Here Is How to Publish a Shortform Story on Medium

Shortform stories offer innovative options for sharing.

Dr Jeff Livingston
Dec 13, 2020 · 4 min read
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Guillaume Istock by Getty

Have you noticed those weird-looking short stories popping up in your daily feeds? I have. At first, they just confused me. I was not sure what was happening. Then, I noticed I was reading every single one of them from start to finish.

After this lightbulb moment, it was time to investigate this different style of publishing Medium refers to as shortform stories. If you are not familiar with shortform, here is an article from Creator’s Hub explaining how this story style works.

To test out this type of story, there are a few technical items you need to know. First, shortform stories should be under 150 words. This length allows the entire story to be visible without triggering a break to a “read more” link. This number is important to encourage a frictionless inline reading experience. Shortform posts are excellent ways to bring readers into your personal feed and keep them there.

Second, highlight the first sentence in bold letters to signal this is a shortform post. You do not need a title, subtitle, or a featured image to create a shortform post.

From my experience, the stories looked better with a featured image. I also preferred adding a nondisplayed title and subtitle. The title and subtitle are not visible on the story but improved the Medium home page’s look. I did this by adding a title and subtitle here:

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Here are some ways our health and science publication Being Well is experimenting with shortform stories. Readers enjoy our in-depth science articles and data analytics. Other readers appreciate short, concise, and actionable health and science content. A variety of longform stories mixed with shortform content helps readers find useful information.

Zachary Walston is leading our “clinical trial.” Here you can see how he highlights three health topics with short, actionable content. He also links to another relevant article for readers seeking more information and detail. Dr. Walston reported back a high engagement rate and read-ratio.

  1. Does Manual Therapy Reduce Fear of Movement and Pain Catastrophizing?
  2. Is Walking Effective for Treating Low Back Pain?
  3. 5 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Build Meaningful Connection with Patients

I tested out different styles of shortform posts this week, each with different goals. Shortform gave me the option to generate new attention on an older story, act quickly in the face of a fast-moving news story, and highlight another author’s outstanding work. I experienced decent traffic but a 100% read-ratio on all three stories.

In this short-form post, I wanted to highlight a story published in Publishous that I felt would benefit Being Well readers. Dr. Mehmet Yildiz calls this cross-pollination. Also, I am proud of this story and wanted a second bite at the promotional apple.

In this second test post, my goal was different. Sometimes health and science news moves fast. A short-form post may be the quickest way to reach our readers when we do not have time to take a deep-dive into research and analytics. Shortform allowed me to take action within minutes of the FDA Covid vaccine updates.

In this final example, my goal was to draw attention to another writer’s critically important story. I was moved after reading Robert Turner’s story on millennial healthcare workers. A short-form technique allowed me to summarize the author’s key elements and link a preview to his story.

Shortform stories are an underused tool in our writing toolbelt. Some stories warrant hours of research. Others are appropriate for a short and sweet approach. We do not need to feel cornered into one style of writing.

Let’s explore all the options at our fingertips. Writers can help each other improve by sharing from our experience.

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Dr Jeff Livingston

Written by

Obgyn, Husband, Father, & Entrepreneur. Writing about Women’s Health, Parenting, and Self-improvement. CEO of MacArthurmc.com & founder of Medika.life

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Dr Jeff Livingston

Written by

Obgyn, Husband, Father, & Entrepreneur. Writing about Women’s Health, Parenting, and Self-improvement. CEO of MacArthurmc.com & founder of Medika.life

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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