My First Recycling on Medium

Escaping the black hole requires drastic measures.

Imaginary view of the real black hole in the middle of the Galaxy M60-UCD1 — Wikipedia

I did it.

Yesterday, I recycled one of my posts on Medium for the first time.

“Eligible to earn money”, to add shame.

The black hole

There’s a black hole, in the center of our galaxy. Nothing can escape from it.

I’m sure there’s one somewhere at Medium too.

If your post doesn’t gain momentum in a few hours, or Medium features it, it’s doomed. Some pitiful reader will resurrect it for a few minutes, once in a while, but no more.

Quality metrics — included your overall historical quality metrics — are useless. I once had a poem that got 28 views and 28 fans, in a few days. 100% of clapping. On a poem. Stone dead after a few days, like most of my words.

Other of my stories got hundreds of fans, while I still was in the hundreds of followers, with dozens of positive comments. Stone dead, those stories too.

Fresh content is king. Your previous content is picked more or less randomly by the algorithm.

Your profile is useless. After a few stories, nobody will dig into it. It’s especially designed for oblivion.

Also publications don’t help to escape invisibility. After a few stories, you’re in the archive, usually sooner than in your profile.

Nothing can escape the black hole.

Unless…

The hacks

I tried anything. Links from other stories, recaps, my publications, republishing, socials, retagging, obscure rituals.

Everything helps, but not much. Once a story is glued to the black hole, it’s gone. You need hundreds of stories to grow the underbrush of your stats, across time.

The hack that worked best for me is a publication with embeds to my stories, and a short bio. Sort of portfolio. But it can resurrect stories. And that’s a story for another time.

So, I tried the only hack that can kid the black hole.

Yes, I did it

You have a good story. Medium ignores it.

Trash it. Republish. Instantly, Medium thinks it’s a good story to show around.

The same story, with the date of one year ago is shit, with the date of today it’s acceptable.

That’s how rotten is the algorithm.

In part, anything on the Web — and not only the Web — works like this. Novelty is bada-boom. I get it.

But I’m sure the algorithm could do differently, if they wanted, especially on a platform like Medium.

Anyway, things work like this, so I did it. I picked one of my poems with less than ten views and only one fan (my wife), I trashed it, and I republished, as it was.

The guilty feeling

Recycling can be tricky. If your audience notice, they won’t be happy, especially if they already read the story in the past and — this time — they notice half way. Especially if claps contribute to your earnings. They’ll feel that they risk wasting their time, by checking your new stories. Or, worse, that you’re tricking them.

Republishing elsewhere is a different story. Different channels, maybe different audiences. And readers usually get that you need exposure.

But recycling on the same platform…

It took me almost two years, to overcome the guilty feeling. And part of it is still there.

But invisibility is a good antidote to guilty feelings.

I explored the apparent dirt deed from any angle, and I concluded that I couldn’t hurt anyone, given the risible stats. The contrary, if I sincerely think that it’s worth sharing, I can offer my story to new readers. It’s like fixing a flaw of the system.

What if the story had more views and fans? Well, after one year, your connections on Medium are usually quite different, your audience has grown, you have several new readers. Probabilities that old fans stumble in your recycled post are low. But probabilities that the story can meet new readers are certainly much more. Worth trying, with a note about the status of “recycled”.

In my case, I recycled without modifications, but the usual — and correct — advice is to take the occasion to revise your story, maybe update the content, or use your upgraded voice. It’s not tricky. Again, the contrary. It can add value. There’s even a publication (Recycled) focused on recycling, if you’re interested. And Jonathan Greene elaborated on the topic here.

You may wonder why you have to delete the previous story. Well, given that you have no way to set the “canonical” story on Medium, you may want to help search engines pick your latest. Even if Google is out of your radar (or the opposite…), it’s certainly appropriate and polite to let only one version be around on the same platform, if the original publishing date is not fundamental. Don’t worry to lose the old stats, and maybe good comments. They’re gone anyway.

The numbers

I know. You want the numbers.

The original story had less than ten views, and one clap. Not among my best poems, but worth giving it a second try.

The recycled one got 10 views and 5 fans in 24 hours. It’s poetry. I couldn’t expect wonders.

The medal has two sides. You could have bet.

On the bright side, I got ten new views for my story, and 5 new fans. Not much, but more than the nothing that the story was getting currently. A more attractive story could only give better results. In any case, I doubled the exposure, by recycling. Enough to try again with other stories.

On the dark side… you may have already guessed… I got only ten views, not much different from the original one. Today I have 1.2k fans, while at the time I had only around 400 fans. But I got the same views. Luckily, I got more fans but it feels just luck.

Anyway, my story has been read by a few more readers. That’s enough for me. It works. And it works much better than any other hack. You can’t do it with all the stories, of course, but for some of them, it works.

The only way to escape the black hole is to rewrite outside the black hole. Then, gravity will claim your story again, but some light will be seen again.

If you’re trying to find sense in the Medium algorithm, better to fall back on astrophysics. Or to just write and, sometimes, recycle.