Multilingual Publishing on Medium (Reload)

You can read this article on Medium too.

This article updates and extends the previous Multilingual Publishing on Medium, of June 2017. You might want to read that too only for more details about Medium experiments in the past and my first experience on the topic.


Without a doubt, English is the most used language on the Web.

At the same time, many other languages are important and popular, and there are many reasons to publish in a language other than English, depending on your goals.

One of the main reasons is that you may want to make local connections, be it for business or not. Connecting with people all around the globe is interesting and exciting, but local connections are important too. And, maybe, they’re the most important to you. (see Should I Publish in English?)

Medium is a popular platform with some great traits, and it’s possible that you’re considering it for writing in a language different than English, or multilingual.

I’ve walked that path too, with my writing in Italian, but before speaking about the possibilities, it’s important to frame the matter.

At which level is multilingualism supported?

That was one of my first questions on Medium, and I asked that to Medium support. Answer: “On Medium, you can publish in any language you want. We don’t have any rules against that.

I’m sure you already guessed. You can open a new story, write in your language and save but… Will readers get it?

Medium does not support multilingualism. Period.

No search tools for languages, no newsletters in local languages, no filtering features, no multilingual profile, all the tags mixed, only English articles are featured, etc.

The good news is that multilingualism is not prevented. There resides our little hope.

Hope of seeing multilingualism supported in the future?

Not in the short term, for sure, and likely never at all.

Medium experimented multilingualism in the past in the weird form of editorial colonialism in some countries – with no multilingual features –, and they withdrew.

Medium is a magazine, a social, and a blogging platform. But their clear primary interest is attracting readers by featuring articles around certain editorial focuses. In English. They’re not interested in being a blog hosting alternative, nor an independent publishing platform with social features. I fell in that trap, with many others, and afterward realized why the much-needed features expected in a blogging platform never arrived. (see The Feature I Miss Most on Medium)

On top of that, you may already have noticed that Medium topics are not exactly international. Most of the stories are around some US-based cultures. Just the list of Medium topics speaks volumes.

We have to deal with that, and also understand what entrust our writing to Medium – especially in a language different than English – means.

The drawbacks

Almost all Medium users read and write in English. Users come from many countries – even if western cultures are prevalent – but the common language is English. That’s what all is around. By writing in a language other than English, you’re just out of the mainstream. Out of a lot.

That alone is enough to reduce your exposure dramatically, but Medium wants to make things worse.

One of the most important features on Medium is the Medium Partner Program. You can gain from the appreciation of your writing. But the only stories Medium features are members-only stories in… English.

And all the many newsletters from Medium are in… English. All the possible promotion from Medium – or the major publications on it – is around… English.

Plus, there are the technical limitations aforementioned, and they matter.

Your profile page is not multilingual. Writing multilingual will just make your profile be a mess. In which language do you write your 160 chars of the bio? Will your English or local readers be annoyed by the stories in the other language?

But the main problem is that there is no proper way to reach the stories in your own language, for a reader. Tags other than in English are not associated with Medium topics. There is no “Top Writer” for them. And they are numerically risible.

From what I wrote, you may have guessed that independent stories in languages different than English have no hope of visibility.

Several of my stories in English got thousands of views, on Medium. But, in contrast, my most viewed Italian story has 466 views,and took 17 months to amount those views.

My second most viewed story in Italian has only 65 views. So, you can imagine that my typical story in Italian fights for ten views and a couple of fans.

Just to warn you, before you invest too much time, like me. Getting popularity in English, on Medium, is hard. Getting it in Spanish is ten times harder. Getting it in Italian is just impossible.

So, what can we do?

If you’re still determined, here’s what you can do.

Bio

If you write in English too, write your bio in English. Almost all your connections on Medium know English. Else, it’s up to you. Maybe a few words in both of your languages (you’re not planning more, right? )can work, or better use only your publishing language.

Tags

Tags are the saddest item on the to-do list. Even more so, seen that they’re so important, on Medium.

I tried several approaches, for my stories in Italian, included all tags in English and mixed tags. They don’t work. You can get a few more views with tags in English, but they are the wrong views because an English reader will get a story in the “wrong” language. Anyway, there’s no much difference in views, depending on which language you use for tags.

So, I settled for all tags in the same language of the story, reserving one of them to the name of the language (when not in English), written in its own language. “Italiano” in my case.

Also, you have to stay much more generic. If in English you can include niche tags, in your language all tags are probably niche tags already. If the tag sports less than a hundred stories, it’s just useless. Go for more generic or popular terms.

The number of stories associated to a tag is not a measure of visibility, but it’s indeed a rough measure of the activity of the community on that topic.

Try to reuse the same tags many times, when relevant.

Stories without a publication

The publications game is not as rewarding as it seems. And it’s anyway good to learn the ropes with a few stories on your own. Numbers are against you – you already know – but try the same to publish regularly in your language.

After a few stories, it’s already time for publications.

Submitting to publications

Publications can offer a slightly more exposure to your stories, and let make you some more connections, maybe with the editors, at least, seen that publications in languages other than English don’t find plenty of writers.

I won’t go into the details here (start with Medium help, for this).

If you don’t publish regularly, this is the road I’d recommend.

Finding publications won’t be easy. But you can search starting with popular terms in your language, and by the language name itself. Most of the found publications will just be collections of writings from one author, but they can be a good place anyway.

Publishing in your own publication

If you’re consistent enough and your writing has something in common, apart from you, it’s a good idea – maybe the best idea – to create your own publication.

That’s what I did. In particular, my publication in Italian is twin to a publication in English. It contains fewer stories, and maybe contains some stories that do not appear in the English publication.

Reasons for opening a publication in a local language are simple.

Your stories will share the first part of the URL (the HTTP address), making it easier for Google to gather them. It would be the same with your profile, of course, but if the stories in the publication are a further selection – by topic and language –, being gathered helps to highlight their relevance.

Also, you have an access point for Medium readers. A few of them may follow the publication or just see some of your other stories in the publication.

At last, you have a link to share outside Medium, which refers to your work. Medium will be a barrier, for non-Medium readers, but it’s better than nothing.

But don’t just gather all of your stories under one umbrella. It doesn’t work because the only reasons for those stories to stay together is in your mind. Without reason for the reader to see those stories in the same bucket, most of the benefits vanish. Consider continuing to publish some of your stories outside your publication, when they don’t fit the “theme.” They would just lessen the attractiveness of the publication and some of its other benefits.

Ready? Go!

All of the above won’t boost your views, but will improve your chances, and will probably let you know a few other writers/readers in your country, as it did with me.

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