Network Effects and Income Projections

Observations from my first week in the Medium Partner Program

Three months ago, I set out to replace my income with Medium. Last week I replaced 26% of it and verified the possibility.

The experience prompted a series of questions. Questions that needed answering!

  • How much is a ‘clap’ worth?

Wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the start.

I first discovered Medium through a Facebook post which linked to Gabriel’s documentation of a 90-day challenge to build a marketing agency.

I was so impressed by this endeavour that I emailed him with some encouragement:

Hey Gab,

I just finished reading Day-6 of your journey on Medium and have to say I’m loving it and look forward to following from now on.

…I’m just starting out on my journey, and your story on Medium has got me thinking about using it for a platform to tell my own story. I just have to figure out if it’s the right place to tell it – and I’m more of a writer so think it could be!

Serendipity huh.

At the time I was researching Flow, resulting in my first piece: Dunkirk and the Flow State of Humanity. It didn’t have a lot to do with my ‘journey’ as such, but I remember having a ‘just do it’ attitude. This approach to writing is fraught with fear. Yes, it’s possible you’ve written something brilliant, but there’s also a chance it’s brilliantly boring.

After crawling out from under my crushing anxiety of the later, I clicked Publish. Then, when nobody ended up reading my work, decided to explore the community.

It didn’t take me long to find some of the many great writers on Medium. Their words silently expressing a place among them would need to be earned.

It was then I discovered Responses, and, having only experienced Comments, was excited to find that I could create one with the full range of editing options.

This platform was different. I wasn’t sure how different but at that moment I intuitively knew that I had found my platform.

“My main luxury in those years – a necessary luxury, in fact – was the ability to work in and out of my home-base fortress in Woody Creek. It was a very important psychic anchor for me, a crucial grounding point where I always knew I had love, friends, & good neighbours. It was like my personal Lighthouse that I could see from anywhere in the world-no matter where I was, or how weird & crazy & dangerous it got, everything would be okay if I could just make it home. When I made that hairpin turn up the hill onto Woody Creek Road, I knew I was safe.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Medium feels like home.

In an online space where most platforms feel like fragmented icebergs melting into a sea of continuous partial attention, Medium feels like an island on which one can find solace.

Ev Williams and the team at Medium have created something game-changing. A beautiful piece of disruptive art. Also, as if to prove my intuitions, this week Medium paid for a full year of my membership fees.

I recently wrote a behemoth of an article entitled 10 Days Without a Smartphone. I thought that no one in their right mind would even read it given the 22-minute length. But I was wrong and quite happy to be.

Stats Week 1

If you’re unaware of how Stats work, that’s 1.8K Views, 302 Reads, 16% Read Ratio and 70 Fans.

It’s my most-read piece and currently has 506 claps from 70 fans and 17 highlights from 8 different people.

First, I would like to thank Ev and everyone at Medium for making this possible. Secondly, I would like to thank the Medium Staff for featuring my work both in the Technology and Productivity topics.

Also a big thanks to everyone who read, engaged and shared it. With special thanks to Jon, Tysh, and Alexandra who spent 10 seconds of their lives clapping to 50 – you make me feel like a packet of limited edition Szechuan dipping sauce.

Finally, thanks to my friend Chris for editing and making it readable, and whose assistance I don’t have this time, so wish yourselves luck (I’m trying to learn how to edit, so you’re in the hands of Grammarly and Hemingway).

It’s because of you all that I’m beginning to feel like there’s a chance I could make a living from my writing. And to show grounds for such a feeling, I give you a look behind the mysterious Paywall:

Behind the Paywall

Network Effects

I posted my article on the 31st of October and waited. A few hours past and I had 7 Views and 0 Reads. Okay, I’m going to bed, I thought.

As Medium is an American-based platform, it’s likely where the majority of the 60 million readers reside. Thus, most of my potential readers are often asleep while I’m writing and/or publishing. With this in mind, I drifted off to sleep with the hopes of receiving at least a golf clap next round.

I woke the following morning and checked my stats: 0 Views, 0 Reads.

Cooling off, I started work on another, shorter piece thinking that perhaps long-form content wasn’t native to Medium.

But I soon learned that Medium is a place for every writer and any style of writing when Ifeanyi gave me eight claps and kept me from going insane. (Thanks, Ifeanyi. You’re not only living your dream but also making mine come true!)

It wasn’t long after that the effects of being featured in the Medium topics became evident, and things snowballed from there. To give you some perspective my next most-read article has 34 Views, 19 Reads and 3 Fans. So you can understand why I was kind of like, “Look, Mum, I made it” haha.

