Medium Is Building a Monetized Alternative to Twitter

How writers can leverage new shortform posts

Thomas Smith
Nov 29, 2020 · 8 min read
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Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

If you got paid $0.50 to $1.00 (or more) for every Tweet you wrote, would you use Twitter more often? Most content creators would almost certainly answer with an emphatic “Yes!”

As part of recent sweeping changes to the platform, Medium has rolled out new options for shortform posts. Michelle Legro covers these in detail in a new post on the Medium Creator Hub.

Medium’s shortform options essentially serve as a members-only, monetized version of Twitter.

Writers on Medium (especially those with a following) can use shortform posts to perform many of the same functions as a Tweet, while potentially getting paid for their posts through Medium’s Partner Program — or taking advantage of expanded reach through Medium curation functions and their existing Medium audience.

Here’s how Medium writers can leverage the platform’s new shortform writing functions to grow their reach, create more content and earn more.

The Basics: How to Write a Shortform Post

Let’s start with the basics — what’s a shortform post, and how do you make one?

Shortform posts are Medium articles which are 150 words or less. Because the average English word is 4.9 characters long, that means that a shortform article is likely around 735 characters. Tweets are currently limited to 280 characters, so that means that shortform Medium articles can be about 2.5x longer than your longest Tweet. Shortform articles are generally a 1–2 minute read.

Why 150 words? Any article longer than 150 words displays with a Read More button on Medium. If you keep your articles under 150 words, Medium says in their recent post about shortform, they’ll display in their entirety on your profile, or on the landing page of your publication. Readers can consume the entire shortform post without having to click through to a second page via a Read More button.

You can write shortform posts longer than 150 words, but if you want to take advantage of having the full post display without a Read More, you should keep shortform posts to 150 words or less. Again, this is coming straight from Medium, so writers would be wise to heed this cutoff.

Medium has hinted about new shortform options since they announced sweeping platform changes in mid-2020. But one recent surprise was the revelation that the systems for creating shortform posts are actually already live, and likely have been for months. You may have seen these posts already, if you follow Medium’s in-house publications, which have been using them at least since July 2020.

How do you actually create one? It’s simple. As Medium explains on the Creator Hub, you start a new story, and instead of including a headline and photo at the beginning, you bold the first sentence. You then write your story as normal, ideally keeping the whole thing under 150 words. You can tag your story as you would normally.

Here’s an example of a shortform post from Medium’s Creator Hub article:

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Courtesy Medium.

There’s a bolded first line, no headline/image, and then less than 150 words of text. This cues Medium into the fact that you’re writing a shortform post.

What to Include

What should you include in your shortform posts? Really, it can be anything you want — or anything you feel provides value to your own audience. For their part, Medium says “When it comes to publishing shortform, variation — and consistency within that variation — is the key.”

Here are some things a shortform post can do:

  • Share a great story from another Medium writer, that you think would be relevant to your audience
  • Discuss breaking news or a new announcement in your industry. Because shortform posts are fast to write, you can respond to events as they happen and keep your audience informed.
  • Highlight one of your older stories, which has new relevance based on the time of year, a new story you’ve just written, etc. For example, I recently highlighted a story I wrote in 2019 about Black Friday, since it’s now Black Friday again and the story was once again relevant.
  • Quickly respond to another writer’s story. Just read a story that got you really excited — for fired up and ready to argue? Publish a response sharing your opinion on another writer’s piece as a shortform post.
  • Highlight recent work that fits into a trend. Shortform posts are great for “roundups” of your recent work. Maybe you just published 5 stories over the last month about home decor. Tie them together with links in a single shortform post, so readers can see them all organized together in a thread. Medium’s Coronavirus Blog does a great job of doing this to summarize recent Covid-19 news.
  • Share an off-platform story. Not all great content lives on Medium. Shortform posts are a great way to link out to and discuss great articles published on another platform.
  • Share a photo or video. Shortform posts are perfect for sharing a single video or photo. Write your intro sentence/sentences, then embed the photo or video into your post.
  • Tease a future story. Planning something great? You can use a shortform post to “tease” a future story that you have in the works, and get readers excited about it. You can even include a few lines from the story in your teaser post, so readers get a taste of what you’re developing and want to come back to see the whole piece when it’s published. This is also a great way to grow your reach by encouraging readers to follow you, so they can see the full story the moment it goes live.

