1. September 2023

The Illusion of Success in the Age of Content Overload

Photo by Jevgeni Fil on Unsplash

When I joined Medium, I was puzzled.

What I Expected: A large readership eager to find content worth their time, and a select group of exceptional writers putting their best work out there.

What I Found: Perhaps 10% of truly impressive and beautifully crafted articles, surrounded by 90% “content.” And by “content,” I mean the bad kind — stuff designed to attract an audience with the least possible effort.

According to most articles in the categories of “Medium”, “Writing”, or “Blogging” there are three things you must do to find your readers:

Find a nicheWrite every dayPay attention to your title


Interestingly, this is precisely the same advice you receive when you try to “make it” as a podcaster, become a photographer, or establish a YouTube channel.

What starts as a fun promise to simply create and share your personality online quickly turns into a cynical grind. The siren song of making money online is tempting: “Do what you love, and strangers will pay you.” But once you realize that the audience isn’t coming, you start tweaking your titles, picking your niche, and ramping up the volume.

The Survivorship Bias Trap

Before we dive into alternative strategies, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: survivorship bias. Most of the “gurus” dispensing this cookie-cutter advice are the ones who’ve made it. They’re the survivors telling their war stories. But what about the legions who followed the same advice and never broke through? They’re the silent majority, the unseen casualties of this content war.

This entire theme is a trap, a siren song that benefits the platforms more than the creators. The platforms want you to produce, produce, produce, because more content means more clicks, more ads, and more data. But is it good for you, the individual trying to carve out a space online? Highly doubtful.

The Alternative Path: Breaking the Mold

So, what’s the alternative? How do you escape this vicious cycle? Here are some strategies that don’t involve selling your soul to the algorithm gods:

Quality Over Quantity

Forget the daily grind. Focus on creating content that actually matters. Spend time researching, writing, and editing. Make each piece a work of art that you’re proud of.

Authenticity is Key

Don’t box yourself into a niche just because some guru told you to. Write about what genuinely interests you. Authenticity has a magnetic pull; it attracts like-minded individuals who will become your most loyal readers or viewers.

Diversify Your Content

Who said you have to stick to one format? If you’re a writer, try podcasting. If you’re a podcaster, try writing. Different formats can attract different audiences and keep the creative juices flowing.

Engage with Your Community

Forget optimizing just for clicks. Spend time engaging with your audience. Reply to comments, ask for feedback, and encourage discussion. A strong community can be more valuable than a catchy title.

Continuous Learning

Don’t assume you’ll get better by doing the same thing over and over. Invest in learning. Take courses, read widely, and never stop improving.

Collaborate with Others

Two heads are better than one. Collaborate with people who complement your skills or offer a fresh perspective. It’s a win-win: you both get exposed to each other’s audiences.

Experiment and Iterate

Don’t be afraid to fail. Try new things, analyze the results, and refine your approach. Each failure is a stepping stone to future success.

Focus on Long-Term Goals

Quick wins and viral hits are the junk food of content creation. They might give you a quick high, but they won’t sustain you. Focus on your long-term vision and work steadily towards it.

The Final Word

The internet has shifted from a place where a few people published and many consumed to the exact opposite. You’re now advised to produce something new every day, with the claim that you’ll automatically improve. However, most people end up diluting what was once interesting material to the point that it becomes barely noticeable.

It’s a vicious cycle. And if there’s a reason I’ve stopped podcasting and rarely publish my own photography, it’s this: I prefer to do things simply because I want to, not because your attention might someday turn into money — if I find the right way to attract the masses.

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