After a few days, the stats began to drop. I had made a point of not promoting the article myself and so expected this, wanting to track the organic reach instead. Medium is said to have excellent inbuilt network effects.

Confirming this, on 7th of November, Medium Tweeted out my article. It received 63 Likes, 3 Replies, and 14 Re-tweets. Although it may not seem like much at first, it’s everything. Not only did they Tweet it, but they did so eight days after I first published it.

It feels considered. It supports the writer through staggered promotion while also distributing content to readers in an ICYMI fashion. Either that or they’re behind on their Twitter.

Regardless, it has since become my second biggest referral source for this piece. On that day it helped generate the most views for the whole week (566).

Here’s a screenshot of the top referral sources over 100 Views:

Referral Sources

Twitter is a big deal when it comes to Medium. It makes a lot of sense given that originally I think a Medium user required a Twitter account to sign into the platform. Not to mention Ev Williams was a Twitter’s co-founder, its CEO for two years and remains on the board today.

Although I’ve had a Twitter account since 2012, I’ve never used it but given the gravity of the platform have decided to re-focus my attention. I actually consider it to be a sleeper when it comes to investment, especially considering my experience with Periscope.

Also, as stated in my smartphone piece, Reddit is an incredibly underutilised platform and one that I plan to invest more time in as part of my Medium strategy.

Engaging with people just makes you better.

On the 9th of November Medium also shared my piece on Facebook where it received 18 Likes, 1 Comment, and 2 Shares. If you combine this with the above Tweet, it gives my piece a potential reach of 2.63 million readers.

Of course, given my stats, it’s probable I only reached 0.001% of those, but it’s still a 1,000% increase in my current reach.

Aside from the above, it’s also a lot of fun to try and track down where the general public has shared your work. So far I’ve found thirteen Tweets and 1 Facebook Post, increasing my reach to a further 5,000+ potential readers.

Interacting with those who do share your work is important and can often lead to a great value exchange. As an example, I recently learned about continuous partial attention. I mentioned it earlier, and it’s a concept which one of my readers introduced me to through Twitter.

Engaging with people just makes you better.

Income Projections

My goal at this point is to replace my income, which currently equates to approx. $500 (USD)/fortnight. The time-frame I’ve set to achieve this is about four months or 16 weeks.

Let’s break down the feasibility of making $500/fortnight by the deadline.

In another article, I stated my belief that the future of employment is one where individuals aggregate various types/sources of income – and for some YouTube stars and Social Media celebrities, this is already the reality.

So far I’ve observed a few major unknowns when it comes to building your income with Medium.

First, although I made $62.25 (USD) in the first week my article was published, it’s not a guaranteed income going forward and is likely to evaporate unless I market through social media’s etc.

Secondly, the ratio of claps to dollars is subject to change, so this is something I’ll have to keep an eye on and measure over time. My observations on this latest experience haven’t been very specific, but, from the 500+ claps my piece has generated, I think the $62.25 is based on about 400. A ratio of .15 cents per clap.

Now, all this is happy days, but the puzzle’s a bit more complicated and even has a few pieces missing. As I pointed out earlier, I received a few x50 claps from individuals, and this helped increase the average number of claps per Fan to 7.2.

To weigh in on the debate, I think claps are a brilliant metric and one that works very well for valuing pieces. However, I’m not sure how much of an effect this weighting has on the profit each piece generates.

The lack of information means that I’ll need more time to gain a more accurate picture of what’s affecting the bottom line. Also, as may be evident I haven’t done a lot of external research, and so my understanding is limited to my experience. There’s a chance I’m going about this the wrong way, so I’ll need to have a read of other writers’ experiences.

Another major unknowns for me is how successful my pieces will be over time, which, paradoxically, is the only thing that’s going to tell me if they are.

Thus, more observations will need to be made over the next couple of months to get a complete picture of the puzzle. That said, we do have a little bit of data so I’ll try to make at least one conclusion.

If Medium rewards pieces dependent on their weight, which is determined by how many claps each reader gives, my article 10 Days Without a Smartphone currently has a weight of 7.

So we can say that if your piece has approx. 400 claps from 70 Fans at a weight of 7 then it’s likely that in a seven day period you could earn around $62.25. I would need to write five pieces of a similar quality to reach my goal of $500. Then, probably another five pieces to account for depreciation and so on.

In summary, this experience has given me a deeper understanding of Medium and confirmed that I’m on the right track. I now feel confident that I can achieve 100% replacement, all things remaining constant.

Until then, I guess it’s rice, tuna and writing every day.

Perhaps the greatest gift that we can give to each other is a greater understanding of ourselves.