okay, we can’t pay our writers like IGN can. But is there a way we can offer deep and meaningful value to our writers in other ways?

Value loop

The answer to that question is a resounding yes. At SUPERJUMP, we’ve created something I refer to as a value loop. It refers to the continuous and recursive nature of the shared value we create within the team. There are several components to it:

Community building

All of SUPERJUMP’s regular contributors ultimately receive an invite to our team’s Discord server. The Discord server is a way for us to move beyond an individual contributor model (where SUPERJUMP is “just another Medium publication where I submit stories”) to a unified team where writers and editors can build friendships and collaborate in a range of ways (from brainstorming to generate ideas or working together on a large features involving multiple writers).

Publication benefits

We are also continuously thinking of ways to offer unique benefits that are exclusive to SUPERJUMP. Historically, these have included everything from the occasional review code (early access to a free game for review purposes) through to press access to industry events (this has obviously been on pause due to COVID, but it’s something we’ll be picking up again as soon as it’s safe to do so). We’re currently working on offering free publication merchandise to all our regular writers. We are also experimenting with a Writer of the Month program, which offers a share of publication revenue to the winning writer every month (and which, going forward, will stack further benefits on top of this).

Professional development

I think the most important value we offer as a publication is our extensive and thorough editing process. Our editors are very hands-on and we work closely with writers to further develop their skills. I want to underscore the point that this isn’t just about ensuring we publish great work on SUPERJUMP itself; it’s also about leaving writers with something of lasting value well beyond their time with us. I’m proud to say that I have seen several writers join us with very little experience — and, with some close collaboration and encouragement — they have taken on a range of professional work within the games industry (either being published at major commercial outlets, or in some cases, move into full-time employment in the industry).

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash.

Great humans

I am immensely proud of our team at SUPERJUMP. The best thing about my role as Editor in Chief is that I get to be the biggest fan and cheerleader for every writer in our team. When I am not writing or editing, I am spending time thinking about how I can enlarge our value loop — what else can I do to be of value to our writers? How else can SUPERJUMP be a bridge for talent — a pathway that cultivates and enhances the natural skills writers bring to us? I like to think that, more and more, SUPERJUMP is becoming an incubator for exceptional writers and creatives.

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