From a practical standpoint, Medium says it’s a great idea to tag other writers in your shortform posts, and to tag stories that you mention in the post.

To tag a Medium writer, start with the @ sign, and begin to type their Medium handle. The platform will show a list of writers. Click on the writer you want to tag, and they name will appear in green in your story. When you publish your shortform post, they’ll receive a notification.

To tag a specific Medium story, copy the link to the story, paste it into your post, and hit enter. The story will appear in a box in your post.

Benefits of Shortform Posts for Writers

Medium’s shortform stories, to be blunt, are very much like Tweets. They serve many of the same functions as a Tweet (discussing breaking news, updating your audience about what you’re working on, etc), except that the can be members-only and monetized.

What are the benefits to writers of creating shortform posts on Medium?

  • They’re super easy and fast to create. How long does it take you to write 150 words? Probably no time at all. Shortform posts are great because they’re simple and fast to create. That means you can respond immediately to breaking news events, or be prolific in your content creation by publishing much more frequently.
  • They allow you to curate. Tim Denning recently said that audiences don’t seek content — they seek curated content. Your role as a creator is sometimes to create things totally from scratch. But sometimes it’s just to serve as a curator, gathering the best content from your own work or other sources which will have relevance to your audience. Curation isn’t “cheating” — choosing the best content and sharing it (with attribution, of course) is extremely valuable to your audience. Shortform posts make it super easy to find a great article, write a brief comment on it, and share it with your audience, curating the best content for them to consume.
  • They’re monetized. If you choose to lock your post down behind Medium’s paywall, it will be monetized just like any other Medium post if you’re in the Medium Partner Program. Shortform posts are short, so you’re unlikely to get a ton of reading time. But I find that with an audience of 5,000+ followers on Medium, my shortform posts earn about $0.25 to $2.00 each. Writing these shortform posts is a bit like being paid around $1 for each of your Tweets.
  • They’re eligible for curation and can go in publications. Medium used to only rarely curate posts shorter than 3 minutes. They’ve since removed this restriction. While curation is a lower priority overall on the new Medium, shortform posts are still eligible for curation. You can also publish them in publications — either your own or another publication on the platform.
  • They connect you to other writers and readers. When you tag another writer in your shortform post, they get a notification. It’s a great way to ping other writers, share something you love about their piece, promote their work to your audience, and build community overall.
  • They’re a great way to experiment. Shortform posts are fast for you to create, and fast for your audience to read. That makes them perfect for experimentation. You can try something totally new with a shortform post, and see if your audience responds to it. If they love it, you can build the idea into longform content. If they hate it, you’ve only wasted 1–2 minutes of their time.

An Example

Here’s an example of a recent shortform post that I wrote:

  • It’s a 1 minute read.
  • There’s a bolded first sentence, no featured image, and no headline.
  • It was curated in Marketing.
  • It will likely be published in the Startup.
  • It shares a photo and a previous article I wrote.
  • It’s gotten 78 views and earned me $0.45 in the first three days online. That’s not a lot, but it’s also not bad for a story that took about 60 seconds to write.
  • It probably drove some views to my old story, too.

Make Shortform Your Own

Medium’s shortform posts are a bit like a monetized, promoted version of Twitter. Shortform posts serve many of the same functions as Tweets, but on the Medium platform. You can even repurpose your best Tweets are shortform stories if you want.

They’re super fast and easy to write, allow you to experiment with new ideas, and can be used to highlight your own relevant work, the work of others, or to share and comment on breaking events.

As a Medium writer, start testing out shortform posts and see what your audience engages with. As Medium says, each writer and each audience will find different value in this new format — whether that’s sharing stories you’ve curated, sharing industry announcements, building community, or more.

You can write a shortform post in a few minutes. Try it right now — press the Write button, think of something brief to say, and create your first shortform post today.

For more of my tips and advice about Medium, visit http://www.thriveonmedium.com

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Thomas Smith

Written by

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography. My tips for Medium success: ThriveOnMedium.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Thomas Smith

Written by

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography. My tips for Medium success: ThriveOnMedium.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

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