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Observations On The Latest Vocal Upgrade

These Are By Thoughts, You May Vehemently Disagree

By Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred πŸŒ›Published about a month ago β€’ 3 min read


Vocal has put a lot of work into adding new features to the platform. These are my thoughts on them.

I know a lot of Vocal Creaors and Vocal themselves will disagree with me but I feel I have to make these points. I would love to know what your thoughts are.

The music I have included is Steve Hillage's take on The Beatles' "Getting Better" because with these upgrades Vocal is significantly improving.

Here is the release story (where you can see my comments)

One of the things that you have to do with critical observations is you have to give a reason for them and offer an alternative.

I have just had to rewrite the above paragraph because of the Vocal Editor's ridiculous initial autosave feature which has lost me quite a bit of time over the years. I know I should wait for it but I do forget, like today.

Remember we have quite a few useful features available on the side menu:

So here are my thoughts on the new features.

Saved Stories

This is an excellent idea. Check it out.

My only worry is that you dip into a story, save it and that is registered as the initial read, but it is not enough to register a Vocal read for you.

When you come back it is classed as a second read so the Creator may end up receiving nothing for the read. Vocal should clarify this.

I use the "Stories You Liked" to revisit previous stories.

Homepage Story Feed

This is the one I have a big issue with. On the Vocal Home page, this is the fifth inclusion of a publication feed. There are two on the "Your Subscriptions", then there is the Notifications, then there is Latest Stories, and now this. This is the top of my Subscription Feed, I don't need any more:

So to me, this is a total waste of resources, but you can check my constructive dialogue with Justin in the article but here's a screenshot:

Highlighting Subscribed Creators

Another addition to the Vocal Home Page that I believe is unnecessary as the Subscription Feed already provides this.

The justification for this is that two clicks to access the Subscription Feed is is too much for Vocal Creators. That argument could be used to justify anything, but I doubt I will be using the Vocal Home page, and every time I click on it it grates with me.

Paid Subscriptions

There is talk of this and pledges, but to me this is at odds with the Vocal model. I pay my $10 a month and that allows me to share my work that everyone can read for free.

This is one of the reasons I virtually never publish on Medium any more because often stories are stopped for non-members.

I have 877 Subscribers but I doubt one of them would pay to read my work and similarly, if a Vocal Creator needed money from me to read their work, I would unsubscribe.

There are sites like Patreon and Only Fans where content can require paid subscriptions, and the only reason people pay is because the content is a bit specialised and not for public consumption.

I publish hard copy anthologies of my work and I see that similar to a paid subscription.

And we can always give each other tips to show our appreciation. I usually drop dollar tips to brand-new Vocal Creators and for my Monthly Challenges in VSS.

Conclusions And Stuff

These are my thoughts on the latest upgrade. I do wish Vocal would fix their stats or at least add a read count to individual stories, but maybe that will happen one day.

Thank you for reading and I would love to hear what you think.

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Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred πŸŒ›

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Comments (10)

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    This is my opinion and what I commented on Justin's piece: I'm happy for being able to save/bookmark a story! That's so cool! However, I'm not happy with the Story Feed and Exclusive Stories. I feel the Story Feed thingy is unnecessary because we already have the Your Subscriptions, Latest Stories, and our notifications for that. As for the Exclusive Stories, I'm with Hannah, DK Shepard and Poppy on this. I don't think we'd wanna make people pay to read our stuff and I don't think anyone's gonna pay either. It'll just be a waste of time. I'm sad because the Top Stories are below everything. Shouldn't Top Stories be at the Top? That's what makes them Top Stories.

  • Chloe Gilholyabout a month ago

    I haven't been on Medium in ages. The paywall is a turn off for me.

  • L.C. SchΓ€ferabout a month ago

    I agree with you, but probably feel less strongly about it. I don't have a single pledge, to me or anyone else. I don't think anyone on Vocal does. I think that part is a crap idea. I think the word count discrepancy is fixed (it used to be different than in Google docs and now seems to be the same).

  • Stephen A. Roddewigabout a month ago

    I stopped consuming content on Medium because, like you said, most of it is paywalled these days. But, there is nothing requiring creators to set up their stories that way; they do it because they want to be paid for their work. That I can respect. Meanwhile, Queen Erica, savior of submission hustlers everywhere, has never made a single article "member-exclusive" despite the massive following and clear earning potential she has: So, like Medium, you still have the choice to make. I guffawed when they first released Pledges way back when. And I'm sure that Paid Subscriptions will have a similar level of adoption. But I do respect the fact that they are arming us with an actual *incentive* to attract paid subscribers (i.e. Exclusive Stories). Versus now where the person doesn't "get" anything if they Pledge. Again, I don't imagine it will be a very common thing, but I respect them for equipping those who want to use it with another way to earn for their work. Unless they make it mandatory, I don't see why everyone is in such an uproar over it, to be honest. I'm curious to see how the Homepage updates shift the power dynamic. Right now, I feel like my subscription count is a bit, well, worthless. I get maybe 10% the number of reads versus my subscriber count (and far less engagement). To be fair, the notification is likely getting buried, to another of your points. But if my most recent content is now front and center on the homepage, it stands to reason more of these folks will see it, read, and engage. And I suspect Top Stories will see some level of lower engagement, simply because they're no longer so prominent. For someone like me not in the Vocal "Big Leagues," I kind of like that idea in a quite selfish manner.

