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A new Boost for top stories

Suggested by our community, confirmed by humans, delivered by robots

Tony Stubblebine
The Medium Blog
Published in
5 min readFeb 21, 2023

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Starting today, some authors may see a notification on their story stats page and in their inbox that says their story has been Boosted.

Stats for a story that has been Boosted.

An important reason authors choose Medium is to give their stories a chance to be seen by more readers. Authors shouldn’t be required to build their own audience or mailing list to share their ideas and knowledge. Often, the best writing comes from people who don’t want to be audience builders. With the rise of the creator economy, these doers are often left out. Our goal is to find the best individual stories, regardless of who wrote them, and give those stories a wider audience.

We’ve always had many ways to boost a story on Medium, including our recommendation algorithm, tags, newsletters, and publications.

What we are launching today is a much bigger Boost.

For now we’re just calling it Boost, but given that we have other mechanisms for boosting stories in the works (especially for evergreen and canonical stories), we may have to eventually rename it to be something more specific. For now, it’s the highest-level boost — worthy of a capital B Boost.

There are three factors determining the process by which stories will get Boosted:

  1. We are relying on publication editors to send in suggestions. They are our community curators.
  2. Humans at Medium, aka our internal curation team, confirm these suggestions according to our distribution standards.
  3. Our algorithms match these high-quality story suggestions with the readers most likely to be interested in each story, and weight those stories for extra distribution across Medium.

These three factors deserve a bit more explanation.

Community curation

In this era of information overload, it’s time for the creator economy to be paired with a curator economy.

We are currently working with 15 publication editors to find and submit story suggestions for the Boost. We will be onboarding 15 more publications, and our goal is to work with all publications that want to participate. However, we do need some ramp-up time to get there. If you are a publication editor interested in working with us in the ramp-up time (and you can handle some growing pains as we refine our process), please fill out this form to express your interest. Curators will be paid for their work based on the number of stories that they successfully nominate for Boost.

What we’re looking for from curators, for lack of a better word, is taste. The definition of taste varies by topic. For some, taste may lie almost entirely in the personal preferences of each reader. But on many topics, taste comes down to having the experience to know what is true, what matters, and where there is debate. Readers have a lot of say in what curation they’ll see simply by which publications they follow. Importantly, we expect this change to do a lot for niche and specialty publications.

Internal curation team

Our goal is to work in partnership with community curators to maintain a high standard for stories that get this Boost: stories that are constructive, original, written from relevant experience, well-crafted, and memorable.

We’ve long had public standards for what is and isn’t distributed on the Medium network. As part of this change, we’re reorganizing those standards, although the gist is mainly the same. Here is the official link to the new standards.

Additionally, we have posted a story about the new standards for comment, questions, and suggestions. If you’d like to discuss these standards with us, go here.

The algorithm

Almost all articles on Medium will continue to get distributed by our recommendation algorithm. The exceptions continue to be the list of edge cases in our distribution standards. That algorithm looks at a lot of signals including what topics a reader follows, what they read, who they follow, and what people they follow read and clap for.

This algorithm has been weighted for engagement, which is not the same thing as providing satisfying reads. We can say that clearly, based both on seeing what the algorithm recommends and hearing from so many Medium readers. The intention of this Boost is to find and promote more stories that outperform the algorithm.

In the case of Boosted stories, the algorithm is taking a back seat to human curation. Instead of being the judge of what’s good, the algorithm will play more of a matchmaking role between what humans think is good and what readers like to read.

I’m sure our community will have questions about these changes, but first I want to address any temptation to write for the algorithms or curators. I think it’s always worth saying: Start by writing what you want to write. We want to reward you for writing your best stuff, but only you know what that is.

Here are answers to some questions we anticipate you might have. I’ll also add updates here based on questions I see in the responses.

  • Who qualifies for this new Boost? Everyone.
  • Does your story have to be in a publication to be Boosted? No. It does help a little, but publication editors have been suggesting stories from across all of Medium.
  • How big is the Boost? We had a soft launch for the Boost for a few weeks, so that we could test the algorithmic changes. In that period, we’ve seen boosts between 500 views and 100,000 views. Our goal is that every Boosted story should get at least 500 extra views within the first week. In practice, that’s usually enough to tip a story over to a much, much wider audience.
  • Will you share which publications are curating? No, for two reasons. The first is that it’s the job of these curators to find you. The second is that listing them now has a tendency to stick when we expect it to shortly be many or most publications.

Our goals with these changes are both to deepen our reader’s understanding of the world by making it worthwhile for authors to share their very best ideas and very best information.

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