Suppose you are an editor of a significant publication and start receiving many anxious and confused emails and social media inquiries asking what is happening on Medium. In that case, I bet you may begin to become concerned too, even if you are an optimistic person like me.
I have been on the platform for over 15 months now. With great hopes, I created multiple publications. Since last November, with changes in the user interface, unexpected results happened to views and reading times. Not only did technical glitches infect the platform, but more importantly, many writers’ reading stats dramatically dropped. It precipitously dropped to such levels that the stories of some writers with thousands of followers started getting under 20 views a day.
When I started issuing challenges in my stories to encourage writers to be prolific and improve the quality of their stories, many writers kept asking, “If no one is reading our stories, what is the point of writing more and wasting time in increasing the quality of stories?”
I know some writers and readers might disagree with my title of “Followers Don’t Mean Anything On Medium Anymore.” However, it reflects dollars and cents realities based on observations and first-hand experience.
I decided to create this post to share my findings after reviewing key metrics of at least 100 writers with 5,000 plus followers recently.
My test of my hypothesis started with a diligent review of my situation as I am in this range. My profile currently shows 6,402 followers
Since last November, like many other writers, I experienced a dramatic decline in my stats as mentioned in several posts before — a 70% decrease in views and an over 90% decrease in reading times.
Often the majority of views for my high-impact articles come from external sources such as Google search engine.
For example, this story which received 8,9K views only received 6% from Medium readers and 94% from external sources. It is still trending externally and receiving many external views and almost none from Medium.
These external views have no dollar value but they mean a lot to me as a writer as many readers benefit from my insights and hard-learned lessons. Followers have a similar non-monetary meaning to me as every time I gain one follower I know someone found my message helpful.
And the same story I repurposed on another platform with only 450 followers produced 95,000+ impressions and 5,000+ readers. So it performed ten times better than on Medium even though I have almost ten times more followers on Medium.
Many writers keep recommending increasing followers to aspiring writers. Even though followers can bring benefits from a theoretical angle, in reality, this metric does not mean anything on Medium anymore.
I am now hesitant about recommending increasing followers.
Why am I concerned about this metric?
Ironically, the more followers I gain, the lower views and reading times I receive. This is not exclusive to me. I observed the same pattern in the stats of many highly followed writers.
If someone made an argument that followers didn’t make a difference a year ago, I’d say nonsense; how could this be? This person must be out of their mind or have wrong motives.
But when many well-followed writers raise the same concerns about the views and reading times, I tend to agree. Most of my stories were getting four-digit reading times — now most of them hardly reach two digits, and some even dropped to one digit.
So not even 1% of my followers are reading my stories on Medium.
Like many writers, I ask the same questions:
What happened to readers on Medium?
Did they disappear suddenly for no reason?
I don’t know the answers to these questions yet, but I am getting some ideas after reading many stories of writers’ concerns.
I am not taking the decline in my stats personally because I reviewed many highly followed writers and observed the same pattern. I don’t think all of us became undesirable writers suddenly.
Some writers ask why earnings dropped so much even though they have so many followers.
Even though I don’t use earning as a metric for myself, to complete the puzzle piece, I can confirm that the same decline happened to me and many other writers who shared their stats with me personally or publicly in their stories.
In my case, the more followers I gained, the lower earnings my stories produced. Earning does not bother me, but lack of visibility to my stories does.
Let’s take a writer with 4,200 followers, Steve B Howard, who points out earning only $30 a month on Medium, as mentioned in a curated post on ILLUMINATION yesterday. As a rough calculation, Steve makes 0.007 dollars per follower in a month.
So what do you think of that followers-to-earnings ratio?
I measure the visibility of content on many platforms. They are all different and serve different purposes.
However, I want to give you some ideas about the relationship between followers and other key stats from Twitter and Pinterest where I can get more impressions with fewer followers.
I looked at Twitter and noticed a somewhat similar pattern with increased followers and decreased profile visits and mentions, but the pattern is not as sharp as on Medium.
With 2,376 followers on Twitter, my tweets received half a million impressions in the last 28 days.
When followers increased on Twitter, profile visits and mentions declined. However, at least tweet impression stats, which matter more, increased.
Pinterest patterns are more steady.
With only 176 followers on Pinterest, my story pins received almost a million views.
Monthly fluctuations are relatively low on Pinterest. For example, only a 1% decrease in outbound clicks from the previous month.
Even though I like members to follow me and enjoy following them, the follower metric does not make sense on Medium anymore.
Instead of followers, I focus on nurturing my regular readers by engaging with them meaningfully.
There may be many unknown reasons for declining stats, but as pointed out by many informed writers, the platform content distribution system does not seem to work as desired by many writers.
Thank you for reading my perspectives.
I’d love to obtain your comments.
Chief Editor of ILLUMINATION Integrated Publications