The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Medium — 2020 | by Lincoln W Daniel | Writers Guild | Medium

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Medium — 2020

Lincoln W Daniel
Jun 4, 2020 · 12 min read

Medium is one of the few places on the internet where you can go to find original stories and ideas that are worth reading. There’s a whole lot to do here, so I’d like to walk you through the different paths you can explore as a reader, writer, and editor.

This story has been remastered from 2018 as many things has changed.

What You Can Do as A Reader

Spend a few minutes on the platform and you will notice that Medium values high quality, thoughtful stories that share unique ideas and perspectives, so it’s editorial team scours thousands of articles everyday to find the best ones for you to read everyday. As soon as you open, you will see a featured section; it’s a good place to start reading.

After browsing through the featured stories, if you don’t find something that piques your interests, this next section should help. If you told Medium your interests when you signed up, it will do its best to show you stories that match what you provided. If you didn’t tell Medium your interests when you signed up, don’t worry, you can do it at any time by clicking the “Customize your interests” link in the dropdown from your profile image in the navigation bar.

Medium is more social than other places you might read articles on the internet. As you read, I suggest you follow the writers that authors of stories that you enjoy. By doing this, you’ll tell Medium that you want more stories from these authors to show up in your feed.

Unlike the featured stories chosen by Medium’s staff, these stories are chosen by us, the readers. As we read and clap for stories, we cast our vote for the most popular stories on Medium on any given day. There’s no electoral college here; the stories that receive the most amount of votes in a given time rise to the top. You will usually find a story you like in this section given that hundreds and thousands of other readers have enjoyed the stories that populate the listing.

Read a story by a writer and enjoyed it? Follow the author of the story to tell Medium you’d like to see more stories by that writer in your feed. They may even follow you back!

Top 100 Medium publications. Via Smedian

Publications happen to be one of my favorite features on Medium; I run the Writers Guild. As you would follow a niche blog or a specific section of a traditional print paper like The Wall Street Journal or Financial Times, you can follow niche sections of Medium. These niche sections of the platform behave like traditional publications in that they have editors and writers the publish articles on the specific topics that a publication covers.

You can find a publication that covers just about any topic you might want to read up on. In my article from a few months ago, you can find the top fifty topics covered by Medium publications. If those aren’t enough for you, you can check out the top publications on Medium via Smedian. Smedian tracks over 8,200 publications and ranks them by their number of followers so that you can find the best one for you. It even tracks how fast those publications are growing if you’re interested in stats.

As you read, if you enjoy a story, you should reward the author with some claps. Your claps helps the platform thrive. Your claps shows the authors you enjoy that you appreciate their work and encourages them to keep up the great work. Your claps will also tell Medium to show you more stories like the ones you applaud.

If you read a line of a story that resonates with you, select the line and click the highlighter button to highlight it. This will let the author know you like that line and will be visible to other readers. You can also return to that highlight later if you need to.

Read an article that you connected with? Want to start a conversation with the author about a idea they shared? Medium makes it easy through the “Responses” section at the bottom of every article. Writers usually appreciate the engagement and will get back to you.

Try sending a nice note every now and then to let the authors of your reading list know you appreciate their work.

As you browse Medium, you can bookmark the stories you want to return to at a later time by clicking the bookmark button in the story. Doing that will add the story to your reading list so that you can read it when the time is right.

Medium has put a great deal of work into its reading experience. As it reading platform, it’s convenient to be able to access it from anywhere — on your laptop or on your phone. I suggest you download the Medium app for Android and iOS; at the time of this writing, the apps have a 4.6 and 4.4 of five stars respectively.

When you have the Medium app on your phone, be sure to checkout Series.

Aside from taking your claps to a higher level, Medium members enjoy other privileges. Firstly, your reading and clapping goes into how Medium pays writers for their work on the platform. With claps and your time spent reading, you control where your monthly fee goes.

As a member there are more ways for you to experience Medium stories.

Audio stories

Tune into audio versions of popular stories — recorded by real people, no robot voices allowed. —

Heading out for a commute or a flight across the country or just lounging? Load up the Medium application, and listen to your reading list. The stories are narrated by real people, not robots, so the experience is actually enjoyable.

What You Can Do as A Writer

Medium started as a better writing experience for writers on the internet. In a editor that was beautiful and a delight to use, you could craft your stories and bring your ideas to life and share it with your audience outside of the platform. You didn’t have to set up a server and learn website development. You didn’t even have to learn how to install plugins and other widgets to make the experience work. It just worked and it worked well. All of that is still true today.

As Medium has grown, it’s become much more than just a beautiful editor. Now, when you write an article, you have an active audience waiting to read your story and engage with you via highlights and responses. Let’s see what Medium has to offer to the writers on the platform.

At, you can craft your story. You can add links, images, videos, and embed other external content in your article (example below). Before publishing, you can share your draft with peers to solicit feedback. When you’re ready to publish, click the publish button and explore the available options that you can use to make your story stand a better chance on the platform and around the internet.

Tag your story. You can add up to five tags that appropriately categorize your story. These tags are important because they help readers find stories that they are interested in. For example, if you tag your article with “Tech”, readers will find your stories in the “Tech” section of medium.

Schedule your story. You can schedule your story to be published at a desirable time. With this feature, you can finish your story at 4am and schedule it to be published at 12pm when your audience is awake and on their lunch break.

