From Curation to Top Writers, What Makes a Story Go Viral on Medium?

What I have learned from reading popular stories on Medium

Anahide T
6 min readMay 27, 2022


Man types on a computer
Source: Sergey Zolkin on

We are all hoping our stories can go viral in one way or another. Virality helps us get more views, followers, reading time, and, of course, money.

I have researched and read popular stories on Medium to understand what made them go viral. I focused on two things: Medium's daily reading list and Top Writers posts.

The first thing I noticed is that the criteria for curation and those that make people become top writers are not the same.

Being chosen for distribution and becoming a top writer are two different things

Let's look at top writers first.

Becoming a top writer is all about having a loyal audience. While you can get curated without having written a lot of stories, you need to be well established on the platform to become a top writer.

Let's see how you can achieve that.

  • Top writers write in niches

Top writers tend to write multiple stories on the same topic to establish their expertise. One article is not enough to be a top writer, you need to show up multiple times and have readers notice your content.

That's why top writers generally choose a few niches to write for.

There are exceptions though. Take Sean Kernan for example. He is known to write about a wide variety of topics. But while his stories cover different subjects, he often uses tags that have a broad meaning, like "life" or "relationships." It's not exactly like having a specific niche, but it allows him to focus on a few categories on Medium.

  • They know their audience

Top writers often have built a name for themselves by publishing extensively on the same topic and finding their audience by their own means. I noticed that they often have personal newsletters and are active on social media.

It means that top writers make efforts to find their audience, as opposed to curation which is about being noticed by one or a little group of people.