Losing 13,000 Subscribers

I used to run an account on Medium that got sort of popular, eventually reaching 13,000 subscribers. It got to a point where every time I opened Medium I’d need to clean out my notifications because there would be a new stack of new subscribers and claps. One day I canceled the account, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But it felt great.

It’s easy to assume that the standard way of growing social media traffic is the only way to do it. But it’s a very database or video game way of thinking.

Step one: you start with zero followers/points
Step two: get more followers/points
Step three: be popular/get a high score

But what if there were ways to shape your audience?

What if when you joined Medium with zero subscribers you had a way to get ten people following you after your first post? These would be kind people interested in being exposed to brand new authors on the platform, not a whole lot different from people going to open mic nights to spot new talent.

Medium would need to add settings to fine-tune the feature, of course. I do want to see new authors, but maybe only one a day.

Let’s say I have 100 followers, but my posts are only getting one or two claps. That can feel like I’m disappointing 99% of my audience, but what’s more likely is 99% of my audience has gone inactive. No worries, it happens!

It would be interesting to “strengthen” my followers by removing followers that are inactive. Maybe my 100 followers gets cut back to 13, but if those 13 are genuinely interested in what I’m writing, that could be helpful.

Those other 87 people wouldn’t be fully unsubscribed without their consent. They’d go into a grey area where they could be prompted to cull their own following list, which would make their own experience better.

This is a more specialised use case. I could do the “strengthen” trick and knock this number down to 2000 followers. But even that might be overwhelming. Sometimes knowing that people are reading your words can cause a bit of writer’s block.

Maybe there could be a way to go into focused mode, where you don’t see new followers come in, you don’t see your total audience size, and responses are turned off by default? That would allow writers to stay in writing mode instead of a trip to Medium feeling like an administrative task.

It’s easy to assume everything is supposed to be the way it was originally designed. Of course video games have a score … but do they need one? Of course Medium has followers, like all social media … but do we need them? And even if we do, do they all have to be counted the same, like a video game? All software is designed from a set of assumptions, but assumptions can change. It’s really fun seeing where those challenges take you.

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.