Journabloggers Should Do Their Work Too
When I started blogging four and a half years ago, there was a clear delineation between bloggers and journalists. But that’s all changed and now we have this new category, the journablogger.
The journablogger has his or her own blog or works in a blog network like paid content, techcrunch, gigaom, alley insider, read write web, mashable, venturebeat, etc, etc. Just look at the top of techmeme’s leader board and you’ll see them right next to the traditional journalists like New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNET, etc.
These journabloggers got their start as bloggers who operated outside of the traditional world of journalism where doing your homework and getting the story straight are requirements for the job. That was good. It allowed them to be quick, get the story out, and fill the blog with opinion.
But in the past week, I’ve seen two stories where it looked to me that the journablogger could have made the post a lot better with a bit more work.
The top story on techmeme right now is a Venturebeat post about a shopping search service called Like.com. It contains quotes like:
But suddenly, over four months, the company has tapped a robust number
of users, and it now expects to earn $10 million in revenue this year.
We’re killing them, he says, of social search engines (these include ThisNext, for example).
My friend Gordon Gould started and runs ThisNext (I am not an investor), so I figured I’d see if that was true. Here’s a comscore chart of traffic for the past year
It’s clear that Like.com had a great December but one month does not make a breakout. These two services have been neck and neck for the past year and Alexa still has ThisNext well ahead of Like.com. I think a little work on this story to dig into the claims of the Like.com CEO would have made it a better story.
Similary, this story by Erick at TechCrunch last week about Zynga and Social Gaming Network left me scratching my head. I talked to Erick about that story and he quoted me in it. Erick shared with me the line that the CEO of Social Gaming Network was giving him. I suggested he go to adanomics and see the truth. Here’s the list of top facebook apps companies. Zynga is one of the top five app companies on Facebook and Social Gaming Network is number 33. If you include the acquisition of CLZ (number 30 – three ahead of Social Gaming Network), that Zynga announced last week, Zynga is almost an order of magnitude bigger than Social Gaming Network. But when you read Erick’s story, it’s like the two companies are neck and neck like Hillary and Obama.
Like.com may end up killing ThisNext and Social Gaming Network could end up being a real competitor to Zynga, but right now I don’t think either of those are true statements and a little work by the journabloggers could have surfaced that truth and made both stories better.
If the numbers are true about revenue, then it would seem that Like.com is indeed slaughtering ThisNext.com, which as far as I can tell doesn’t have enough traffic to get that type of revenue and doesn’t seem to be monetizing very well in other ways.However that might be complete speculation on both my part and on the Like.com CEO’s. What’s more worrying for ThisNext.com is that they did not see a rise in December, which for any retailer (even a meta-retailer) is an absolute must. This tells me that their traffic may be more incidental then purposeful. Create enough landing pages in the right areas, and you can get lots of traffic online, however if the majority if it is not useful for the user, ultimately the site will not be able to capture value. The lack of a rise in December makes me wonder if this is in fact the case.
I think the 10mm of revenue is like.com’s plan for 2008. It might happen but I don’t think it has happenedYour point about thisnext is spot on though.Fred
Or, in the case of the first story, led to something even more interesting. The natural link to make between an breakout December and a shopping site is… “well, it’s the holidays, is that a real trend?” But potentially more interesting is this… in a relatively tough holiday season for most retailers they showed a spike. Why?
Adding to the complexity of this is the fact that services like Alexa are so easy to game it’s laughable. At the early stages of a startup there is no way for Alexa, comscore, quantcast, etc. to really track the companies accurately.Of course, if you’re a solid entrepreneur you disregard the press and focus on the product. That is what ThisNext has done (i’m on the board of ThisNext), and that nice growth curve shows *real* startup growth. A spike like the Like.com one screams of buying traffic to me…. especially after a dip during the holiday when they should have been growing. It wold be interesting to see where their traffic is coming from… if it’s organic great, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they bought that spike.
