Tag Archives: Marketing

Here’s Why Your Online Marketing Doesn’t Work

And what to do about it.

When we are producing and marketing, we tend to look at our craft from our own perspective. Unless you build something for yourself and market it to yourself, that’s a mistake.

That’s a typical mistake that software engineers do. As a result, they end up with overcomplicated software that the end users can’t use.

If the prospective customers can’t use a piece of software, it’s a waste of time and money, no matter how good it is.

The antidote to that mistake is to put yourself into the shoes of the prospective customer. For example, I’m producing and marketing blog posts. Here’s a question that could help me.

How Did I Find My Favorite Writers?

I found Steve Pavlina from a Google search. I kept reading his blog throughout the years, bought his book, went to one of his live events, and recently purchased an information product of him.

I found David Hawkins from a post of Pavlina. I read his book Power vs. Force and then kept purchasing his books and audio programs.

I have the Kindle and audio versions of some of Hawkins’s books and read and listened to them multiple times. I came across the Letting Go Method in his book with the same title. It became one of my favorite personal development practices.

I came across a piece by Nathaniel Branden in the book Meeting the Shadow, and I read his books Breaking Free and the Disowned Self. Now, I’m going through his audio program The Psychology of High Self-Esteem with the intention to read and listen to more books and audio programs by him.

I really don’t know how many Brian Tracy audio programs I have in my audible account, and honestly, I don’t care. I enjoyed most of them, and the Magic of Self-Direction is one of my all-time favorites.

I guess I’m one of those 1000 true fans of these writers.

The point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t come across a favorite writer because they followed on me Twitter or Medium. They didn’t comment on one of my posts. They don’t have online link wheels. I didn’t find them via their Facebook or YouTube advertisements. Two of them aren’t even alive.

We’re all sitting on immense value, but we don’t care to stop and look inside because we’re too busy trying to catch the next shiny object outside.

Did I buy products that had just good online marketing? Yes, I purchased two information products like that, and I promised myself not to come close to those producers again. That gives me another lesson.

No matter how good your online marketing is, if you don’t have a decent product, you won’t have repeat customers.

If someone gives you marketing advice, please take it with a grain of salt, including this one of course. Ask yourself, how you came across your favorite writer, software, or whatever it is that you are producing. Then go ahead and emulate that.

In my case, one piece of content I came across by sheer luck was so good that I had to consume as much content as I could from those people. That makes my strategy to write the best blog posts I can and let the universe handle the rest.

The Linchpin of Any Online Marketing Strategy

You must have heard the story of the elephant and the four blind men. Four blind men touch different parts of an elephant and argue with each other what the elephant is like.

One of them likens it to a tree, the other one to a hose, yet another one to a sheet, and so on. It all depends on where they touch on.

In reality, the elephant has various body parts, and they all feel different. It doesn’t make sense to jump to a conclusion with partial data without having the big picture. Yet, we do it all the time.

Sure, there are times we have to move on without perfect information, but if you have a chance to access meaningful data, you better use it.

The Algorithm Change in Medium

With a recent algorithm change in Medium, I saw a sharp drop in the stats of my posts published there. This made me doubt the future of my blog.

Was I wasting my time blogging daily if Medium didn’t distribute my posts to readers? Was all the work for the last nine months for nothing? More important, should I stop blogging daily and move on?

Questions like the ones above floated around in my mind. I had decent arguments to stop blogging daily. I also had solid arguments to keep doing that.

Then, I checked the stats of my blog on my own domain. I realized that the traffic to my blog was fairly stable. Only 22% of the traffic came from Medium. 37% was coming from Google, and 31% was direct traffic. The remaining 10% was coming from the so-called long tail.

Those numbers were soothing. Probably, only a nerd would be soothed by numbers, but that’s what their effect was on me.

Sure, I’d like to keep that 22%, but if I couldn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world for my blog. 78% was still a decent chunk of my existing traffic. There was no reason to get discouraged. That’s why the ability to find out the truth is the most critical skill that you can develop in life.

What Social Media Does and Does Not Provide

Medium does a lot of things right. It gives the readers the ability to highlight and bookmark the posts they read. It gives the writers the stats about the views, reads, claps, and highlights. There is a community that exchanges comments.

My blog doesn’t have interactive features as Medium has, and I’m fine with that. If someone wants to bookmark a post of my mine, they can do so in their own browser or using their favorite social channel. If they want to highlight a section, they can clip the post and highlight it with Evernote.

My blog provides me with something crucial that Medium doesn’t. That is control.

Bloggers who didn’t bother to set up their blogs on their own domains and only published on Medium are in serious trouble after Medium changed their algorithm.

If I solely relied on Medium as a blogging and distribution platform, I’d lose 99% of the traffic to my posts. That would be a death sentence to my blog. There’s no way, I’d keep writing and publishing for only 1% of the traffic my posts used to receive.

Since I kept 78% of the traffic to my posts, I’m fine with continuing. Sure, I’d like to see that number grow and not shrink, but a 22% hit doesn’t kill my enthusiasm.

In a way, I’m grateful for that 22% hit. It’s a sobering event, but I can reframe that challenge as an opportunity to stop and look at my blogging practice. It makes me think about how to change my practice so that I can overcome that 22% hit and create further growth.

What Does Your Blog on Your Own Domain Provide?

