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A nosy FAQ about the Boost Nomination Pilot

From secret robes to hard numbers: all about our Boost Nomination Pilot program (including how to get involved!)

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We talked about Medium’s Boost in late February, when our CEO Tony announced the program’s launch, and then again last month when we interviewed one of the early participants in our community nomination beta program.

Today we wanted to pull back the curtain and spend some time deep diving into the pilot program we’re running to empower Medium’s community of publication editors to nominate stories for Boost. We’ve scaled the program from 15 to 62 nominators in the past few months, and if you’d like to help us scale it further, fill out this form.

As Medium’s Director of Publisher Growth, I’ve spent the last 15 years as an independent publisher running a network of websites. All those years in the content trenches mean that my focus is always on tools that support and lift up publication editors, and their writers.

With that in mind, here’s an (extremely thorough!) FAQ about how Medium is working with publication editors to use Boost, and how you can get involved.

First: remind me what Boost even is?

Boost is a new function we introduced back in February that makes it possible for hidden-gem stories to get great visibility across Medium. As our CEO Tony Stubblebine said then:

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.

Stories have two ways to get Boosted:

  • They may be nominated by our community of publication editors who are part of our pilot program, or
  • They may be Boosted by our internal curation team.

What happens after a story gets Boosted?

A Boosted story is served up to tens of thousands of readers across Medium’s platform to see if it’s a hit with our community.

95% of Boosted stories receive at least 500 hundred additional views within two weeks — but depending on how readers engage with a Boosted story, it can reach thousands or tens of thousands of readers.

While we wish every Boosted story was a huge hit with readers, ultimately this kind of curational targeting is deeply subjective, and we’re all still learning.

This graphic shows what happens to a story’s views after Boosting, based on data collected from Boosted stories in March:

A chart reads Does Boost work? And shows that 95% of Boosted stories get 500+ views, 73% of Boosted stories get 1k views, 20% of Boosted stories get 5k views, 8% get 10k views, and 1% get 50k views.
95% of Boosted stories get 500+ views with two weeks, 73% of Boosted stories get 1k views, 20% of Boosted stories get 5k views, 8% get 10k views, and 1% get 50k views.

It’s important to note while Boost increases a story’s chances of reaching a large audience by ten times, there are five times more stories that reach large audiences every month that have NOT been Boosted.

How do I know if a story has been Boosted?

If you’re the writer of the story, you’ll see it clearly in your story stats. If you’re a reader, we don’t yet have a way to show you that a story has been Boosted… we’re working on it!

Ok, so what’s this Boost nomination pilot?

Our Boost Nomination Pilot is our program to work in collaboration with Medium publication editors to nominate high-quality stories for Boost. These nominations are reviewed by Medium’s internal curation team. If a nominated story is approved for wider distribution, the nominator receives financial compensation. Nominators can make up to $900 USD total each month.

The goal is to tap into the incredible depth of knowledge in Medium’s community to help us increase the visibility of hidden gems: the high-quality Medium stories that readers might not otherwise find.

We at Medium are not experts in all areas, and we recognize that many subject matter experts are using Medium — often as publication editors. The Boost Nomination Pilot program is a step towards giving these experts more power to build community and help readers find stories that resonate with them.

Wait, now independent publication editors are in charge of Boosting?!

Nope. The stories that come in from nominators are reviewed and approved by our internal curation team before they are Boosted. Our long-term plan is that the vast majority of nominations will come via our community nominators. However, as of May 2023, only 43% do.

Who’s eligible to become a nominator?

Since payments are processed through the Medium Partner Program, you must be an active member of the Medium Partner Program to be eligible. Currently, we’re testing the program with a very small (but growing!) group of nominators.

Wait, how small?

We started with 15 in February, and now we’re up to a whopping 63 participants.

What the heck! Why aren’t there more people in the program?

Because the internal tools these nominators will use haven’t been built yet! We’re still in the testing phase, gathering information about how readers interact with Boosted content, how pilot program participants use their nominations, and how being Boosted affects writers’ stories.

We’re being intentional about building the right thing, which requires us to work closely with our community, learn what’s working and what isn’t, and iterate over time.

It’s a slower process but ultimately we will end up building something better for everyone involved.

How are nominators selected?