Fred, please note that I attributed the ThisNext point to Shah,and I simply didn’t have the stats available to cross-examine him fully on the point, given that he’s referring to what happened December through now, i.e, from the important shopping season onward. You provide a chart yourself only through Nov/Dec, and Shah’s point is that Like’s traffic really took off around then, and held on surprisingly strong in January and February. He showed me his internal stats, I don’t have those for ThisNext. You’re right, though, I probably should have at least scrambled for a traffic chart like you provided (which does confirm a hockey stick trend for Like, by the way), and I’ve since updated to provide the one you have here. Sorry to have let you down.
I hate having to rely on Compete.com and Alexa charts. I’ve found that they’re very inaccurate pictures of real traffic. But they probably should be included on posts about companies to help readers figure out the truth.
Robert, Try out AttentionMeter.com. Will make your life easier.
RobertI think the only way to get to an approximation of the truth is to triangulate between all the services. We use comscore, compete, alexa, quantcast, and sometimes hitwiseI am on the board of comscore and co-led the first round back in ’99 so I am very biased toward comscore and think they are the most accurateFred
Fred,Exactly.AttentionMeter makes the process of triangulation easier. It doesn’t include comscore, but includes most of the free services.
OuchYou didn’t let me downI just felt the story could have been more balanced and researchedThanks for responding and also for updating the postNow we’ve got a dialog about which is even better. That’s what blogging should be anywayThanksfred
Since I am the source of this I thought I’d comment. When talking about ThisNext I was referring to revenue to revenue. Like.com will exceed $10MM in revenue this year with much of it already in the bag from a run rate perspective. While ThisNext is private and I don’t know their exact revenues my understanding is that it is not as large. In addition, traffic is not a good measure of revenue. For example if Like.com had the same click-through rate as it did a year ago (19%) at 3MM uniques it would have 4.5x less revenue than at 90%. Social shopping sites have had a challenge with this metric – Click through rate. So while they may be close in uniques they may still be far off in revenue. In the end this means that their revenue per visitor is lower. We have all gotten so bubble oriented in assessing companies via metrics like eyeballs. As a second time entrepreneur who has seen what happens when the economy slows down, we at Like have been focused on revenue and eventually profitability not just traffic.
My full comments here.http://munjal.typepad.com/r…Munjal
arent journalists supposed to be objective? i think bloggers should generally subscribe to the athlete plan– only complement strengths. it doesnt do you any good to put someone down.
thats not directed at anyone in particular– i just can’t ever see the beneficial side to it.
Well, in my haste, I forgot to also note the point Munjal makes below, which is that we’re being distracted a bit by traffic, when perhaps Munjal’s more significant point in the first place was indeed about revenue and click-throughs than about traffic. Granted, I haven’t gotten data on revenue from ThisNext, but I’m trying to. Munjal shared both is traffic and revenue to me, and it was pretty significant; that’s why I went with the story I did.
it’s hard enough to compare two company’s traffic correctly. there certainly aren’t any services out there that compare revenues. so to say that Like.com’s revenue for this year (and its only Feb) will be $10mm and thisnext’s will not is really not possible.
Fred, maybe you are not reading the same post I wrote. I actually link to the Adonomics stats for each company, and mentioned those acquisitions. In the post I say:”Both companies have varying claims as to how large their audiences actually are. , , , At least on Facebook, it appears that Zynga has more daily active users. (See Zynga Facebook stats here and SGN Facebook stats here).”The fact is that both companies launched social gaming developer programs in the same week, and we don’t know yet which network will win. I can understand that you may have liked a more positive spin for the company that you are an investor in (Zynga). But as a “journablogger” I’d rather present a more balanced view.
ErickIts not even debateable who is a real company and who is notFred
Fred, SGN is a part of freewebs, compete.com rank #216. It’s a direct outgrowth of Warbook, with facebook daily uniques of 70k. I’ve no clue whether SGN or Zynga comes out on top (my bet is that it’s not a relevant issue), but both are very real companies.
