He May Have 724k Subscribers Now, But It All Started On Medium

Lenny Rachitsky is best known for his popular Lenny’s Newsletter. And for good reason: it now has over 700k subscribers on Substack. 

I profiled Lenny not once but twice back in April of 2023. 

724,000 subscribers is insanely impressive. As is the ~$2M he earns from paid subscribers on Substack – which was the number I estimated back in 2023, so it’s almost certainly grown since then.

But Substack isn’t where it all started. 

The first post Lenny published wasn’t even a newsletter. 

It was in 2019, and it was on Medium

Using Medium to Kickstart Growth

Lenny had recently left his job at Airbnb and wanted to remember the top things he learned while working there, so he curated them into an article and posted it on Medium.

He said he didn’t think anything of it—but apparently, a lot of other people did.


This initial post got 29,000 “claps” which are similar to likes. 

Then, the CEO of Airbnb shared it with the entire company in an email.

Lenny was planning on starting a company, not building a newsletter. He wrote a few more articles on Medium, which also did well.

But his friend, Andrew Chen, told him that it’s rare to find something you love doing that the market also loves.

He told Lenny to double down on it.

Lenny took Andrew’s advice. He stopped writing on Medium and started his own newsletter to share his ideas.

He then went back to all his Medium posts and added a call-to-action (CTA) to subscribe to his newsletter.

That got him his first 100 or so subscribers.

He was able to use Medium’s audience to attract new customers and kickstart his email list.

But imagine if he’d included a link to his newsletter at the end of that original post. Even if only 1% of readers converted to subscribers, he’d have almost 300 subscribers from that one post. 

Some other people I’ve written deep dives on also got their start on Medium:

Fun fact, all of these creators are now writing on Substack, vs another email platform.

How To Use this Growth Lever

Publishing on Medium feels like some of the lowest-hanging fruit for repurposing content. Especially if you already have a library of quality content you’ve been creating.

According to TechReport, Medium has over 100 million active monthly users and 700k+ subscribers. So there are plenty of eyeballs to go around. 

It can be as simple as taking content you’ve already published on your website, and copy/pasting it over to Medium with a few changes. 

Before You Start Publishing on Medium…

Before you go and copy + paste your entire library of content on Medium, there are a few important things to note.

1. Canonical links are a must for duplicate content

Ideally, you’d tweak and edit your repurposed content enough for a Medium post to be viewed as fresh, new content by Google. 

But we can’t always have the ideal—and that kind of defeats the “repurposing content” strategy.

So, if you’re essentially copy-and-pasting a previously published article, add a canonical link to your Medium article so Google and other search engines don’t punish it as “duplicate content.” 

2. Make sure you disclose affiliate links 

Medium’s Terms & Conditions clearly state that affiliate links must be disclosed. Not doing so can result in your account being suspended or permanently banned.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to add any necessary disclosures or disclaimers when sharing content with affiliate links. 

3. This is a long-term play

Don’t expect thousands of views instantly. Like most platforms, it takes a while to get a “hit”—if ever. And even then, there’s no guarantee of converting those readers to newsletter subscribers. 

But leveraging a channel with 100 million users with little extra effort makes a lot of sense. If you’re already publishing written content, why not try to get it in front of a new audience of readers?

Tips For Success From Medium Pros

Full disclosure: I’m the farthest thing from an expert on Medium, but this feels like a “low lift” opportunity to grow a newsletter. 

And since I’m not an expert, I reached out to a few creators who have found success on the platform in the past. 

Jamie Northrup has been publishing on Medium for several years while growing his Minimalist Hustler newsletter and brand.

He shared the following advice for having success with using Medium to build your newsletter:

  1. Make your articles skimmable. Do this by using headings, line breaks, and bulleted lists.  
  2. Place your newsletter CTA within the text of the article—and include it in the article footer as well. Use an image or text, but test both to increase the conversion rate.
  3. Use publications to expand your reach. Posting articles under your own profile can work well. But leveraging the larger audiences of Medium publications will get you farther faster. Here’s a list of the Top 50 publications on Medium, including links to contribute your articles.
  4. Don’t “paywall” your stories. If your goal is newsletter conversions rather than revenue, keep your stories “free.” Medium charges a $5/month subscription for full access to every article. If your stories are paywalled, kind of like having a paid newsletter, you might limit your growth potential.

Is Medium Even Worth Your Time?

But apparently, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

We also got feedback from someone who built a large following Medium over the course of multiple years but has since changed their focus to building their own newsletter instead of writing on the platform. 

When it comes to publishing on Medium, they surprisingly advised against it:

“Don’t waste time with Medium. It’s no longer a social media platform and requires Medium Staff to approve your writing to be seen.”

It’s true that Medium did change the way it handles content by using real people instead of algorithms to “boost” stories. And these chosen stories will get seen by more readers than those that are not boosted.

It seems like a lot of legacy writers on Medium have seen a decline in visibility. Here’s one recent article I found detailing some of those changes.

The Medium Experiment 🧪

After hearing both of those pieces of advice, I’m a little torn about this one.

If we follow Jamie’s advice, can we get some traction and convert some of those readers into subscribers? 

Or will this be one colossal waste of time? 

There’s only one way to find out. 

I’m going to give this growth lever a shot by publishing some of my past deep dives on Medium. 

And of course, I’ll report back—so stay tuned!

Has Medium Worked For You?

But I want to know what you think!

Are you going to try this Growth Lever? Or are you already leveraging Medium to grow your newsletter? 

I’d love to hear how it’s been working (or not) for you. 

Head over to LinkedIn and/or Twitter and let me know what you think, or if you’re going to try those out alongside me.

chenell basilio

Chenell Basilio

Chenell is the head writer and reverse engineer at Growth In Reverse. She spends her days researching newsletters, audience growth, and generally figuring out how to help others create better content.

She has an almost useless Bachelor's Degree in Geography, enjoys running, listening to podcasts, and eating guacamole. 🥑

Where I hang out on social media: