“How can I get Boosted?”
A clear answer from a Medium employee who actually knows (because friends don’t let friends get Medium advice from randos)
I’ve had several conversations this week with writers saying variations of the same thing: "It’s hard to find a wider readership on the platform. How can I make sure that Medium’s curation team sees my writing so that I can hopefully get Boosted?"
This is a hot topic for me, because… that feeling? That sense of shouting into the void, of not feeling seen, of wishing someone would acknowledge your work?
I know this feeling very, very well. It's lonely and frustrating and painful.
See, before I was a Medium Product Manager, I was a writer for 25 years. So that feeling of being invisible? That feeling that your work isn't finding its people?
…That feeling is deeply familiar to me.
…And that feeling is exactly what my work with Medium's Boost Nomination Pilot is seeking to address.
Let me explain how.
First, a history lesson
Medium used to lean heavily on algorithms to help us find the content to distribute more widely on the platform — but that approach rewarded popularity contests, clickbaiters, and content mills.
The experience of reading on Medium was a bummer, filled with listicles and what felt an awful lot like multi-level marketing. (10 ways to make $10k from Medium in 10 days! … By writing listicles about 10 ways to make $10k from Medium in 10 days!!!)
And the experience of writing on Medium was even worse. It was more about conspiracy theories, growth hacking, and gaming the system than it was about expressing yourself, sharing wisdom, or connecting with readers.
So, in 2022, we switched to a more human-focused approach, one with actual humans curating stories. Stories that met our quality guidelines were selected for Boosting, which is a more broad distribution across the platform.
Boosted stories have a 95% likelihood of getting 500 additional views over the course of two weeks. You can read more about the launch of Boost in this story Medium's CEO Tony Stubblebine published last February:
A new Boost for top stories
Suggested by our community, confirmed by humans, delivered by robots
Part of what I love about this shift towards human-centered curation is that it gets writers back to writing for, well, humans. As someone who's been writing for algorithms for decades (SEO keywords for the googz, a little bit of drama for Facebook, just the right subject lines for the newsletter…), I'm so ready for a world where we are humans writing for fellow humans.
Personally, I need less information (I’m drowning in information!), and more humanity.
But our internal team of human curators can only read so many stories a day — they’re not robots. They’re humans. They can't be niche experts in absolutely every topic. (Again: humans, not robots.)
So the question is how to make this human-centered curation system scale. How can we help even more writers reach even more readers, and how can we do it in a way that supports writing for humans instead of robots?
That's why we started working with independent publication editors.
How the Boost Nomination Pilot helps writers reach more readers
The Boost Nomination Pilot (BNP) is Medium's way of finding more stories to Boost. To do this, the program taps into the knowledge and networks of independent publication editors using Medium.
(I want to be clear that the publications participating in the BNP are all independently operated — these are not publications being run by Medium staff. Anyone can become a publisher on Medium, and then any publisher can get on the BNP waitlist.)
The indie publication editors in the Boost Nomination Pilot act as a vector to help us find great stories from more unknown writers, in the hope of helping more those writers connect with more readers.
- Nominators help us find more great stories to Boost on the platform, helping us discover writers that we might not otherwise have come across
- Nominators also help writers with their craft — many nominators offer hands-on guidance and editing support for the writers they're nominating
When we launched the Boost Nomination Pilot as a test last year, we wanted to find out if editors running publications on Medium could help us find more stories and help more writers.
…And it's working!
By having these indie publication editors nominate stories for our curation team to review, we've massively expanded the number of writers being seen by curation! Thousands a month!
Nominators are also helping us educate writers about how best to craft stories that work for Boost. Each nominator can submit 20 stories a month for Boost consideration, and after a few months of learning, they start to get a sense of what works and what doesn't work for Boost.
The nominators then share this information with their writers, and everybody benefits:
- Writers get their stories seen by more readers (potentially earning more in the Medium Partner Program)
- Nominators get a flat-fee compensation for stories they nominate that get Boosted (up to $900/mo)
- Medium has more wonderful stories to share
- Readers have more to read: a deep daily trove of human-written and human-curated stories about topics humans actually care about
Every month, we Boost stories from thousands of writers, many of whom are getting Boosted for the first time.
Nominators are chosen for their niche expertise — some of them are focused on programming, others on narrative nonfiction or essay, others on science fiction or poetry, others on guidance for new writers, others focused on design or science, others on philosophy or politics.
And yep, there's an official list of participating publications on the Medium Blog:
Meet 70+ publishers in the Boost Nomination Pilot
Meet some of the folks nominating stories for Boost
These publishers are also included in our massive list of publications that have told us they’re currently accepting submissions:
Remember: Boosting is just one way distribution happens on Medium.
No writer should ever feel like they have to focus on writing for Boost — every month, there are five times as many UN-Boosted stories on Medium that find large readerships on Medium, as there are Boosted stories that find large readership.
Sometimes writers will tell me about a story that was nominated and declined for Boost, but that ended up doing great. The general vibe seems to be “See, the curators screwed up!” but I don’t see it that way. I know that thousands of un-Boosted stories do great on Medium every month — and I love that for everyone! Boosting is just one of many ways to find success on Medium, and not every great story is a fit for Boosting.
There are thousands of successful writers on Medium who never get Boosted. Some of these folks already established followings, and are reaching their readers that way. Some folks write Medium stories that pick up SEO steam and appear in search results. Some very successful writers love writing about topics that aren't eligible for Boost — stuff like meta (stories on Medium about writing on Medium), sexuality, or true crime.
A story doesn’t have to be Boosted to be successful.
…honestly, if you’re writing with a singular goal of having every story Boosted, you’re going to get in the way of yourself as a writer. Writing matters; you can and should have loftier goals than simply to get Boosted on Medium.
I love that last line, but the whole post is solid gold:
Updates to our Quality Guidelines for sensitive content
Improving the standard of care for Medium readers, with advice to writers
In summary, while there are many ways to reach readers on Medium, my goal with the Boost Nomination Pilot is for us to have a clear answer for writers who ask, "What's my path to being seen by Medium curation, and hopefully finding more readers?"
Here's the easy answer: Find an indie publication in the BNP that aligns with your style and start submitting.
If you don’t find a publication that fits for you, consider starting one! My goal is to have 1000 publications nominating stories. It will take us some time to get there, but that's where I’m heading.
The real goal here? Helping my fellow writers understand that there’s a clear path for them to reach more readers on Medium, if that’s what they want to do. I want there to be a path away from that feeling of loneliness, frustration, and invisibility. 💖
As always, I'm ya gal in the responses, answering questions and holding hands… let me know if you've got any thoughts!