Answering Your Questions for Medium’s “Elevators”
A follow-up to our Q & A with Stephanie Georgopulos and Harris Sockel, editors at Medium who search for great stories on the platform
Recently, we interviewed Stephanie Georgopulos and Harris Sockel, editors at Medium who work with independent, self-publishing writers on the platform to help their work reach a wider audience. Steph and Harris spoke about the benefits of publishing on Medium, shared a few of their favorite stories, explained how the metered paywall works, and gave their advice for writers.
In response, many Medium writers (and readers) expressed gratitude and excitement about our efforts to “elevate” independent voices on the platform. Many were inspired to self-publish more stories this year and to — in Georgopulos’ words — “focus on finding their voice.”
We also received some great questions in the responses about how Steph and Harris do what they do, which we answer below.
How do I make sure my story is seen by Medium’s editors?
The best way to make sure we see your story is to focus on quality. Our curators use our published curation guidelines to review posts for distribution and flag promising ones to us. We’re always searching for great writing that’s hiding beneath the surface.
When we do find something we love, we reach out to the writer. To make sure you receive our offers to feature your work, check the “Outreach from the Editorial team” box in your email settings.
What subject areas do you focus on? How do you decide which stories are featured?
We’re primarily looking for general interest stories that will resonate with our readers — relevant, authentic, compelling perspectives that help us understand ourselves and the world around us. Within that, there’s a lot of variety. Here are a few of our favorites from the past month, to give you a sense of the range of stories we work on:
A reflection on the consequences of climate change — and plastic — by writer and comedian Andy Haynes: “One Nation, Wrapped in Plastic”
Amazon software engineer Bhavya Kashyap on the narrow definition of engineering perpetuated by coding bootcamps: “You Can’t Build an iPhone with Python”
Reporter Yuming Fang visited a maternal hotel in California, where women from abroad travel to give birth in the U.S.: “Inside the World of Birth Tourism”
Journalist Jon Ward on our hyper-polarizing political moment — and how we might be able to come together: “How to Get Off the Nauseating Thrill Ride of U.S. Politics”
Poet Jessica Semaan on learning to listen to yourself: “To Become the Woman I Am”
A 100-plus-year-old slice of history that contextualizes the world we live in now, by Catherine Prendergast: “What Abortion Was Like in 1907”
We are working on expanding our topic coverage and increasing the number of stories we can workshop. We’re planning to go deep on lots of topics including niche areas we know our members are interested in — like cryptocurrency and digital design. A first step toward doing that is hiring more editors. Recently, we posted three open positions: Platform Editors for Politics, Design, and Cryptocurrency. We encourage anyone obsessed with great writing to apply.
Do you consider stories that aren’t written by writers enrolled in the Partner Program?
Yes — we review stories by all writers equally, regardless of whether the writer is in the Partner Program. When we find a great story that’s not eligible to be part of our metered paywall, we reach out to the writer to ask them to meter it as part of the elevating process. We also encourage them to sign up for the Partner Program to earn money based on member engagement. We pay on a royalty model, so stories keep paying off, as long as people are engaging with them. We’ve designed our Partner Program payment system to reward quality, and we’re always adjusting and working to improve that system. So we encourage writers to do the type of work that has lasting value. As our subscriber base grows, we will increase the payouts that go to partner writers (as well as increase our commissioning budget).
How do you avoid favoritism? How do you make sure you’re promoting diverse voices?
A few specific parts of our process keep us honest. We review stories and writers at the end of each month to gut check our output: For example, we look at the percentage of recurring writers vs. new writers. (Last quarter, over 70 percent of Elevated stories came from authors we’ve never worked with before.) We also look at supply and demand in the topics our members read most to determine our areas of focus. While taste (or preference) plays a large role in our work, data provides the framework for much of it.
That’s not to say it informs every decision we make — we believe, at minimum, in using a blend of science and taste — but it does help us prioritize. We have plans to expand this program in 2019 (and beyond), and we hope to explore new areas of opportunity that aren’t necessarily reflected in the data.
Lastly, we have a curation team of more than ~20 curators based around the world. They do the lion’s share of distributing stories via Topics (which also power recommendations on the homepage and the Daily Digest). Our curators make up a pretty diverse group, representing five continents and a range of backgrounds, from teaching to writing to technology. Their work is set up in such a way that a single curator doesn’t usually review the same writer every time. Our curation system (built by our amazing engineers) supports that work — and ours.
Do you work with non-English-speaking writers?
Not currently — but as we scale, we hope we’ll be able to.