With all the social media channels available to us, it’s easy to fall in love with a channel and to avoid starting and maintaining a blog on your own domain. After all, it’s a lot of work to do that. And who reads blogs on independent domains nowadays?

The reality is some people do. What’s more important? It’s a matter of time that your favorite platform will change their algorithms, ban you from publishing there, or go belly up altogether.

What are you going to do if any one of those events happen if you don’t have your own platform? You’ll lose all of your traffic overnight. That’s why a blog on your own domain is the linchpin of your online marketing strategy. It’s the little piece that holds everything together.


A blog on a domain that you control might look like a small, irrelevant piece of an online marketing strategy, but when your presence on other social media channels takes a hit, it’s usually your blog that survives that hit.

The Zen of Entrepreneurship

David Hawkins, the author of Power vs. Force, mentions 17 levels in his map of consciousness.

  • Enlightenment
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Reason
  • Acceptance
  • Willingness
  • Neutrality
  • Courage
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Desire
  • Fear
  • Grief (Sadness)
  • Apathy
  • Guilt
  • Shame

Map of Consciousness, a Useful Tool for High Performance

I find this map useful to regulate my emotional state for high performance.

I find emotions of shame, guilt, sadness, fear, desire, anger, joy, love, and peace useful for different purposes.

  • Peace and sadness are suitable to reflect on my life and make plans.
  • Joy is useful for long distance running.
  • Anger is useful for working out with weights in the gym.
  • Shame, guilt, fear, desire, and love are powerful motivators to execute my plans.

Peace vs. Apathy

Even though I read the book Power vs. Force years ago, there were still some open questions in my mind. I always wondered what the difference between peace and apathy was.

Apathy is the lack of intense emotions. So is peace. Then, what is the difference between them?

I think I’ve found the answer.

The GDPR Will Destroy Email Lists

Yesterday, I had a challenge. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect starting from May 25, 2018.

This regulation affects my email newsletter as well. I have to collect explicit consent from my newsletter subscribers before that date. After that date, I have to delete the subscribers who didn’t provide explicit permission.

If you ever operated an email newsletter, you know what that means. I expect only 10% of my subscribers to complete that procedure. That means I’m going to lose 90% of my email newsletter subscribers in two weeks.

The GDPR Makes the Subscription Process Harder

It doesn’t end there. The new law requires me to have a checkbox in my subscription form. If a visitor doesn’t explicitly check that box, they won’t be able to subscribe to my email newsletter. I expect at least 50% of the visitors to overlook that box.

I know that you’ll suggest some hacks for that, such as loading the form with that box checked or making it a required field. Both practices are forbidden in the new regulation.

On May 25, 2018, I’ll lose 90% of my existing subscribers and 50% of my future subscribers.

The Most Productive Level of Consciousness

On which level of consciousness would you be if you were in my shoes? Anger? Fear? Grief? Apathy?

Surprisingly, I felt acceptance yesterday. There is nothing I can do against this law. Neither anger, nor fear, nor grief, nor apathy is a productive emotion at this moment.

The most productive emotional state at this moment is to accept what is, comply with it, and carry on.

My livelihood doesn’t depend on this list. But there are people whose livelihood depend on email lists. They are going to lose at least 90% of their income in two weeks.

The New Law Won’t Accomplish Anything Useful

You might defend the new law because there are so many spammers out there. I know that a lot of people add all the emails they could find to their lists. As a result, we all receive a bunch of irrelevant emails every day.

  • Will the new law prevent spammers from populating their lists with every email they come across?
  • Will it prevent auto-followers on social media?
  • Will it prevent bots from spamming the comment sections and contact forms of blogs?

It’s not going to happen.

The New Law Will Only Hurt Legitimate Businesses

This law will only reduce the revenues of honest people and businesses who comply with the law. That reduction in revenue won’t serve anything.

The revenue will be reduced because a prospect will overlook a checkbox in a sign-up form, not because they didn’t want to sign up to the email newsletter in the first place.

I always had a double opt-in mechanism in my email lists. I never added someone manually. I never sold people’s emails. I never sent irrelevant emails to my subscribers. Yet, I’m punished by this law.

Take It on the Chin and Carry On

Acceptance means to take it on the chin and to carry on. That’s exactly what I’m going to do in this case. Quitting is not an option at this moment. Neither is breaking the law. If my content is worth the attention of people, it’s going to find its way to their screens.

Now, I get the difference between peace and apathy. When you’re on the level of apathy, you don’t feel any intense emotions, and you give up. When you’re on the level of peace, you don’t feel any strong emotions, but you keep on going.

High Involvement, Low Attachment

The lower levels such as anger, fear, guilt, and shame are strong motivators to take action. But at a certain moment, you need to accept the reality and let go of your attachments to the results. There’s no way around this.

In a previous post, I called this attitude high involvement, low attachment. You take massive action and do your best without being attached to the results.

While taking action, anger, fear, and similar emotions are strong motivators. But once the work is over and you’re waiting for the results, you better get to the level of acceptance and peace, and don’t get attached to those results.

A Nontaxable Asset

At the end of the day, there is one asset that governments can’t forbid or tax. That is your knowledge and the lessons you learn. I owe that lesson to Warrant Buffet.

Sometimes a lesson learned is more valuable than 90% of your email list. Understanding the difference between apathy and peace was such a lesson for me yesterday.

