What Medium Is Missing

The missing tools that prevent authors on Medium from writing high-quality stories.
Mar 23, 2023
6 min

Medium has a content quality issue. Don’t take my word for it, but rather the CEO himself: “we [use subscription revenue] to pay people to flood us with low quality click bait and content mill articles” (source). In an effort to combat this problem, Medium is giving more power to publishers, who act as content curators of “high-quality” content on the platform.

For more information about this decision, read The Current Direction of Medium.

As for my experience with Medium, I am an author in the Medium Partnership Program. This partnership means that I get paid by Medium to write on the platform. So I have spent time learning the ins and outs of the platform: You can learn about my entire journey by reading my Loot From Medium series.

That said, improving content curation tools is one of many things the new CEO can do to improve the platform: Medium offers analytical tools that help you develop your writing skills. However, these tools are lacking when it’s time to achieve mastery. So here are the tools that Medium is missing for its writers.

Audience Retention Graphs

YouTube audience retention graph for Yung Quant - DRS.
The YouTube Retention Graph for Yung Quant — DRS

Medium’s business model functions similarly to the YouTube Premium business model. Both platforms incentivize content creators to acquire as much engagement time as possible from content users. So it would make sense if Medium provided its creators with YouTube’s tools: Among the missing tools is the Audience Retention Graph.

An audience retention graph shows the creator how users are engaging with the creator’s content. While Medium gives its authors the total member read time and average read time for a story, YouTube gives a second-by-second breakdown of the retention percentage for a video with insights! This graph lets you see where users get stuck, go afk, leave, etc.

Notification Management

Imagine getting over 100 notifications on Medium. Well, you don’t have to imagine. It happened to me. I rushed out of bed one morning so excited to write on the platform. Forget breakfast, I needed to see a screen that contained three ovals in the upper left-hand corner…

I logged in, and this is what I saw.

Uh oh!

So then I logged out.

I logged out because if you click the notification tab, it clears every notification. So I had to wait until I had the time to go through hundreds of notifications just to make sure I didn’t miss out on any comments from the precious users of the platform. I actually had to, like, whip out my calendar and schedule time to read comments. Never again.


Why can’t Medium be like Reddit and let me mark the notification as “read” BEFORE making it look like every other notification I have ever received? All you need to do is keep the unread notification style applied until the notification is marked as read. Then, send an API request to mark it as read in the database. That’s all you have to do.

How could someone f*ck this up SO BADLY!

Most importantly, the notifications need to stop combining multiple responses on a story into one notification.

This combination is bad design because it makes me miss the response from the +1 or +2, or +X people. I thought this website was supposed to be wholesome. Not one that reduces readers to numbers on a screen when they aren’t the first to respond. Not even YouTube does this sh*t!

Story Stat Aggregation

Medium stats graph of SwitchUpCB's views from February 1st - March 1st.
The Current Medium Graph for Views, Reads, and Unique Fans

The stories stats page of Medium shows you four metrics of every story and response you have posted. These metrics are views, reads, read ratio, and unique fans. The page also has a graph that allows you to view your views, reads, and unique fans over a 30-day period. However, this page could be more helpful.

To start, the read ratio of a story is the views of a story (impression) divided by its reads. So the read ratio is useless because it provides no extra information to the story’s reception. If you wanted to calculate the read ratio yourself, you could do so with a spreadsheet, provided that Medium allows you to export your story stats in aggregate…

But it doesn’t.

The metrics you actually want to check out — such as average reading time (retention) and member reading time (over time) — are shown when you click an individual story for its stats page. This page also includes a breakdown of your views by traffic source for each story and your reader’s interests. However, if you want to review these metrics for all your stories simultaneously, you must collect the data yourself and input it into a spreadsheet or database.

Functionality that requires you to collect data yourself is problematic for two reasons. First, it wastes the time of authors on the platform. Second, the Medium Terms of Service technically doesn’t allow the usage of automated bots on the platform. So if you want to use a valid program to collect this data, it can’t load more than a single page.

There are ways around these constraints and to avoid detection, but why risk your account?

So what does collecting the data yourself entail? Open up a new tab with the first story and copy its metrics elsewhere. Open up a new tab with the second story and copy its metrics elsewhere. Open up a new tab with the third story and copy its metrics elsewhere. So on and so forth…

The situation gets even worse when you want to track a story’s editable properties. For example, to check the word count of a story in a valid manner, you must open it up in the editor, select all of the text, then wait for the number to pop up in the header. You could create a list of all your stories, then use the single load trick I described in my Staff Picks List analysis. But I didn’t make that program just to give it away…

The solution to this problem is simple: Let authors create a CSV export of all of their stories (similar to “Audience Stats”). This export should include basic stats and editable properties such as the SEO description, Canonical URL, and more. The feature could even allow an author to create a graph for a given metric using a custom time range.

An example of a graph with a custom time range is a graph that shows all views from Jan 4th to Feb 26th, 2023, in daily increments.

Bulk Edits

Did you get monetized to the Medium Partnership Program? I hope it didn’t take too many stories to get there because you have some work to do if it did. Instead of celebrating your achievement, you will be spending time reviewing your published stories: First, click the dots next to each story to select “Edit story” in a new tab. From there, search for more dots to find the “Manage meter setting”, click it, then press another button to meter your story.

I don’t see enough dots. More dots now! Throw more dots. Throw more dots. More dots. More dots. Come on, more dots. K, stop dots. Now hit it very hard and very fast.

The ability to use stat exporting would reduce the need for a bulk edit feature. However, it would be awesome if you could edit stories in bulk with a Database as a Spreadsheet-esque view. Unfortunately, the problem with this suggestion is that it is a Quality Of Life feature. So it isn’t as justified as other features to merit priority.

Table Of Contents

When a Medium story targets a technical audience, a table of contents is a must. So why hasn’t it been added yet? What confuses me about the lack of this feature is that the editor only allows h1 and h2 headers: An optional table of contents feature wouldn’t require too much configuration, which means there is less code to implement.

H2 Size Explanation

Have you ever noticed that Medium’s <h2> headers are extremely small? They are even smaller than bold <p> tags. I wondered about this for a while before asking customer support. This is what they had to say.

“This is a known issue, and the team is looking at the best approach to solving the problem. At this time, we don’t have a set timeline for when this work will be finished, but it is on our radar.”

— Medium Support

I am willing to bet that this answer is just a way of saying that it won’t be fixed or explained. If not, well…

Even a 9-year-old knows that you just edit the words underneath the h2 in the CSS file to fix that issue. If you are figuring this sh*t out and paid 100K to do so, I will apply to Medium right now cause that is just sad. All this work I’m doing for f*cking pennies when I could be earning “six figs bro” figuring out how to resize an H2. Give me a break!

All jokes aside, I’m sure the Medium team works hard.

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