  • Lindsay Sfaraabout a month ago

    I'm actually quite glad I'm not the only one who had the same thought about paid subscriptions. It's, as you said, almost exactly why I stopped using Medium. And to see this coming to Vocal puts a sour taste in my mouth. I'll not end up using it, and again, for the same reasons you mentioned. I'd rather be compensated with regular subscribes and potential tips, not force people to pay to read my work which only "gatekeeps" in the end.

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    I think the upgrades are well-meaning, and a great start to the changes on vocal. However, for me, the front page is a little confusing because I am used to seeing top stories first, also the save button is sticky and very slow at saving stories. I wonder if it might be better for Vocal to add a button so that we know which stories from creators we have saved have been previously read by us. Another good idea would be to find ways around traffic coming into Vocal, as it is based mostly on internal traffic. I have pledged to a creator on here because I love his reviews, and the tipping is a great feature though many don't use it. Pay per read could do with a better increase too, since I am a yearly subscriber to Vocal, and even monthly subscribers put a lot into their work. We should be earning a little more than we are paying for, rather than small amounts. I love writing for free, but every writer deserves to be paid, particularly as in my country, this is classed as self-employment when we earn above a certain amount, and we still have to report earnings just like working people do.

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Thanks much for the article, Mike. I appreciate your thoughts on Vocal's upgrade. Typically, I prefer to give myself time to acclimate to changes before I comment, but I already have replied to Vocal's article announcing the changes, to provide initial feedback, so why not continue? I caveat those comments and the following thoughts that these are early responses. I might change my mind after using the enhancements/changes for a few days, and if so, I'll return with updates via Comments. I definitely agree that Vocal's Reads feature needs to be clarified. In all instances (Vocal and beyond), metrics mean nothing without explanation of what is being counted, how it is being counted, and what the caveats are. Additionally, I would want to know, given the roll out, what are the changes in how non-member readers engaged with Vocal content? How are non-member engagements measured (partial reads/browsing, full reads, rereads, likes, bookmarks, etc.)? Can a future release give Vocal+ members greater understanding of the author's non-member readership. For example, does the "read" originate from Facebook, Medium, a drop-by, a click from Top Stories, from Vocal's main page? Etc. I would find it helpful to understand how readers are finding my writing, and Vocal should be able to not only count those reads but provide me (and all other Vocal+ writers) with those data. As of now, I think I'll grow to appreciate having multiple ways of accessing subscriptions, likes, and bookmarked content. I was fine with the existing way and would have prioritized other fixes and upgrades over this change, but that's just me. Mostly, I'm interested to give it a week or two to see how the changes impact my creativity on the platform, and whether the engagements with others here changes in any way. One of the things I am on the fence about is Top Stories not being my landing page on the site now. I used to enjoy coming into the platform to find surprises curated for me. I know those TS's are still there, but now I have to dig for them. Not much mind you. A click or two. But it is a change and I'll need to engage with the change a while to decide if it's helpful or irksome. For me, as long as the prestige of Top Stories isn't diminished, I can get behind the change. More thoughts to come, no doubt. Thanks again, Mike, for the article. I truly appreciate your leadership and engagement.

  • Judey Kalchik about a month ago

    I like the way the homepage starts with those to which I subscribe and then turns into Top Stories.

  • Michelle Liewabout a month ago

    Great ideas. To add to the saved stories feature, we should be able to delete the ones we don't want published on a second look too.

  • Poppy about a month ago

    I really like the new homepage feature. I've known about the other way to access it for awhile but never really used that because I'm lazyπŸ˜‚. Would be so good to get filtered notifications, I get swamped so easily. I agree with your take on the paid subscribers. I think a big part of why Vocal works is the reciprocity. If someone did pay to subscribe to someone, that person would probably feel like they should subscribe back lol, which would be completely pointless. I feel like Vocal is more about verbal encouragement and connection, rather than making money. And as you said, we have the tips option and patreon already exists.

Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred πŸŒ›Written by Mike Singleton 🌜 Mikeydred πŸŒ›

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