Three Alternative Revenue Sources for Medium

In yesterday’s post, I explained why Medium’s subscription business isn’t sustainable. In essence, it satisfies neither readers nor writers.

I’m a big fan of Medium, and I want it to succeed. That’s why I’m going to share alternative income sources for Medium in this post.

Current Model Is Good for Users But Unsustainable

I’m not motivated by my interests when criticizing the current model and proposing alternatives. The current model is more beneficial for me than the one I suggest.

The current model gives me an excellent, ad-free platform to publish my posts and reach a significant audience. I’m afraid this won’t last long.

I propose a model that is less beneficial for me in the short term, but that will keep Medium afloat longer. That way, it will benefit us, writers and readers, in the long run.

Let’s go over the three alternative income sources for Medium.

Charge Writers for Publishing on Medium

Publishing on Medium is a privilege, and it should be treated as such.

If you charge for the opportunity to post on Medium, writers will approach the platform with greater respect.

Similar to the current system, a writer can publish three posts for free in a given month. That gives an opportunity to everybody to publish on the platform. Anything more than that will require the writer to pay Medium.

Writers would pay Medium for the exposure they get and for the audience they reach. That exposure and audience aren’t available anywhere else for free. It has a value that can be monetized.

What about Comments?

In this system, commenting will be free. If someone wants to publish a 45-minute post as a comment, that’s fine.

If my observations are correct, comments aren’t distributed as widely as standalone posts. Therefore, the writers who publish their posts as comments won’t get as much distribution as the writers who pay the subscription fee.

Charge Writers for Increased Distribution of Their Posts

Medium is a post distribution mechanism.

Writers benefit from getting their posts distributed to a relevant audience. They could increase their benefits by getting their posts distributed to more people. They could pay for that extra distribution.

I assume Medium is considering several criteria when distributing a post to an audience. These criteria might include the engagement of the readers, the tags of the post, the followers of the writer, and so on.

Each criterion has a weight in calculating the relevance score of a post to a reader. The posts with a higher score are displayed in a higher position to a reader.

We can add one more criterion to this overall score: the amount of cash paid by the writer.

I suggest keeping the weight of the distribution fee between 10% and 20% in the overall score of a post. If this weight is lower than 10%, writers won’t find it interesting to pay the distribution fee. If it is above 20%, the overall quality of the platform will suffer.

Sell Privacy Protection Packages

Nowadays, data is a gold mine, and privacy is a problem. In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, states that Medium doesn’t sell data to third parties. This is an uncommon practice on the web.

Almost all digital products and services collect user data and sell it to third parties. This practice is a source of income for many websites.

By not selling data to third parties, Medium is benefiting its users. It’s only fair for Medium to charge for that benefit.

As I explained in my post on privacy, I recommend online businesses to offer two types of memberships to their users.

The first type is the free membership. Free memberships are subsidized by selling user data to third parties. This is the current online standard. Most of the websites, products, and services you use on a daily basis are funded with this system.

Privacy Protected Premium Memberships

The second type is a privacy-protected premium membership. In this tier, user data is not sold to third parties, but the user pays for the benefit.

Medium is leaving a lot of money on the table by not collecting and selling data to third parties. This alone could beat the income from their current paid membership model.

It Isn’t Possible to Safeguard Data Anyway

You might oppose this model, but third parties probably collect the data you enter to Medium and sell it further.

If you use Google’s Chrome browser or the Android OS, Google is collecting and commercializing your data anyway, even when you use Medium.

Even if you don’t use Google products, data finds its way to third parties. Here’s an experience I had recently.

My Medium Comment Leaked to YouTube

I access Medium only via Firefox on a Windows PC and Medium’s iOS app. Recently, I added a comment about IKEA to a Medium post. A few hours later, YouTube started to show me IKEA ads on another device.

I have no idea how that data is leaked to Google, but it leaked anyway. Data finds its way to third parties. Why not sell it yourself and charge the people who want to protect their privacy?


Medium’s current subscription-based business model doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run. There are three alternative revenue sources for Medium.

  • Charge writers to publish on Medium
  • Charge writers to increase their distribution on Medium
  • Commercialize the data of the free users and sell privacy protection packages to premium users.

These revenue sources seem to put readers and writers in a disadvantaged position in the short term, but they are more sustainable than the current model in the long run.

If the current model fails, we will lose Medium altogether. Paying for publishing posts, increased distribution, and privacy protection is a small price to pay to keep Medium afloat.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about the revenue sources proposed in this post?
  • Do you have alternative revenue sources for Medium?

Is Medium’s Business Model Sustainable?

If you look at my archive, you’ll see at least a dozen posts on Medium. Almost all of those posts are praising Medium.

I take Medium seriously, use it as the single source of traffic, and learn a lot of lessons from my Medium stats. It’s an excellent platform for readers, writers, and humanity.

In short, I’m a fan of Medium. Nevertheless, I don’t believe in its business model, and I’ll explain why.

The Number of Paid Memberships Is Growing

In his last post, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, shares the progress of Medium’s subscription business.

Mr. Williams shares a chart of the daily new members and the total number of members. Both numbers seem to be growing, but there aren’t actual numbers on the chart. We don’t know whether the total number of premium members are 10K, 100K, or 1M.