ScottSGN is being spun out of freewebsAs a standalone company, it’s got very little right nowThat could change, but right now it doesn’t seem to have muchAnd warbook’s active daily users has declined almost 30% since the start ofthe yearfred
Obviously, Zynga is larger, but that doesn’t make SGN “not a real company.” That’s especially true when cats like this are involved:http://www.washingtonpost.c…The freewebs guys know a thing or two about free hosting of small sites that attract lots of uniques. http://siteanalytics.compet…Their Mashery-hosted API ain’t half bad either. 😉
Journablogger? How much more platypus-like can you get?I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about the companies talked about in this post but I still found it facinating.What’s interesting to me about this post (and it’s comments) is how standards seem to be coming from the bottom-up. No one expects to read anything fair and balanced from anyone anymore.But that’s o.k. because the public will find and pass out the facts anyway. (see the comments in this post).And that’s what makes MSM so untrustworthy, the fact that there is no way for anyone to slap a comment on the back of a CBS newscast.Anyway, journablogger as a name sucks. Let’s just call them “Dudes (or Dude-ettes) who write about stuff they are interested in,” or bloggers for short. It’s better for the public and corporate media. It keeps expectations and salaries low.
I promise never to use the phrase again!I agree that the discussion in the comments is great and so informativeMy post wasn’t so great. Neither were erick’s or matt’s. But the discussion we are having sure isWhat sucks is so few read the comments where all the good stuff happensFred
earlier today I emailed daniel an example of a debate on hemp – in another sites comments – few will ever see…the disqus xml api is something we look forward to.
On posts like this, people do read the comments.Both you and Arrington are to be commended for how you handled this, I think.
Reading a lot of comments would be like reading everything posted to Outside.In instead of what just in your neighborhood. I’m glad you were able to find / encourage a better way for the blog owner to specifically call out a comment more easily from way back when you couldn’t do it. Disqus, and the others in the sector, are cool for that. But I look to you to be my comment navigator on your site that amplifies the golden droppings. This comment is here because it was in your main feed. I don’t have time to read the stream of comments on nearly any site. I really only have 30 – 60 minutes total to read blogs and most of that is done on my Treo waiting in the car with my babies for my wife to come out of some store. Clearing TSA security is place to both, have a coffee and read blogs tooA hopefully easy improvement for Discus would be to enable a blogger to prioritize comments and signify that it’s been done. I promise, Fred, that if you ranked comments yourself I will read at least the top one and more thank likely the top few. To tell you the truth, when I do get into the comments at all I scan to see your responses first and then read back because if you commented on it, it’s probably a bit of a nugget.At a deeper level, it’s a position issue in a marketing sense. I read your blog because it’s you and specifically your role is not as a discussion moderator, so I”m less prone to the discussion than your thoughts, but not entirely so either. I’m more interested in having you either signify what is interesting and/or do the work of finding it.Now I’ve gone and blown half my blogging budget already today.
I agree lloyd. There’s so much that needs to be done with commentsFred
Why do you assume that people being paid to be professional bloggers are interested in what they write about? And, for that matter, why do you assume that professional journalists *aren’t* interested in what they write about?
Good post Fred. Every time I read about the “death of journalism” and how traditional media is upset about blogging, I think about examples like these. The part that amazes me is the lack of research being done across the industry, by either bloggers or journalists.The unfortunate reality that I’m starting to accept is the majority of readers/viewers/audiences care a bit less about facts and research, and a bit more about sensationalism and fancy headlines. So if we think about it from a reward perspective, the audience is incenting headline-making, not fact-finding. The question is – can this be changed, or is it innate?
to Jeremy above who said “The unfortunate reality that I’m starting to accept is the majority of readers/viewers/audiences care a bit less about facts and research, and a bit more about sensationalism and fancy headlines.”Yup, situation hasn’t indeed changed much for a few thousands years now. Even before ‘journablogging’ was born! 😉
I would say it’s innate, that is what has made MSM successful for so long. The majority of people are just cruising through looking at the headlines. With so much content available online, it’s the sensational headlines that are going to draw the most readers, but perhaps those aren’t the readers that you want anyways.
