Rogues’ Gallery
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Rogues’ Gallery

I’ve Cracked the Medium Code

Why people read or don’t read, and what you can do about it

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Yesterday, I published two articles because words fly out of my brain like white doves at a fancy wedding. One article is getting a 23% read rate while the other is at 40%. They are both funny, engaging, and irreverent.

Or maybe irrelevant. I’ve always gotten those two words mixed up.

I’m not going to string you along as to the answer. I believe the difference is entirely in the audience for each article.

Article 1, Dream Big: The Universe Will Kick You to the Ground, was published in Crow’s Feet. It is a 3-minute read.

Article 2, Woman Ruins Vegan Chili Potluck, was published in The Haven and takes 4 minutes to read.

My theory is that old, cranky farts have longer attention spans. The Crow’s Feet audience is mainly over 50.

Here we go. Another excuse to bash the Millennials and Gen Zers.

Stay with me — if you dare, because I have a solid n=2 in favor of an older audience. At the same time, I understand why the under 40 crowd is too click-happy to read to the end.

Tooting My Own Horn — It Sounds Like a Bagpipe

The vegan chili story is straight out of the pedigree of classic pubs like The Onion. Sure, it doesn’t rise to the heights of the brilliance of “Smoove B, Love Man,” but then again, vegan chili isn’t as inherently scintillating as sex.

In addition, the story of a woman making a social faux pas at a potluck is relatable. Who hasn’t attended a church potluck? Who doesn’t find vegans annoyingly self-righteous?

Despite all this, only 1 in 5 readers has finished the article, because The Haven draws in a younger crowd who wants comedy to sweep them away like Ironman on a first date. They want to climb aboard his yacht and be transported to an island paradise, with rum-based drinks handed to them all afternoon.

Also —the stats say younger people don’t go to church. Apparently, they’ve found alt entertainment like HBO and who can blame them?

Meanwhile, my post about dreaming big is a gussied up litany of complaints about how the Universe, which I thought was my friend, has turned against me.

I regret to report, it will turn against you, too, one of these days.

Young People Have Gnat-Like Attention Spans

Sadly, I don’t think the answer will be found in some innate generational superiority. As a Gen X peep, I try to stay neutral in the ongoing tete-a-tete between Millennials and Boomers.

My readers have noted that many Boomers have Millennials as kids, and quite like them.

A few Millennials have pointed out that their parents, Boomers, aren’t half-bad.

The younger generation(s) is overwhelmed with work, social media, and a faster-paced lifestyle.

I grew up with record albums, having to get up off my ass to change the TV channel, and slow-cooked food.

They grew up with TV shows made for kids, downloadable music, and 400 cable channels. And they were forced to take way too many standardized tests in school — possibly irrelevant, but a violation of all that is good and holy.

How can you expect them to have an attention span?

Yet they are more nimble with technology, and can out-tweet us while driving or standing in the grocery checkout line.

Old People Have More Time, and yet Less Time (at the Same Time)

If seniors understand one thing about Life, it’s the cold reality that the show will soon be over. No amount of antioxidants will save us from eventually losing a chess match with Death.

The paradox is this: we geezers still tend to finish Medium articles.

Our behavior is not a result of having more time, but rather training to read novels and long-form magazine stories. Some of us have even been known to finish a whole New Yorker article!

Capricious Love

I could be way off base, but it feels warm and fuzzy to have a viable theory about why some articles get read and others get kicked to the curb. I know I’m not alone in my search for The Truth about The Medium Algorithm.

Why just today I read an article by our esteemed Rogue’s Gallery editor, Sherry McGuinn, about the mystery of how Medium pays and how articles go viral on this platform.

My theory? It’s like falling in love: the more you want it, the less it’s likely to happen.

Jean Campbell is a 4x top Medium writer who used to make an okay living until the algorithm changed. Now she is looking for a real job. If you liked this post, please subscribe to get her stories in your inbox.

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