50K Weekly Writers, 80M Monthly Unique Visitors

Mr. Williams cites other stats. More than 50K writers publish at least once a week on Medium. Medium received more than 80M unique visitors in a recent 30 day period. Those are some strong numbers.

There is a critical question to be asked though.

What is the conversion rate of the 50K writers and 80M unique visitors to premium members?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t think that conversion rate is high enough to sustain Medium in the long run.

Spotify’s Value Proposal

To justify the premium membership model, Mr. Williams mentions other businesses based on similar models. One of his examples is Spotify.

I’m a premium Spotify member since it became available where I live. There’s a huge difference between Spotify’s premium and free offering.

  • Ad-free
  • Unlimited skips
  • Listen offline
  • Play any track
  • High-quality audio

That difference is worth more than the 100 I pay them every year, especially considering their vast, ever-growing back catalog.

Medium Premium’s Value Proposal

I don’t see a difference that is worth $50 / year between the free and premium versions of Medium.

  • Premium posts don’t have marketing messages, not even links to email newsletters.
  • You can save stories to an offline reading list.
  • There are some commissioned stories.
  • You can listen to the audio versions of popular stories.

Medium Premium’s Competition

In the premium content space, Medium’s offering can’t compete with Kindle and Audible as far as I’m concerned.

In the free content space, Medium is the biggest competitor of its own premium membership business. In the free audio segment, there are more than enough quality podcasts.

While trying to prove his case, Mr. Williams is making some sad remarks in his post.

“There is — and probably always will be — a surplus of free content. But that’s like saying there’s a surplus of free food in the dumpster behind the alley.” Ev Williams [1]

“Will people just lower their standards? Perhaps. In fact, our standards have been gradually lowering for years. We’ll read crap on the web we wouldn’t have put up with in print.” Ev Williams [1]

Free Content Isn’t Necessarily Crap

I don’t read “free crap” on the web. The posts that I read on Medium aren’t the content equivalent of the free food in the dumpster.

I always have a Kindle book or an Audible audiobook as an alternative. I read a free Medium post, because I think I’m going to get something out of it. The cost of a Kindle book is irrelevant to me compared to the time I invest in it.

Who decides that the premium content on Medium is better than the free content on Medium? What is the decision criteria?

A Medium post is premium, because its author decided so. Outside of the no marketing rule, there are no criteria that separate a premium post from a free post, as far as I can see.

What’s the motivation to provide outstanding content on Medium?

A writer can have several motivations.

  • Spread ideas.
  • Get some exposure.
  • Build an audience.
  • Market products or services.
  • Make some money.

A paid membership website isn’t the best way to spread your ideas, get exposure, and build an audience. Marketing isn’t welcome in premium posts. Money isn’t significant either.

“In February 2018, 56% of authors who published at least one story for members earned money — making $58.45 on average for the month.” Medium Marketing Message [2]

Sure someone made $9K in a month, and a post made $1K, but those figures are possibly outliers. They probably don’t represent a reliable income. If I were that writer, I wouldn’t get a mortgage counting on that $9K monthly income.

Buy a Membership to Support Medium

You might argue that you have a Medium membership, because you want to support Medium’s cause. I acknowledge that. I donated to Wikipedia and other non-profits in the past.

I could buy a Medium membership to support it. However, that’s not the point. Medium doesn’t ask us to donate them money.

Medium is trying to sell us something as a for-profit company. There’s nothing wrong with that. I evaluate Medium as a commercial product, not as a non-profit.


Medium’s premium program doesn’t provide sufficient value to the consumers. It doesn’t offer enough value to the writers either.

If the subscription model can’t satisfy the primary stakeholders, how is it going to become a sustainable business?

The subscription model doesn’t convince me, but there are other business models that Medium can use. I’m going to publish a post about one of them tomorrow.

Your Turn

  • What do you think about Medium’s subscription-based business model?
  • Are you a premium member?
  • If so, what made you a premium member?
  • If not, what keeps you from becoming a premium member?

Three Reasons to Take Medium Seriously

Medium Can Be the Pillar of Your Content Marketing Strategy

I expect two groups to read this post.

  1. People who are interested in Medium and the art of writing
  2. People who are interested in marketing

I’m writing this post for the people who are at the intersection of both groups.

Some people in the second group won’t be interested in creating content in written format. As I explained in a previous post, some people are better at creating content in audio and video, and others in written form.

There’s good news for both segments. Medium isn’t a text-only platform anymore. It also serves audio. More about that later.

Do You Hate Marketing?

I’m not afraid of the people in the second group. It’s the first group that I’m scared of. Some people associate marketing with evil and hate everything about it.

In the past, marketing has been abused to get the most out of people’s pockets without providing something significant in return. However, times are changing.

The New Wave of Marketing

There’s a new wave of marketing. The new wave of marketing is enabling great work to sustain itself and reach its target audience who are willing to consume it.

When I’m writing about marketing, I’m writing about the new wave of marketing, not about getting the most out of people’s pockets.

I’m interested in building a business that provides as much value as possible to its customers and receives a fraction of that value in return. Marketing is a part of this business model.

Keep Marketing out of Medium?

There’s a notion that all marketing is terrible and it must be kept out of everything that’s good, including Medium. I don’t agree with that notion.

Not all marketing is evil and decent marketing can enable great content on Medium. That’s the topic of another post that I’m going to publish tomorrow.

