Who are Medium’s Curators and What do They do?
Medium’s editorial curation team is tasked with reviewing thousands of stories every day. They have 30–50 curators with a diverse set of interests and experiences. Some come from writing and editing backgrounds, while others have specific expertise in fields that are popular on Medium.
The curators look for quality stories on Medium. When they select a story, they then add it to topics, which makes those stories eligible for personalized distribution and promotion across Medium — on the homepage, on topic pages, in our app, in our Daily Digest newsletter, and in other emails.
Below is a job listing that was posted by Medium awhile back, that may offer some insight into the curators role:
Is Having Your Story Distributed by Medium’s Curators Essential to Success on Medium?
Yes and no. If you have no following, are writing fiction or poetry, or have no experience with SEO — it is going to be very hard to receive views and gain traction on Medium.
Curators have a lot of say in selecting “the best writing.” Curators are the gate keepers of Medium’s coveted homepage, topic pages/top writers, the Daily Digest newsletter, and other emails that millions receive.
Before I explain how you can succeed without being curated, it’s worth reviewing the list of Medium’s topics. These represent all the categories that your article can be curated in. While many other tags exist, these are the topics that your article must be relevant to.
What are the Medium Categories for Possible Curator Selection?
Arts & Entertainment
Innovation & Tech
Does Being Featured in Multiple Topics Result in Exponentially More Article Views?
This is a question I have been asked a lot. While it is not a very large sample size, below is some of the data on my own articles (the ones that have been curated). Clearly curation is not a guarantee of success and being selected for multiple topics has a surprisingly small multiplier effect.
So What do Curators Look for in Potential Articles to Distribute?
Curators use the editorial standards listed below as well as their own assessment of quality to determine whether to recommend a story to readers. Curators are looking for stories that are insightful and well-written. However, I can personally attest that my best articles are never selected for curation. So don’t take it too hard if they don’t select your article.
Here are some things our curators are looking for:
- Headlines: Write a clear and descriptive title and subtitle for your story. Headlines should accurately reflect what your story is about. Medium states it does not prefer click bait, but let’s be real — many of the featured articles are click bait or at least strongly misleading.
- While note required, standard headline styling is title case for the headline and sentence case for the subtitle (example title: Do These Three Things and Be Successful Forever, not Do this one thing and be successful). If you’re not sure when to capitalize a certain word, there are conversion tools online, like TitleCase. Although there are exceptions, a cursory glance at the Medium home page suggests this is essentially a rule:
- Do not use the word Medium in your article title. This will almost guarantee that you will not be curated (this article will not be curated because of this). Medium does not want to appear to be pushing content about themselves.
- Images: You need to include a featured image with your story. Size of the image can vary, but generally medium or large images seem to be preferred. If you want to learn more about choosing the perfect image for your Medium article, check out my previous post specifically on this topic:
- Citations: If you are writing about science, medicine, health, statistics, or some other similar topic, try to cite sources. Anecdotally, it’s best if there is a bit of diversity among those sources (i.e. not having all your sources come from a single article or single newspaper).
- Tags: Tagging your story accurately can help curators select it, so that it is ultimately disseminated to readers. When you type your tags, Medium suggests others and tells you how popular they are. Having a lot of good content in one tag also influences “Top Writer” status.
So How Can I Still be Successful if my Article is Not Curated?
- Promote your article across social media and other publishing platforms (although the very fact you choose to use Medium suggests that you want to spend your time writing as opposed to promoting your content).
- Have a large following who still reliably read most of your content (although if you are reading this article that is most likely not the case).
- Focus on writing high quality content that addresses a niche need or question and allow Google and other search engines time to index your content and let it climb the search results through repeated reader engagement (learn SEO).
Even if the Medium curators/internal search algorithm “fails” your article, it is still possible to obtain large amount of views and have your content shared with a large audience.
To illustrate this point, I’m going to show you the analytics behind two Medium articles I published. An article that essentially went viral and had a very brief, but massive surge in views, Uber’s Latest Scandal: Vomit Fraud and an article that grew in momentum months after being published, How to Bypass Virtually Every News Paywall.
The viral article achieved massive traffic over a few days, and I imagine this is the trajectory of many articles that are selected by curators on Medium. And this makes sense because Medium’s algorithm places an extremely high emphasis on the recency of articles. The Medium analytics for this article underscore this trajectory:
The paywall article was published on February 6th and follows a much different trajectory. As you can see from the screenshots of my Medium article analytics, below, the article initially saw a surge of traffic a few days in.
Traffic then remained flat for over a month before it jumped from being completely overlooked (Google Search Results Page 10+) to being somewhat accessible (Google Search Results Page 3–5). Also worth noting, the article was almost immediately indexed in Google after publication due to: (1) Medium being a publishing platform with high domain authority; (2) The initial surge of traffic ensured it would be indexed quickly.
As the article oscillates in page rank in Google’s search algorithm, daily traffic continues to grow at a steady rate:
Now, in May and June, several months after the initial article was published, traffic is still consistently growing.
As of this article’s publication, this article that seemingly dived off the Medium radar is averaging over 1,000 views per day and is approaching 73,000 views, in total!
What caused this? First, views continued to grow at a fairly steady pace as the article climbed page rank in Google’s search engine. It gradually reached the bottom of the first page, then the number one spot on page 1, and finally it started becoming the featured snippet (position 0) in Google’s Search results.