How Long is the Ideal Medium Story? (Words, Reading Times, & More)

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What is the ideal story length for Medium?
I used to feel a tinge of annoyance every time I got this question. And oh boy… do I get this question!

“What’s the ideal blog post length?”

It’s as long as it needs to be!—I’d think.

I said “used to” because ever since I started writing on Medium, this proverbial “ideal length” has become a real issue for me. Turns out, on Medium at least, there is, in fact, an ideal length.

I know you probably just want to know what that length is, so here it is:  The ideal length for Medium stories appears to be 5-8 minutes long (reading time).  According to my calculations, this translates to stories that are around 1,000 – 1,600 words. Medium seems to convert approximately 200-250 words as a 1-min read.

So, depending on who you ask, these are typically known as medium-form content, not short nor too long. (How apt! Did you know that Medium was named after medium-form content? LOL.)

How do I know this is the ideal length?

Well…

What’s the basis for this ideal length of 5-8 minute reads?

A former head of data science at Medium, Mike Sall, once shared an interesting study where his team finally cracked the code and found that the ideal length (based on reading time) is 7 minutes. He had shared this super useful graph too!

Graphical representation of ideal Medium story length.
Graphical representation of ideal Medium story length.

As you see in the graph, the curve around the 7-min marker is rather flat-ish. Meaning that readers spend the most amount of time reading stories that are around 5-8 minutes long.

This is as scientific as it goes.

The caveat? This is nine-year-old data (December 2013)!

And yet, plenty of other users have observed similar data either through their own stories or by examining popular stories across Medium.

Toni Koraza, for example, did a little investigation of his own. His data isn’t as thorough as Mike Sall’s (Sall had access to tremendous amounts of data that the general public didn’t have access to), but still, Koraza looked at 64 of the most popular stories on Medium (in 2020) and came up with an average of 7.8 minutes.

And finally, I looked at some of my own stories. These are three of my most popular stories in recent months (based on views, reads, and amount earned):

So, yeah… 5-8 minutes long seem to be the ideal length for Medium stories even now.

So, what does this mean for writers on Medium?

Ummm… nothing, really.

Perhaps people wonder about the quality or the value of stories that are too short, and that’s why they want to read longer posts. But if it’s too long, they probably feel intimated.

But, at the end of the day, you can write a short but valuable story, and readers will love you for it. Or, if you tackle a more complex subject and give in-depth information, people will respect and appreciate your effort and commitment.

Nobody keeps reading bad writing, no matter what the length is. And if you write a good blog post and it’s useful to readers, they won’t stop reading just because it’s more than 8 minutes long.

Focus on utility and entertainment

In a different story, Mike Sall shared the two most important factors for success on Medium:

  1. You write engaging stories
  2. The number of followers you have

In this case, if you write a lot of engaging stories, then the follower count will take care of itself.

When you’re writing a story for Medium, I’d recommend focusing on one of these two things (the best stories have both going for them):

  • Utility: These stories help readers in one way or another. They teach, they inform, they help. You get the picture. Brad Stulberg, for example, writes about mental health and self-improvement. His stories are informative, useful, and often actionable too. M.G. Siegler writes about tech and gadgets, and they’re really interesting.
  • Entertainment: Who doesn’t want to be entertained? We love a good laugh or a good cry or getting mad en masse. Adeline Dimond is an entertaining author. Even when she writes about her misery, she does it with style and wit.

All of these guys I just mentioned have written stories that run from 2 minutes to well over 10 minutes. These stories are as long as they need to be.

My point is, you’ve got to give something your readers need or want. If it takes you 200 words to do that, so be it. But if it takes you 10k words? That’s fine too!

Recently, Medium featured a fantastic story on its homepage: the secret ingredient to telling a good story by GB ‘Doc’ Burford. That story is 52 effing minutes long!!!!! Yeah… I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I have it bookmarked, and I’m taking my sweet time reading a few paragraphs at a time. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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1 thought on “How Long is the Ideal Medium Story? (Words, Reading Times, & More)”
  1. Finding the sweet spot for a Medium story length can be quite the adventure! 📚 Thanks to your informative post, I now have a better understanding of what constitutes the ideal length. Looking forward to crafting engaging stories that captivate readers from start to finish. Cheers to the power of storytelling!

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