In this post, I want to focus on the value of Medium for content marketers. Among others, there are three reasons Medium is valuable for content marketers.

Medium Is a Content Platform

There are two types of social media platforms, content platforms and promotion platforms. Medium is a content platform.

A Medium post is 95% content and 5% promotion. Go over 5% promotion, and you have no chance on Medium.

That is good for consumers, and that’s good for content producers as well. People can immediately see whether a content producer is worth their time or not.

A content producer doesn’t need to bother with promotion, which is a secondary activity anyway. That’s why I focus on Medium as the single source of traffic for my blog.

Facebook Is a Promotion Platform

It’s almost impossible to get your content consumed on Facebook.

On Facebook, you have to create convincing promotional posts, pay Facebook to boost those posts, and hope that some people click through to your actual content. In contrast, your Medium post is your actual content.

The average Facebook user will ignore anything longer than a few sentences or a few seconds. In my experience, 6-7 minutes long Medium posts perform the best.


Medium is taking the content delivery to the next level with audio.

I consume content in two formats. When I have time, I read content in written form. Reading is an efficient way of consuming content. But I can’t read a post when I’m working out in the gym. Then, I listen to a podcast or an audiobook.

Medium combines both formats, and this is an opportunity for you. I don’t use this opportunity at the moment, but I don’t underestimate it.

If you can provide your content in two formats, in written and spoken, on the same platform, you’ll have a massive advantage over your competition.

Suppose that I follow you. I get stuck in a traffic jam. Instead of sitting there doing nothing, I can listen to your latest post, instead of waiting to arrive at home to read it.

Do you see how many other writers you’ll beat by providing the audio version of your posts?

If you record the audio versions of your posts, you can eventually broadcast them in a podcast or on YouTube as well.

Medium’s Algorithm Change

In his last post, Ev Williams, the CEO of Medium, explained the changes they made to Medium’s algorithm.

The new algorithm favors evergreen content over fresh content. This change seems to be disadvantageous in the short-term, but it’s great news in the long run.

There are enough news sites that report about the recent events. There are enough books that provide evergreen content on timeless topics such as personal development.

I also want to have something quick to read like a blog post on those timeless topics. Medium is meeting that need now. There aren’t many major platforms that do that. Medium is distinguishing itself this way.

What Are the Implications for Content Providers?

The new algorithm is good news and bad news for content providers.

It’s bad news, because your next post has to compete with the complete back catalog of Medium.

It’s good news, because if your next post succeeds at this competition, it’s going to pay dividends for the rest of your life.

I prefer long-term value over short-term benefits. Medium’s new algorithm favors this approach.

You better invest more time and effort in your next post so that you can reap its rewards for the rest of your life. If you don’t, it won’t produce any short-term benefits either.

80% of My Post Views Come from Older Posts

Last week, my Medium posts received 2701 views. 2134 of those views came from the posts that were older than a week.

You’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort in your posts upfront and won’t be able to see any rewards in the short-term. Your efforts will pay dividends in the long run.

Medium’s new algorithm will eliminate a lot of competition and make good work pay off. Our posts won’t be archived after a few weeks and then forgotten.


Medium is an excellent platform for content marketers who are willing to provide more value than they ask for.

If you post on Medium, you don’t have to promote your content. There is an audience willing to read excellent blog posts. If you’re good at blogging, your content finds its way to this audience.

You can include the audio versions of your posts on Medium and at least double your audience.

The new version of Medium’s algorithm will eliminate a lot of competition, but there’s a catch. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort, and be patient enough to wait for the long-term rewards.

Coming Soon…

Today’s post was about the positive sides of Medium. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss the downside of Medium’s business model and Ev William’s vision.

Don’t forget to check my post tomorrow. Better yet, sign up to the email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my most recent posts.

Your Turn

  • Do you use Medium as a part of your content marketing strategy? If yes, how?
  • What’s your take on the audio feature and the new algorithm of Medium?

1000 True Fans Is Enough to Make a Living as a Creative

What Does It Take to Create 1000 True Fans?

When I reported the analysis of my Medium stats, some of my readers suggested to analyze the number of claps as well. I didn’t follow that advice back then. Unlike views, reads, and fans, claps cannot be downloaded.

I received a comment a few days ago, that made me reconsider analyzing claps. My reader wrote that one of her posts received a low fans to reads ratio, but a high claps to fans ratio.

A Small, Engaged Audience vs. Wider Popularity

She asked me whether she should cultivate a small audience that liked her style or go for a wider popularity. My gut reaction to that question was to stick to that small audience.

Before explaining my point, let me mention that I’m writing from my intuition. I didn’t make a comprehensive statistical analysis on this.

The Goal of Copywriters, Bloggers, and Marketers

Copywriters, bloggers, and marketers try to get their readers to take certain actions. In my case this is to follow me on Medium and to sign up to my email newsletter.

Here’s a sample funnel of a Medium writer:

  • View the post
  • Read the post
  • Clap for the post as much as possible
  • Respond to the post
  • Follow the writer’s Medium account
  • Sign up to their email newsletter
  • Purchase their products and services

The number of people on each level is lower than the number of people on a higher level. That’s why we call this sequence a funnel.

The More People at the Top, the More People at the Bottom?

We might expect that the more people there are at the top of the funnel, the more people would be at the bottom of the funnel. This might not be the case.