In Tony’s post in February, we linked to a form where publishers could express interest. We’re slowly inviting folks from that waitlist, based on factors such as:

  • Ensuring we have a broad range of publication topics: We want nomination tools to eventually be available to hundreds or even thousands of publications. For this pilot program, however, we’re limiting the number of publications but trying to ensure we have as broad a range of topics represented as possible.
  • The quality of the publication’s stories: Are they from a range of writers? Do the stories fit with our quality guidelines? Do the stories look Boost-worthy?
  • The publication’s submissions page: How does this publication speak to potential writers? Do they care about quality? Do they edit posts?
  • Keeping an eye on the diversity of participant identities:
    Our waitlist form asks folks if they identify as BIPOC, disabled, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent, nonbinary, a woman, or have veteran status — because we strongly believe that representation matters!

We’re inviting new nominators to join the program almost daily, and we’re aiming to reach 100 participants by September. Thanks for your patience!

Is the pilot program like a secret society of publication editors shrouded in mysterious cloaks, pulling levers behind the scenes?

I’m loving your imagery here, but it’s not really like that. Participants are welcome to wear whatever fits their personal style (might I suggest caftans as a great gendy neutch robe option?), and we encourage them to be as open as they want about their involvement.

Here are some examples of how nominators are talking about their participation with the pilot program:

As of yet, no one has gone on the record about caftans.

Updated to add this post sharing more publishers:

Ok, enough about nominators and their fashion choices. What kinds of stories get Boosted?

The stories nominated must all meet Medium’s standards for Boost distribution. We encourage nominators to amplify stories that feel like feature stories: constructive, well-crafted, memorable, original, and written by a credible author with relevant experience.

This last bit is significant. If the story feels like generic content or like it could be written by anyone with access to Wikipedia or ChatGPT, it’s not a good fit for Boost. For nonfiction writing, the best authors specifically tell readers why their advice or information can be trusted.

You mentioned non-fiction writing, but is fiction, humor, or poetry eligible for Boosting?

Yep! Assuming stories meet our Boost distribution standards, we strive to represent stories on all topics. Again, that means constructive, well-crafted, memorable, and original, written by a credible author with relevant experience.

Are longer stories eligible for Boosting?

Yes, longer stories are great! We think that’s one of Medium’s differentiators: in contrast to ad-driven media where it’s more about clicks/attention-grabbing, we’re a place for going deep. Remember, part of why Medium is called Medium is because our founder wanted there to be a place for medium-length writing on the internet!

The story has to be high-quality and readable, though, and the length has to feel justified. Sure we’ve all seen long posts that are low quality, but historically many of Medium’s most substantive and valuable posts are 10-minute+ reads. (For one example, see our CEO Tony Stubblebine’s 75-minute read about iPhone settings!)

Do stories with affiliate or other marketing links get Boosted?

Less frequently than stories without self-promotional links. The key is the impact of the story — does the story provide more value to the reader than it does to any companies, individuals, or products being linked? Is the author writing this story to add value for the reader, or simply to promote themselves and/or profit from the links?

So wait a minute, if I’m a writer who doesn’t submit to publications, does this mean I won’t ever get Boosted?

Nope, this does not mean that. Being featured in a publication is not required to get nominated or selected for Boost.

Our internal curation team Boosts stories daily, and most of these stories are not featured in publications. While most nominators are folks running publications, the stories they nominate for Boost are often not in their publications. Publication editors often are well-read across all of Medium, and they often find amazing undiscovered stories from lesser-known authors.

Submitting your work to a publication that is participating in the Boost Nomination Pilot can increase your visibility, but ultimately it’s just one of many ways that Boosting happens… and Boosting is just one of many ways that distribution happens on Medium.

That said, one of the reasons we’re working with publications in this way is that they can potentially provide writers with an additional layer of editing and support to help give stories a little extra love that might increase the chance of being Boosted.

The best way to make sure you’re eligible for Boosting is to ensure your story meets Medium’s distribution guidelines.

How do folks in the nomination pilot feel about it?

We asked current nominators to don their caftans and share their experiences with the program. Here’s what they had to say:

This is massively changing my publication for the better. We not only want to give writers a space, but we want them to know we take their voices seriously.
-ADEOLA SHEEHY-ADEKALE from Modern Women

The program makes me feel seen as a publication editor.
-Fabricio Teixeira from UX Collective

Nominating feels almost like a calling — I’ve always figured it’s my responsibility to amplify writers.
-Johnny Silvercloud from AfroSapiophile

This all sounds intriguing! How can I get involved?

If you edit a publication on Medium, you can join the waitlist by filling out this form. Please remember that we’re still in a limited beta, and the program is very small. We’re doing our best to learn quickly so that we can grow it, but learning takes time!

Updated to add

A few additional clarifying posts that were published after this one:

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Ariel Meadow Stallings
The Medium Blog

I'm a Medium product manager, but also a whole-ass person: author, publisher, devotional dancer, Seattleite, mom, and just a human humanning.