• Richie Crowley

Medium Just Made A Subtle Change To How They Measure Engagement

With no announcement, Medium just let all users know that engagement and quality work is no longer being measured by claps alone.

When reading a piece on Medium from your desktop, you may have noticed that scrolling with you are several icons on the left side of your screen. The first is the publication that the piece you are reading was published in, followed by a short description of that publication. Next, is the current number of claps before you’ve added your 50 to the total, and below this clapping hands icon is the opportunity to save the story in your bookmarks.

That was until last week.

Now, there is an additional icon.

The subtle change Medium just made was to increase the value of responses, making them as equitable as claps.

Inserted between the clap and save icons is now a quote bubble with a number next to it.

With no announcement, Medium just let all users know that engagement and quality work is no longer measured by claps alone.

Claps used to be the only indicator of quality work.

Save for publications which are more endorsements, the higher the number of claps communicated the quality of work within a piece.

So, we clicked, we read, we clapped.

But soon, writers learned how to gamify this.

Knowing that it only took 20 people, each clapping 50 times, to stamp each of their stories with a 1K claps marker, the universal signal of a worthwhile read on Medium, writing pods, private groups and email chains opened with the sole purpose of accelerating stories towards 1k claps.

You didn’t even need to read a story to clap 50 times.

The stat that signaled engagement actually required zero engagement.

I know this because I did it.

I manipulated interest in an effort to increase views and reading time on my stories.

It’s too competitive to think we can succeed by just pressing publish. Or so I told myself.

What’s been neglected this whole time have been comments.

Comments, unlike claps, actually measure interest and engagement.

Commenting requires more effort from a user than clapping.

They also now are indicators of quality content.

Commenting is Medium’s new frontier.

How you can take advantage of Medium’s recent update?

When Instagram’s algorithm updated to increase the value of comments, brands soon started designing campaigns that would return comments. This explains the rise of the “Instagram comment contests” where brands would release three-step eligibility requirements: Like the post, follow the account, tag three friends.

These actions not only increased less valuable like and follower counts, but signaled interest to the algorithm by planting hundreds of comments on posts within hours, best positioning the post for real estate on explore pages.

Google “How To Boost Instagram Engagement” and you’ll see a plethora of strategies aiming to return more comments.

I do not know the intricate details of Medium's algorithm, but a basic understanding that curation is more important than 99% of publications, and that engagement had been measured by claps leads this writer to believe that something is going on seeing that the clap icon is still there, now just with a sibling.

There are two ways for users to leverage this update.

The first is to comment more on other stories.

With more visibility on pieces from the addition of the quote bubble icon, expect an increase of curious readers to continue digesting a story by reading the responses to it.

Leaving a thoughtful response might just return readers to your work.

Be prepared for readers to land on your profile. To best capture them, pin your top story to your profile or create a playlist of your best work.

The second strategy is a more controlled effort.

Include more calls to action.

But, do it discretely. Don’t be obnoxious about this.

As a writer, we rarely publish absolute truths and often use writing as a way to seek feedback. Do just that.

In your signature, encourage readers to disagree with you through responses, or even find a way to weave this request into your post.

Medium also made responding to responses easier.

With the new side-bar option, engaging with your readers is now much more accessible.

No longer do you need to scroll down to the bottom of your piece. Simply tap the icon, then scroll or click manage responses.

And yes, you should 100% be responding to your readers.

Not only does responding provide you the opportunity to honor your words and to express gratitude to your readers, but it’s an arena for continued education.

With all this though, the ultimate growth strategy is to produce the highest quality piece of writing you can.

The difference between Seth Godin,The Morning Brew, and me? I respect your inbox, curating only one newsletter per month — Join my behind-the-words monthly newsletter to feel what it’s like to receive a respectful newsletter.