Medium, a relatively new startup by Twitter cofounder Evan Williams, is a blog network that emphasizes simplicity and quality above everything else. Writers on the invite-only platform typically post stories about deeply personal topics, such as fighting adversity, never giving up your dreams, changing flawed systems, and other things that make the readers feel happy. One of my favorite articles on Medium, Choosing Minecraft Over Disney, describe how a parent’s children chose technology over television.

As of recently, the frequency of links to Medium posts on the popular tech-oriented link aggregator Hacker News has been increasing at an alarming rate. Since Medium’s tales of triumph appeal to the ambitious entrepreneurs and startup founders of HN, the submissions are usually rapidly upvoted and easily make the front page, with muted text helpfully noting that the link goes to As a result, there has been cognitive dissonance on Hacker News whether Medium has too strong a presence on the aggregator, or worse, potentially gaming the system.

Using the HNSearch API, I analyzed the submissions of links under the domain to Hacker News to see just how Medium keeps surging in popularity. The results, as always, are very revealing.

The collected data is a sample of 1,000 links (out of 1,355 total) submitted to Hacker News under the domain. Each data point contains the Title of the article, the HN user who submitted it, the amount of upvotes it received, the time it was posted (in PST), and links to both the article and the HN comments thread for reference. You can view the data on Google Drive, or download the raw CSV and play with the data yourself.

What does the data tell us about Medium?

How quickly has grown in popularity in the past few months?

Medium was launched in August 2012, and received relatively little attention as evidenced by the graph. But 8 months later, the frequency of submissions hockey-sticked, receiving almost 5x growth from March 2013 to April 2013. That certainly explains one of the reasons why the rise in links is just being noticed now.

When are posts being written and submitted to HN?

The time of day a blog post is submitted makes all the difference in the world, especially if your blog platform targets readers in a specific region. Medium links are frequently posted and submitted around 10am PST / 1pm EST, which is smart as it’s relatively early in the day for those living in the United States, and your potential readers would be more likely to read your post, and HN users are more likely to upvote.

Who are the Hacker News users who most frequently submit articles?

Of the 1,000 submissions, there were only 622 unique submitters of links, each submitting an average of 1.61 posts. Most only post their own articles, but others, like rpsubhub, mrbird, and nvk submit links more often. However, none of those users appear to be associated with Medium; they just submit links rather frequently.

What are the types of articles on submitted to Hacker News?

Medium’s category system is somewhat obtuse, so I parsed the keywords from the titles of the submissions (using a method similar to my last post) in order to get an idea what type of content is submitted most from Medium. There are lots of posts that ask rhetorical questions (What?, How?, Why?), and even more posts about the personal self with I. Not only is Medium using the right language to facilitate interaction, it’s also hitting the interests of HNers with keywords such as Design and Facebook.

How successful are articles on Hacker News?

Out of the 1,000 submissions, only 158 had atleast 10 upvotes, which is enough to get the link to the front page, but not necessarily enough to keep it there. The graph is heavily right-skewed, with only 38 submissions getting above 100 points. It shows that links so not guarantee success, and even if you hit the front page, you have a low chance of hitting the coveted #1 ranking.

Medium is definitely growing. HN is receiving more and more submissions which appeal to the average HN user, and posts are being submitted at all hours of the day. However, having a post at is not a panacea that will make your blog post be seen by thousands of people; you still need to write something interesting.

Time will tell. But if HN does indeed get bored of Medium, I believe the problem will correct itself.


Max Woolf (@minimaxir) is a Data Scientist at BuzzFeed in San Francisco. He is also an ex-Apple employee and Carnegie Mellon University graduate.

In his spare time, Max uses Python to gather data from public APIs and ggplot2 to plot plenty of pretty charts from that data. On special occasions, he uses Keras for fancy deep learning projects.

You can learn more about Max here, view his data analysis portfolio here, or view his coding portfolio here.