A blogger could be wildly popular on the level of post views, but they might have a difficult time getting their books sold.

Another blogger might have modest post views, but they could be successful at converting those views to premium program purchases.

Who would you rather be? The popular blogger with modest book sales? Or a modest blogger with high premium program sales? Honestly, I’d like to be the second blogger.

How to Have Higher Conversion Rates

In order to be the second blogger, we might need to sacrifice popularity. Instead of trying to appeal to a broad public, we need to be ourselves and double down on what makes us unique. If that is an odd sense of humor, we need to cultivate it.

The idea is to polarize the public. That way, a portion of the public wouldn’t want to consume our content at all, but the rest would love it.

This discussion reminds of “1000 true fans” who are ready to purchase whatever product a creative puts out. I don’t think that we can create 1000 true fans by trying to please everybody.

What Do the Numbers Say?

In order to back my ideas with stats, I made an analysis of my last 111 Medium posts. I calculated the clap to view ratio of these posts. Then, I calculated the correlation between the views and the clap to view ratio. This correlation was -40%.

This doesn’t mean that we have an inverse correlation, but it doesn’t show a positive correlation either. What my reader suggests might be true.

The most engaging posts aren’t necessarily the most popular ones.

I can see this relationship clearly in my most engaging and least engaging ten posts. By most engaging, I mean the posts with the highest claps per views ratios. The least engaging posts are the ones that have the least number of claps per view.

Table. 1. My most engaging posts

My most engaging posts aren’t the wildly popular ones. On the other hand, most of my least engaging posts have above average views.

Table. 2. My least engaging posts

When I look at my least engaging posts, I see that some of them are among “my most hated posts.” I already wrote a post about why those posts had low fans to views ratio.

What Makes a Post Engaging?

I’m intrigued by the most engaging posts. Even though I analyzed all kinds of stats, these posts didn’t show up in my radar.

I suspect that a high read ratio contributes to engaging posts. I’m going to analyze what made these posts so engaging and report that in a future post.

If you don’t want to miss my post on writing engaging posts, sign up to my email newsletter. Once a week, I send an email that contains my latest posts on writing, blogging, marketing, entrepreneurship, productivity, and personal development.


I thank Michael K. Spencer for recommending me to look at the average claps per article and Catherine Turner for her question that inspired me to write this post.


As copywriters, bloggers, and marketers, our aim isn’t necessarily to be wildly popular. Our aim is to get our readers to take action at the bottom of our funnels. This can be following us on social media, subscribing to our email newsletter, and purchasing our products.

If you want to create 1000 true fans, you might want to let go of trying to please everybody. You might want to be unique in your own way.

As a result, you might be less popular with the general public, but you might end up with 1000 true fans who are in love with your work and willing to support you in every way possible.

Don’t Sacrifice What Can’t Be Measured

Six weeks ago, I published a post about measuring the success of my blog and email newsletter with growth metrics. Since then, I’m obsessed with numbers and dived deep into my stats.

I published several posts about the lessons I learned from my stats. Here are some highlights.

These and many others helped me reach a bigger audience, express myself better, and get more responses. That’s why I say “data is gold if you know how to use it.”

Pitfalls of Using Data

Data is extremely useful, but it can also be extremely distracting. If I’d dive into Google Analytics, I could spend months on it without adding any value to my blog. That’s an obvious pitfall of using data.

There’s a less obvious pitfall. That is focusing on the numbers at the expense of what can’t be measured. That’s a subtle pitfall.

Make no mistake. I don’t downplay the importance of numbers. At the end of the day, we all have bills to pay and bills are paid by numbers. But focusing solely on numbers can backfire in the long term.

Focusing solely on numbers can backfire in the long term.

How I’m Deceived by Numbers

In a previous post, I argued that my about page wasn’t that important. It only accounted for 2% of the page views of my blog.

When I was writing my post the next day, I changed my mind. The about page might be critical. Its 2% page views might come from the most enthusiastic readers. By not having an up-to-date about page, I might be missing an opportunity.

What Can’t Be Measured Is Equally Important

Numbers are important, but what can’t be measured is equally important. On the one hand, we have quantitative analysis, and on the other hand qualitative analysis.

How can we measure the honesty of a blog post? Yet, honesty is a critical factor in the long term success of a blogger.

Short Term vs. Long Term

I think this all comes down to short term vs. long term. Numbers are great at optimizing short term results.

Sometimes, optimizing short term results is also good for optimizing long term results, but not always.

If short term and long term goals contradict with each other, I prefer long term goals.

Most of the time, there’s greater value in the long term.

As I explained in my post, Quick Cash vs. Long Term Value, I made zero dollars from my blog so far. I experimented a few weeks with Steemit and already started to make money on that platform.

If I looked at the numbers, working on Steemit seemed to be better than working on my blog.

After a few weeks, I quit Steemit in order to focus on my blog. Steemit didn’t seem to be a sustainable business model. The lifetime potential of my blog seemed to be greater than the potential of Steemit.

If I needed some cash in the short term, I’d keep working on Steemit. I don’t. That’s why I skipped the quick cash.

Quick cash is more expensive in the long term.

The Right Tools for the Right Goals

It’s important to use the right tools for the right goals. Some tools are more suitable to optimize qualitative goals. Others are more suitable to optimize quantitative goals.

