Why I Pulled My Writing Off a Popular Publication

Photo by Jonathan Cosens Photography on Unsplash

Today, after some hesitation, I’ve decided to pull my post off a popular tech publication.

The post was about learning to write a parser in Rust, and I started working on it alongside my interview, which required a presentation on a technical topic. It was one of the longest, most time-consuming post I’ve ever worked on since my heyday writing on Medium (like this post).

On the first day I posted, I got to 25 claps. That wasn’t bad at all considering the topics was Rust and parser, which are not wildly popular. Normally, when I publish a post, I would spend about a week evangelizing, promoting it on my social networks and replying to people who left comments. It usually take some work and the timing to get an article beyond a few hundred claps. Thus, I was pretty happy about the claps after posting it without any promotional work done.

Instantly, I got a message from an editor from a publication requesting the post to be featured under them. I was both surprised and excited about the opportunity. My hard work was being acknowledged! I did some homework on the publication. It was a new publication spawned from a more popular one most tech writers on Medium are familiar with. “That must be great,” I thought. Without much thinking, I submitted the post and gave up any chance of my audience seeing it.

On the first day of publishing under the new publication, I got just one more clap, regardless of my attempt to promote on my social networks. Moreover, I was expecting the publication to help with promoting through their network (that’s the perk of publishing with them, right?). There was nothing. No tweeting. Not even a retweet of my own tweet about the post. My post was just a leaf among many, and they just left it to wither and die in favor of more popular ones.

How is it possible for a tweet to go under the radar without a single like when you are a megaphone with 14.5k listeners?

A week went by with just one more clap. I poked around Twitter, Medium, and the web and learned that most articles published under the publication have very little claps. Moreover, most of the tweets from the publication’s main Twitter account itself was performing pretty poorly, regardless of the 14.5k followers it had at the time of this writing. How is it possible for your tweets to go unnoticed when you are a megaphone with 14.5k listeners?

Imagine you have a tens of thousands of audience but not a single one notice you

So I began to put on a James Bonds’ suite and audit the Twitter account’s followers. It turns out that out of their 14.5k followers, only 8,990 followers are active (the rest are non-active and fake). Still, that is much more than I have.

The only explanation I could come up with is their followers are less engaged with the content they are publishing. This is common because when you follow an identity online, you relate it to a topic (or two) you care about (this is why consistently posting about repeated topics are more engaging than treating your Twitter or Medium as diaries).

I didn’t have enough evidence to conclude what had happened to my post with the publication or if it could have had performed better being published under my name. The publication have had some popular posts, but so have I. The point being I have had much less followers (and still do) than the publication when my posts gained traction.

In the end, there will always be some trade-offs in publishing your content with a publisher. However, on Medium, be mindful that your content might end up being just another fish in the sea. Medium has become very marketing-oriented, and many editors act as bounty hunters trying to get their number up without the eye for great content and the will to help writers succeed. Overall, I have had some positive experience publishing under other publications. However, the ability to build my own audience and promote my own content to my smaller but richer reader base outweigh them. Publishing with a publication is a great way to bootstrap your post, but make sure they act in your interest and care about your content as much as you do.

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I’m interested in Web3 and machine learning, and helping ambitious people. I like programming in Ocaml and Rust. I angel invest sometimes.