How Unequal is Success on Medium?

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Do Medium Posts Follow Power Law?

Thanks to the hard work of a fellow medium-member², we have a list of the top 500 medium posts of all time. The plot below shows these top 500 posts ordered by the number of claps they received.

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Fitting the Data

If we fit this data to one form of the classic power law relationship (y = a*x^b+c), we get a pretty good fit. The plot below shows the fitted line in green.

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Testing for Power Law

Power law relationships are notable for appearing linear when plotted in log-log format. Let’s take a look at the log-log plot of medium posts below

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Inequality of Success on Medium

The fact is, Medium posts follow the same power law pattern as other forms of media. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the probability of success is the same.

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Testing the Pareto Principle

Another way to compare the equality of success on Medium with that of traditional written media is to test the Pareto principle. The table below shows the percentage of success — claps, weeks on bestsellers list, circulation — that is held by the top 20% of each distribution.

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Conclusions

Popularity is a network effect and networks follow power law. This means that any form of media will exhibit a large inequality of success. The top posts on Medium will get promoted, shared, and read much more than rest, just as happens in traditional media. Nevertheless, it is a testament to Medium that on this platform, success is more evenly distributed. Your odds of writing something that will be read by millions of people is better than it ever has been.

Notes

1 — https://medium.com/@michaeltauberg/power-law-in-popular-media-7d7efef3fb7c

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Written by

Engineer in San Francisco. Interested in words, networks, and human abstractions. Opinions expressed are solely my own.

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