Two weeks ago, I published a post about commenting on Medium. In that post, I argue that commenting on Medium doesn’t boost one’s number of followers. I received a lot of responses to that post. My readers argued about the benefits of commenting.

I agree that commenting has a lot of benefits.

  • It builds relationships with other readers and writers.
  • You develop new ideas with others.
  • You receive answers to your questions.
  • You come up with new topics to write about.

All of those benefits are qualitative benefits. If you use commenting for its qualitative benefits, you’re going to act different than if you use it for its quantitative benefits.

Commenting for Qualitative Benefits

If you comment for its qualitative benefits, you’ll take your time to understand the post, and you’ll comment to add something to the discussion, including asking a question.

If you comment for its quantitative benefits, you’ll read a few paragraphs of a post, quickly jot down a few sentences, and repeat that for dozens of posts every day.

Guess which one would be more effective?

Quantitative Goals Might Not Match the Nature of Reality

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

Another pitfall of using statistics is that we make linear plans. My weekly 10% growth goal is a typical example of this. Most of the time, life doesn’t work like that. Growth comes in spikes after long periods of plateaus (Fig.1).

Fig. 1. Linear Growth vs Quantum Leaps

As I have written in a previous post, it took me 55 blog posts to get published in the Startup Publication. 17 of those posts have 0 views to this date, 12 only 1, and 7 only 2.


You can measure some factors, but you can’t measure others.  If you can’t measure a factor, that doesn’t mean it’s an unimportant one.

Honesty, relationships, and karma can’t be measured. Yet, they play a critical role in success.

Karma is unmeasurable.

Take into account quantitative analysis to optimize your business, but not at the expense of qualitative analysis.

Medium Is Great for Bloggers, Readers, and Humanity, but There Is Some Room for Improvement

Medium is great for humanity, because it acts like a Trojan horse in our smartphones. Smartphones are destroying our attention span.

Short clips, streams of blurbs and pictures are replacing books. In this environment, Medium is providing an alternative to all of that digital candy.

Medium posts aren’t a replacement for a book. Most of us write our posts taking into account the short attention span of online readers.

In either case, Medium posts are much better than most of the digital candy in your pocket. It requires you to stay focused on a piece of content for a few minutes.

Medium is great for readers, because it provides readers with a steady stream of brilliant posts and the opportunity to interact with the writers and other readers.

Medium is great for bloggers, because it provides them with a large audience of readers. Personal blogs have a difficult time building an audience. This has always been the case.

With the introduction of smartphones and apps, the number of blog readers is shrinking even more. In this age, Medium is like an oasis for bloggers.

Medium Stats Teach You Lessons

Once you publish a sufficient amount of posts, you have a decent set of stats. You can use those stats to learn your lessons on blogging and to improve your craft.

Interaction with Readers

The opportunity to interact with the readers is great for the writers. I’ve been blessed with a steady stream of responses to my posts and I’m grateful for that. That feedback is critical for any content provider.

  • Comments indicate that your content is resonating with people.
  • Your readers give you a direction by telling you what they like about your posts.
  • Your readers give you new ideas to write about.

That discussion is valuable for the readers as well. They are able to influence the writers with their feedback. They can ask questions and receive answers. As a result, everybody wins.

Medium Is My Single Source of Traffic

It’s a risk for a blogger to depend on a single source of traffic. When I take into account all the benefits above, I’m willing to take that risk. As a blogger, I’m fine with using Medium as the single source of traffic to my website.

Medium Is Great for Discussions

If you read my post called Is Commenting on Medium a Reliable Strategy to Grow the Audience of Your Blog?, you might think that I changed my mind. I didn’t.

Commenting is great to interact with other writers. It’s just not an efficient way to grow your audience. Actually, I might have found why it isn’t.

A Point of Improvement for Medium

Commenting might not work, because Medium is suppressing some comments. They are probably trying to minimize spam comments this way and it works. Spam is almost non-existent on Medium.

I understand that Medium is hiding some comments, but there’s room for improvement in how Medium processes comments.

Medium Notifications Are Less Than Optimal

As a writer, I expect to receive an email for every comment I receive. That is not the case at the moment. I found that out after finding old comments by chance.

I received some decent comments written by new members. I didn’t receive an email about them. I wasn’t able to clap for them or respond to them. As a result, those comments remained hidden.

New Member Responses Are Not Notified to the Writers

How would you feel about Medium, if you signed up just to comment a post, took your time to write a decent comment, and then, your comment remained hidden and you didn’t receive a response from the writer?

Would you keep using Medium? I believe this practice hurts the new user acquisition number of Medium.

A Better Way to Display Notifications to Writers

You might say that it’s my responsibility to check my notifications and find all of those comments. Unfortunately, with the dozens of notifications I receive every day, Medium’s notifications are useless to me.

In order for them to be useful to me, they have to satisfy the following requirements.

  • They need to be accessible on a separate page of their own like Facebook.
  • I should be able to mark them as read. Now, once they are displayed on the screen, they are marked as read.

Medium iOS App Has the Best Notification Settings

Luckily, I found a workaround to this problem. In the iOS app, there are three options for push notifications for responses.

  • Off
  • Tailored for you
  • Everyone

The default is “tailored for you” and I chose “everyone.” I’ll see how this works out. I’d really like to see the “everyone” option for email notifications.

