Medium,  Writing

I Had My First Viral Story Ever

…and it wasn’t on Medium

I finally know the feeling of having an article go viral on the world wide web!
The article in question didn’t go viral on Medium, however, it went viral on the oft-written about local news site, Newsbreak.

Let’s rewind back to the beginning of 2021. I wasn’t selected for Newsbreak’s amazing creator program promising writers $1,000 per month that everyone was raving about. I applied practically the first time I saw mention of the opportunity here on Medium, only to be disappointed when I got the rejection email a few days later. But I’m a writer, so I was (and still am) pretty used to rejection. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and kept writing on Medium. I wrote a lot on Medium — I’ve published 55 articles so far, and that’s a lot for me. But I’ve yet to go viral.

So when Newsbreak re-structured their creator platform to allow anyone who wanted to write for their site to sign up, I thought I’d give it a try. Much to my chagrin (and the disappointment of every writer out there), Newsbreak was no longer offering big bucks to writers willing to give their platform a try, but I decided to attempt an article or two anyway.

After writing four articles that performed mediocrely (although one of them still did better than any of my Medium articles so far), my fifth article went viral.

The article

As we all know by now after reading hundreds of articles about Newsbreak on Medium, the key to being successful (at least, according to how the website itself is set up) is writing about local content. Newsbreak wants to bring back local news, even though for some localities it never really left.

So, that’s what I tried to do — writing about events in my home state of Colorado like the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit coming to Denver.

But the article that went viral (at least, viral to me, the specifics of which I will get into in a moment) wasn’t about a fun event or the grand opening of a trendy new coffee shop in town, it was about COVID. About how a music festival in Grand Junction, Colorado, resulted in a COVID outbreak.

The results

Now when I say this article went viral, please understand that there are different levels of “going viral,” and it can be a bit subjective. My article about the COVID outbreak at Country Jam has garnered more than sixty-thousand views (and counting.)

That’s about eight times the views I have gotten on all my Medium articles…ever.

So you can see why, for me, this is viral.

The lesson

You can’t go viral on the internet without learning something, right?

The lesson I’ve learned (at least so far) is that, unfortunately, topic matters. I don’t know if the COVID article I wrote would have gone viral on Medium — I won’t ever know, really. But I do know that writing about a controversial topic gained me some traction.

Sure, writing about Vincent Van Gogh got me a few thousand views, but it didn’t get me tens of thousands. And writing about some of the topics I’ve written about on Medium that have gotten moderate success — self-help and writing — left me spinning my wheels on Newsbreak.

I most definitely do not have all the answers when it comes to the topics you should (or shouldn’t) be writing about here or on Newsbreak, but I have come to the unfortunate realization that I can’t simply write about whatever obscure interest strikes my fancy.

At least not for now.

The takeaways

Will I be giving up writing on Medium? Most definitely not. There’s an amazing community here that I am so happy to be a part of, and I don’t plan on abandoning my little corner of Medium any time soon.

I will, though, be writing a bit more on Newsbreak than I was planning. While the site no longer is paying big monthly chunks of money to writers who sign a contract with them, they do have a monetization option once you reach a few thresholds (namely publishing ten articles and snagging yourself 200 followers.) This option definitely isn’t as enticing as when I originally tried to become a writer on Newsbreak, but with the virality of articles seemingly more plausible for me, I could see myself getting to the point of monetization pretty quickly.

For now, I’ll continue to write about whatever interests me along with covering those stories that are potentially controversial.

Are my cats potentially controversial? I guess they could be, but so far everyone on Medium has liked to read about them, so only time will tell.

Previously published in ILLUMINATION

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