# Double the pain, double the gain

## The stories that take twice as long to write tend to perform nearly twice as well

Apr 16, 2014 · 3 min read

It sounds obvious: when you spend more time working on a story, that story should perform better. But now we have the stats to prove it:

Doubling the time spent drafting corresponds to an 89% increase in Total Time Read.

To calculate this, I began by plotting the time authors spend writing stories (the “draft times”) by the Total Time Read (TTR) for the first 30 days after those stories were published (“30-day TTR”). When you write on Medium, we automatically save every few seconds as you make changes, so we can add up the time between those saves to calculate the total draft times. I also used 30-day TTR rather than all-time totals because it helps us compare new stories to older ones. (I only included stories that were at least 30-days old.)

In this chart, every dot is a story. I heavily cropped both axes to more clearly display the data, but even so the dots are bunched up along the bottom left. Logarithmic axes fixed the problem:

The data is much clearer now (again, cropping the axes), but the variance still produces a fuzzy, blob-like shape that is hard to interpret. Similar to the method I used for the optimal post length analysis, I bucketed the stories in equal increments and calculated the medians. The median serves as a better middle-value than the average because it isn’t skewed upward by the high-end edge cases.

Not bad! If you squint, you’ll notice the shape of a line:

To understand the slope, I ran a linear regression. Unsurprisingly, it fit really well with significant results. Here’s the resulting equation:

We can interpret this by saying, “an 88.9% increase in x (draft time minutes) corresponds to a 100% increase in y (median 30-day TTR).” And there we have it — stories that take longer to write tend to see more TTR.

But—correlation, not causation!

While a strong correlation exists, we can’t say for sure that the extra TTR is a direct result of the extra draft time. We actually have a few hypotheses:

1. Well, maybe it is. We hope that when authors spend more time writing, they end up with stories that are more engaging, resulting in more TTR.
2. When authors spend more time writing, they might also feel more invested in the finished product. That might lead them to more actively share and distribute the story, resulting in more TTR.
3. Longer stories take longer to write, and they also tend to see more TTR. So we might just be seeing the positive correlation between total TTR and story length (but, of course, only up to 7 minutes!).

There are probably more possible explanations too. Please let me know if you think of any! As with most analyses, I ended up with more questions than when I began—we’ll just have to keep digging in.

## Data Lab

Explorations with Medium data, from Medium’s Product…

## Data Lab

Explorations with Medium data, from Medium’s Product Science team

Written by

## Mike Sall

Cofounder at @Goldfinch_fi. Previously Head of Product Analytics at @Coinbase, Head of Data Science at @Medium.

## Data Lab

Explorations with Medium data, from Medium’s Product Science team

## Life at Google vs. Life at Amazon: From Hiring to Firing (and Everything in Between)

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app