Set a high resolution image as your featured image. Adding images to your article might help your readers better consume your ideas. Even if you don’t want to add images throughout your article, you should include at least one image and set it as your featured image in the “Publish” dropdown under “Select one of your images to feature”.

By connecting your social accounts, you can easily share your story to your profiles so that it can be discovered by your audience outside off Medium. You can connect your accounts in your settings page or under the “Publish” dropdown.

Connecting your Twitter account to your Medium account should also pull in your Twitter followers as followers of your Medium profile to help you establish a baseline audience of people who already like your work.

As noted in the section for readers, I love publications. Publications are great for discovering content in a certain niche topic here on Medium. Readers appreciate the consistency of publications insofar that they produce stories on topics that are closely related to one another. In order to produce those stories, the editors of publications rely on writers like you and I to write them. As a writer, this is all good news for you.

The top 100 Medium publications of 2017 — via Smedian

As a writer for a publication, you’ll have a audience that is loyal to that publication and receives your new stories in their feed. Some publications even put a great deal of effort in distributing their stories outside of Medium in order to reach a larger portion of their niche. This means that not only will your stories likely do better on Medium in a publication than it would on its own if you are starting out without an audience of your own, but that your stories will reach far beyond the Medium network.

To contribute your story to a publication, you must first be added as a writer by its editors. Many publications are usually open to new writers, but some are tough to get into. You’ll need to do a fair deal of research to find the right publication for you, obtain the contact information of its editors, reach out and await a response that may or may not arrive. Lucky for you, Smedian can make that process much easier and more rewarding for you and the publications involved.

Use Smedian to browse the top publications on Medium to get an idea of the kind of publications that are on Medium and what topics are covered. When your ready to find a publication to contribute to, head on over to Smedian’s listing of publications that have advertised themselves as actively seeking writers. There are over 370 such publications that might want you to join their team as a writer. Many of the publications on Smedian are in the top 300, 200, and 100 of over 3,000 Medium publications. Some are even in the top 50, 20, and 5 of the most popular publications on Medium. All you have to do is click a single button to “Request to Contribute” to the publication(s) of your choice. Once you are added as a writer to a publication, you’ll be able to submit your stories to them through the Medium editor.

Bonus: As a part of Penname, which Smedian is a part of, you can reach more readers and grow your following by sharing your stories on

Don’t like the publications that exist on the platform, or you just want to start your own? Right on! Start your own publication, add writers, and grow your readership on your own time. Smedian can help with that as described above.

As an editor of a publication, you can even send letters to your subscribers. Letters act as newsletters you would send through a service like MailChimp without having to manage your own email list or designing a template. Your letters will be as beautiful as the stories you read on Medium.

But be aware that Medium will not give you access to the email addresses of your subscribers. This departs from usual practice across most other newsletter platforms and services, so I want to be sure people are aware of this. If you ever want to leave Medium, this will mean you lose your subscribers. It’s bad practice for a platform to be this walled, but that’s what the people at Medium has chosen to do.

There’s also no way to connect your own custom domain to your publication anymore; this is just another way for Medium to wall you into their system and prevent you from outgrowing them.

Want to earn money for your writing? The Medium Partner Program is the first open paywall on the internet and aims to reward high quality writing by authors from all walks of life. This means that you don’t need to hire an agent or get a publishing deal to make money for your writing. All you need to do is join Medium’s Partner Program, write high quality work that your audience of Medium members appreciates, and get paid every month.

While your stories written for the program will be primarily for members, Medium allows logged out users and other non-member users of the platform to read your story as part of their monthly quota of free stories. That means that your stories shouldn’t take a hit in distribution.

If you’re interested in building up your search engine presence, you’re in the right place. Medium is among the top in SEO performance, so be sure to stand on its shoulders. They even have tips on good SEO practices for Medium writers that you should definitely read up on.

If you enjoy and are able to write while you are out and about, I suggest you download Medium’s Android and iOS apps that allow you to easily craft your story as it comes to you through the day while you are away from your laptop. While not as efficient nor capable as the web editor, Medium’s mobile editors let you at least jot down your ideas before they escape ahead of your return to your laptop.

Series are a failed experiment. You can’t earn money using them to write. They don’t appear anywhere meaningful on Medium. Don’t waste your time with them unless you really want to.

At the end of your stories, there will be a response section for your readers to respond to the thoughts you share. To build and maintain your audience, it’s advised that you respond to comments left on your story as you deem appropriate. Remember that respect and kindness goes a long way.

If you use this section well, it’ll be a powerful tool for you to connect with your readers in a seamless manner.


As is evidenced by this article, there’s many ways to experience Medium. Dive in and explore all there is to do here. If you find something that I missed, please share it below. Thanks for reading this far and I hope it helps you on your journey!

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Writers Guild

Hone your craft. Share your story.

Lincoln W Daniel

Written by

Creating more winners in writing | Author @JavaForHumans | Created | Ex: Founder & Editor in Chief @MarkGrowth (acq.)

Writers Guild

Hone your craft. Share your story.

Lincoln W Daniel

Written by

Creating more winners in writing | Author @JavaForHumans | Created | Ex: Founder & Editor in Chief @MarkGrowth (acq.)

Writers Guild

Hone your craft. Share your story.

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