In your definition of a Journablogger you define them as getting their start “as bloggers outside the traditional world of journalism”. Then you use Erick Schonfeld as an example. I fail to see how he’s a good example, since he came to Techcrunch from Business 2.0 Magazine, where he was editor -at-large for a number of years. Surely time spent at Business 2.0 gives Erick some “traditional” street cred, does it not? Unless you think he whipped together his Biz 2.0 stories without a thought to research and fact finding.
All too often I find serious factual errors on blogs, but the funniest (or saddest) had to be on TechCrunch. There was a story on Revision3, and the company name was spelled incorrectly several times – even though the article contained the company’s logo! Every writer, and let’s admit it, journalists, bloggers, columnists and whatever else are all merely writers regardless of medium, needs to have a basic checklist to follow when writing. The top two items need to be fact-checking and spell-checking. And sites with paid writers and editorial directors should copy edit every article before posting. There’s really no excuse.
as always, great points. you’re quite right about the mediocre nature of journoblogs. incredibly, the reading public doesn’t much seem to care – even though lots of lazy stuff these days is getting passed around as “insight” or “scoop” material ….when it’s anything but.lanyway, keep calling `em as you see `em.
Fred, don’t know about Mashable and RWW, but the other “journablogs” you mention are all staffed by former MSM journalists.But the bigger point: If you’ve got a beef with a story, why not just say you have a beef with a story? If it’s wrong, it doesn’t matter whether a “blogger”, a “journablogger” or “journalist” wrote it – it’s still wrong. Presumably you’ve taken umbrage with something written by members of all three categories in the past.
peter, i don’t know if the like story is wrong. and erick didn’t get it wrong on the zynga story but i think he missed the opportunity to get it right.
Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, whether I find a place in this world or never belong…Sorry, couldn’t resist. It is a wonderful thing, dialogue having a place to live and breathe an honest breath.
Do the “journabloggers” have the same support structure as traditional media players? I’m thinking of support people that might assist in gathering stats, double-checking facts, editing and so-on. I’m not saying that excuses anyone but if a primary focus is to be first or get the “exclusive”, I can see people taking shortcuts for the sake of expediency.There may also be a revenue factor. Some sites may get their revenue from ad impressions so the more pages or stories, the more ad impressions. The mainstream sites may rely more on direct advertising. Here the emphasis in on page count, not accuracy.I hope readers look at sites differently and make their own determination. For example, I expect someone from the New York Times to do thorough research. I don’t have that same expectation if I’m reading Engadget and yet I read and value both.I think the bigger issue for me is that many readers don’t question what they read regardless of the source. They look at stats out of context (or scale) and don’t consider what info is missing or if someone is benefiting from the story.
Yes, but this is a challenge when quantity, not quality is the monetizing force for those big blogs. 100 quality posts are unlikely to make as much as 200 “fair” posts that will take less time to write in total.
Joe – we’ve found that the “hits” – the blog posts that generate a lot of discussion – are the ones that drive all stats, including, indirectly, monetization. The problem is knowing what’s a hit and what isn’t before it actually happens. Given that we are all rushing into new territory, I think a little leeway is appropriate.
It is time for the Alexa for Revenue. It is time Web 2.0 grows up to be real businesses. I don’t see why you guys can’t ask a startup to show you their revenue numbers like I showed Matt and Michael (when he wrote about our Likesense product) before you folks write a positive article/post. Frankly just by asking for this you all will help drive a healthy shift toward profitability for all startups in this area. My full thoughts herehttp://munjal.typepad.com/r…
After following this irony-laden donnybrook, I too had to join the fray and blog about blogging: http://rapspace.tv/member/m…Thanks for the Elfin photo, Fred. :-)MMG
Love the photo and the post!
I hate journabloggers, and have been burned by them before. We had a journablogger run a piece on us once which was fairly damaging, based on some erroneous assumptions that could have been quickly checked and dismissed. When we confronted the writer on her sloppy journalism she replied in her defense that “This wasn’t an article, it was just a blog post”.