I’d like to receive an email for every response receive. That would make the task of processing responses much easier. In the meantime, if I missed a comment of you, I apologize.


Medium benefits bloggers, readers, and humanity in different ways. As a writer, I appreciate it so much that I use it as the exclusive source of my traffic.

There is one update I’d like to see on Medium though. That is to receive an email for every response that my posts receive.

I also suggest that Medium handles new user comments with care. Otherwise, they might lose some of those users forever.

Your Turn

If you know a tool that processes Medium notifications and creates to do lists out of them, please let me know in the comments.

Writing an About Page for My Blog

When I restarted blogging five months ago, I didn’t rewrite my about page. I didn’t write a short bio for Twitter or Medium either. I wanted my readers to make their minds by reading my posts, not by the two sentences in my short bio.

The Need for an Up-To-Date About Page

The page views of the about page of my blog is only 2% of the overall traffic. This figure looks small, but that 2% could be the most important 2%. Those visitors might be the most interested ones in my blog.

Not having an up-to-date about page can become a problem, because I write posts on a variety of topics.

My first time readers might get confused when they visit my blog or sign up to my email newsletter. They might expect posts on one topic, but receive posts on another. I want to clarify my position for my first time readers.

Which Topics to Expect from Me

The majority of my blog posts and page views are in the personal development category. Lately, I didn’t write much about this topic. This doesn’t mean that I stopped writing about this topic. Personal development is a topic that I’m interested in.

Blogging, Writing, and Marketing

Lately, I write mostly on blogging and marketing. It’s a topic that I’m trying to figure out.

I document my thinking process, my plans, and my progress. Some of my readers enjoy that insider look at my journey. Some of them give me feedback and tips. All of that helps me make my mind on how to carry on toward my goals.

Entrepreneurship and Startups

I see blogging and marketing as a part of entrepreneurship and starting up a business. Most of my posts on entrepreneurship and startups are also on blogging and marketing.

I have some posts on the inner game of entrepreneurship as well. I plan to keep writing such posts.

Topics I Stopped Writing About

There are two topics that I don’t plan to write anymore. Those two topics are management and investing.

Management of established businesses doesn’t excite me anymore. I’m more interested in starting something from scratch and turning it into an established business.


I don’t like to write about investing for two reasons. First, most people don’t have any funds to invest. Second, my investing strategy is extremely boring. I believe in dollar cost averaging and buying and forgetting until retirement.

People want to read about trading, technical analysis, and the latest cryptocurrencies. My posts don’t satisfy the “turn $100 USD to $10 million USD, buy a Lamborghini, and party with models” crowd.

Who Am I?

I’m a 39 years old software developer living in Genk Belgium. I’m originally from Istanbul, Turkey. I completed my PhD in Informatics in 2012.

Throughout my career, I’ve always been in the technical side of business. My focus was on B2B software. With my blog, I dive into the commercial side of B2C. That’s quite a switch and there’s a lot to learn.

From an Expert to a Novice

There’s a big contrast between being an expert B2B software developer and a novice B2C marketer. That’s a challenge.

I always wanted to build a business in B2C marketing, especially information marketing. This goal kept my mind busy for too long. I want to stop procrastinating on this goal and do my best to achieve it. If I succeed, that would be great. If I fail, I would let go of this goal and move on.

Using My Experience as a B2B Software Developer

Even though I’m a beginner B2C marketer, I don’t feel like I’m a complete novice. I bring all the experience in my career to my new venture.

Qualities like analytical thinking and focusing on what matters help me in this challenge. I apply the scientific method and reverse engineering to my marketing goals. I developed these qualities and experience in my B2B software development career.

Extracting Lessons from My Marketing Experience

One thing that helped me a lot is to know how to extract lessons from my experience. I spent only five months on my blog. Yet, I learned a lot about B2C and marketing. I documented those lessons in my blog.

Using B2C Marketing Lessons in B2B Software Development

The experience transfer isn’t one way. I transfer the lessons I learned from my blogging experience to my software development job.

In blogging, I don’t have time for busy work. Busy work contributes little or not at all to my end goals.

After five months of blogging, I developed an eye for what the end user would be interested and what they wouldn’t. Anything that wouldn’t interest or benefit the end user, directly or indirectly, is busy work. I try to avoid that to the extent possible.

Ease of Use

Another lesson I learned from blogging is the importance of ease of use. My blog post have to be extremely easy to read. A reader won’t read long sentences, long paragraphs, or long chunks of text.

An end user won’t be able to use complicated software, no matter how capable that software is. Now, I pay more attention on how usable a solution is before offering it to an end user.

My Marketing Goal for July 1, 2019

My goal with my blog is to build an audience of 100K Medium followers and 20K email newsletter subscribers by July 1, 2019.

This goal requires a lot of domain specific lessons to be learned. Moreover, it also requires some personal development, productivity, leadership, motivation, and entrepreneurship lessons. I’ll write on those lessons as I come up with them.


An up-to-date about page explains my readers who am I and what my blog is about. As the topics discussed in my blog get diversified, an up-to-date about page becomes more and more necessary.

I will use the information in this post to update my about page. Moreover, I’ll use this information to write my short bios for Medium and Twitter and the welcome email of my email newsletter.

Your Turn

Is there any information that you would like to see in an about page that I haven’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments and I might include it in the new version.