Medium's Distribution Standards: What Writers and Publications Need to Know

Updated: December 9, 2020

Medium is an open platform where anyone is welcome to create, publish, and share their stories. All stories published on Medium have their own unique and shareable URL, and all stories on Medium are distributed to a writer’s (or publication’s) followers. Medium’s editorial teams regularly review stories published on the platform, selecting those that meet our distribution standards and exhibit a high level of quality for additional distribution in Medium’s emails, apps, homepage, and more. 

Read on to learn more about how we evaluate story quality and our specific distribution policies and standards. (More about Medium’s distribution system.)

What We’re Looking For: Quality

Medium values quality content — fresh ideas, unique perspectives, varied voices, smart thinking — and we believe readers do too. Here are the elements our editorial teams consider in evaluating story quality:

  • Does the story meet a high editorial standard? – Is it well-written, easy to follow, free of errors, appropriately sourced, narratively strong, and compelling? 
  • Does it add value for the reader? – Does it share new insights or perspectives? Offer an original take on a familiar issue? Does it stir emotions and/or thinking? Provide meaningful advice? Enrich a reader’s understanding of the topic? Does it feel like time well spent?
  • Is it written for the reader? – Is the story written with the reader in mind? Does the story make a connection with the reader or to a larger issue?
  • Is it complete? – Is it a finished, polished piece of work? Considered? Concise? Will a reader walk away satisfied?
  • Is it rigorous? – Are claims supported? Sources cited alongside stated facts? Does the story hold up to scrutiny?
  • Is it honest? – Is the story written in good faith? Is it truthful? 
  • Does it offer a good reading experience? – Is it properly formatted for the web/mobile? Does it have a clear and relevant headline that lets the reader know what the story is about? An easily readable story body — paragraphs/spacing/styling/section breaks/quotes? 
  • Is it free of typos and errors? 
  • Is the imagery appropriate? Is the imagery relevant and appropriate to the story?

Distribution disqualifications

Stories that contain any of the disqualifications below will not be considered for additional distribution.

Content that violates Medium’s Rules, including:

  • Violations of Ad-Free Medium
    • This includes unacceptable embeds, images, and promotions
  • Plagiarism or “borrowing” content without citation
  • Duplicate content
  • Non-compliant embeds (embeds that collect user information must do it off-site)
  • Undisclosed affiliate links
  • Stories that promote intolerance or prejudice against individuals or groups, including the use of scientific or pseudoscientific claims to pathologize, dehumanize, or disempower others
  • Stories that glorify, celebrate, downplay, or trivialize violence, suffering, abuse, or deaths
  • Stories that exist mainly to target, shame, intimidate, or harass identified, identifiable, or anonymous people
  • Nudity that is not content-supportive; it must be appropriate and tasteful to the story and is not allowed in the feature image
  • Violent, graphic, or offensive images or videos
  • Promotion of self-harm, suicide, or eating disorders
  • Pseudoscience or questionable health/medical/diet claims, including anti-vaxx
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Unsubstantiated accusations of illegal or unethical behavior
  • Including personal or private information without permission (includes personal communications)

Clickbait

We want readers to feel their time on Medium is well spent and are taking a careful look at stories designed to drive views over value. We believe clickbait does a disservice to readers and writers and undermines Medium’s goals of spreading new ideas, deepening understanding of the world, and supporting nuance, complexity, and vital storytelling. 

We've distilled four questions for writers and editors to use to evaluate and identify most clickbait formulas. If any of these questions can be answered with a "yes," the story is likely clickbait and will not be considered for additional distribution:

  • Is the title trying to exploit a reader’s personal worries, insecurities, or emotional state?
  • Is the title or story image more provocative than the content of the story merits?
  • Is the title over-reaching or over-promising with hyperbolic claims or absolutes that are not verifiable?
  • Is the title withholding important context; misleading the reader; or using cliches, gimmicks, or cheap language? 

A tasteful, narrow “curiosity gap” in the headline is okay, as long as the reader has a good idea of what they’re clicking on and the story delivers on its premise.

Medium’s Creators Hub has advice about great headlines and how to write them.

Disqualifying story types

  • No meta – no stories written about Medium
  • Sponsored content, content marketing, or stories whose sole purpose is to gather signups/traffic
  • Press releases
  • Non-English stories (we can only review English stories at this time)
  • Erotica
  • Inflammatory business reviews
  • Shortform posts are not eligible for further distribution.

Disqualifying story elements

  • Links in headlines
  • Clipped stories — stories that are only partially on Medium and continue on another site
  • Copyrighted images – Writers/pubs should use images they have the rights for and cite their sources. Resources like Nappy, Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash, and the Gender Spectrum Collection are great for sourcing Creative Commons-licensed images (please be sure to research and adhere to the license of the images you use). Original imagery is also great.
  • Ad-hominem attacks or rebuttals

CTAs

  • In the story body, all calls-to-action combined are not to exceed 20% of the total story length. This includes crowdfunding links, social links, inline writer bios, links to other stories, allowed first-person promotion, publication promos — everything that’s not the story. Writers are free to promote themselves, but the story body should not contain excessive promotion. Writers are also free to use their bio and profile as they wish.

For creative advice, inspiration, and guides to make the most of Medium, check out Medium’s Creators Hub publication, and be sure to follow Medium’s official blog, 3 Min Read.

The statements, views, and opinions contained in curated stories are those of the authors and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect the opinions of, Medium or its employees.

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