Writing with Your Stats Page Open
Using stats to decide your next story
Possibly the best part about writing for Medium is the freedom to write about whatever we want with no limitations.
I could write stories about far right conspiracies, or even vegetable-fetish porn if I wanted. (I’m not going to do that).
Or am I?
But while we don’t have a boss watching over our collective shoulder, or a client breathing down our necks to write something boring that we don’t care about,
“How to make your kittens birthday go purrfectly”
We do have to keep in mind that our readers employ us with their eyes and interest.
Guessing what the reader will want can be nearly impossible, comparable perhaps to picking stocks.
Luckily for us however; the longer we write for Medium, the more we’ll understand what the readers want thanks to our handy statistics. No need to guess!
The Magic 9
My most valuable statistic for writing is what I like to call ‘The Magic 9.’
The Magic 9 are the stories that are featured in the monthly email Medium sends us that breaks down the money that we earned for the month.
While most of us have a lot more than 9 stories earning us royalties each month, only 9 make it onto the email that gets sent by Medium.
Only the best 9 deserve the coveted email placement,
9 stories of power.
At the end of the month I update The Magic 9 stories for the month into a spreadsheet. I colour-code them according to genre and rank them according to earnings.
There’s nothing sexier in this entire goddamn world than royalty spreadsheets.
Once you’ve got your first Magic 9, you’ll be able to see what genres your readers enjoyed over the last month, and you know the order of how much they enjoyed them.
Once you’ve done this several times, you’ll have ultra-reliable statistics that you can bank on to guide you to profitable future writing.
Here were my Magic 9 genres for last month. One genre for each story that appeared in the magic 9 -
Very interesting findings for me.
I would never have predicted such interest in travel, especially considering they didn't get many claps.
However collectively they were the most appreciated, and I have lots more travel stories to tell. This has encouraged me to plan more travel pieces for the coming month.
My biggest winner was the story ‘The Art of Sauerkraut’, a detailed guide on how to make and apprieciate sauerkraut.
The Art of Sauerkraut
There isn’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved with sauerkraut
I originally pitched it to the Medium publication ‘Human Parts’ for their ‘The Art of’ series.
They politely turned me down, so I released it myself with the publication ‘One Table One World’ and it became my biggest smash so far.
So the most claps wins?
My biggest earner is not my most clapped article, but the claps it did earn were more valuable.
Perhaps the clappers are prone to clapping less often, or perhaps there’s another element to the mysterious algorithm we will never know anything about.
The point is, we’re all wasting our time by fretting over claps, because we don’t know how they’ll be monetised.
We shouldn’t really be looking at claps at all, the only numbers that matter (if it’s what you care about) are the dollars and cents quoted at the end of the month.
My second highest earned was ‘Life Aboard a Cruise Ship.’ It is literally one of my least clapped for articles.
Life Aboard a Cruise Ship
Recounting my life as a contracted traveller aboard the high seas
For some reason, every one of the very few claps that story recieved are worth their weight in gold. This article beat out other articles that sport 20x the number of claps.
Should I be counting views?
Hell no, watching views is worse than watching claps, because a view is worth nothing.
My highest number of views came in my first couple weeks on the platform. My early articles were well timed political articles that talked about political events happening in the moment. At my peak I was getting 800+ views a day.
However to this day none of those political articles have earned me a single dime, because no one that I attracted to the site were people that would ever normally be on Medium.
They found me on Google or Reddit, clicked over, read my piece and left. They’ve never heard of clapping, and they sure as shit don’t have a subscription.
Articles that swim around the web and attract non-Medium people are great for getting more well-known and may potentially lead to your becoming “discovered”.. but in the short term they’re useless.
I personally have no interest in being “discovered”, so I pivoted my strategy.
Now I update and check my Magic 9 spreadsheet every month, then using that information I write what I’m passionate about — while also being smart and taking the stats into consideration.
I also publicise my stories in more productive places, and try to stay consistent.
Growth is slow, but the numbers are moving in the right direction. I’m not getting hundreds of views a day anymore, but the views I am getting are more mobilisable because a lot of them turn into clappers.
This is how I’m choosing to play The Game of Medium. So how are you playing?