Aggregation Wins - Not So Fast

I was thinking about the twin techs tonight while I was doing the dishes. That being Techcrunch and Techmeme. I was thinking about the chart that shows how Techmeme has overtaken Techcrunch because it’s better to read a link heavy page that aggregates all the important tech blogs than read a single, albeit highly popular, tech blog.

So after dinner, I went and did a search on the traffic patterns of the twin techs on Comscore, Compete, Alexa, and Quantcast. And guess what? The chart I was imagining doesn’t exist. Because my premise is false.

The Internet audience still vastly prefers Techcrunch to Techmeme.

This is interesting because it’s completely counter to my experience. I have moved away from reading individual blogs. I want to read aggregation services like techmeme, hacker news, reddit, twitter, delicious popular, digg, etc, etc. I find that they give me a much better view of the top stories of the day than reading individual blogs does.

But once again, what I do doesn’t map very well to what the average audience member does. I think I need to remind myself of that fact on a daily basis.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. michale arrington

    I’m not sure why you’d assume that techmeme would be bigger than techcrunch. it has nothing to do with curated links vs. regular blog. techcrunch isn’t just a standard blog. they consistently break tech industry news more often than WSJ, NYT, FT put together. and although they do their own reporting, the large number of comments each post has usually offers some real insight – a lot of humor. if you work in tech, especially silicon valley, reading techcrunch isn’t an option even if you hate arrington. which half of his audience probably does.

    1. Ranjit Mathoda

      Is it better to be feared and newsworthy, than loved and late?

  2. GabeRivera

    Hey Fred, two comments here:First, TechCrunch is indeed more trafficked that Techmeme. I believe Techmeme’s readership, while larger than most tech blogs, is still smaller than sites like TechCrunch, Engadget, and Slashdot. There are alot of good reasons for this to be true, which I’ll skip here!Second, Techmeme always looks terrible on Compete, Alexa, etc because Techmeme’s SEO is terrible. Most content sites, over the course of the month, gather far more one-time searchers than actual readers. For these sites, Compete is a reflection of their search footprint on the internet population. Techmeme doesn’t enjoy many Google hits, so Compete’s data is more a reflection of its actual daily readership. (Maybe I should just get Techmeme to spam Google so I don’t have to keep apologizing like this…).

    1. Jeremy Toeman

      The “google effect” is definitely key here – when people search for something on google, they are highly unlikely to find a Techmeme entry. So if people are googling new tech startups, odds are decent they’ll end up on TechCrunch.As much as I like Techmeme, it’s still a service aimed at those on the INside, not really as much to the external world…

    2. AndyBeard

      Gabe there are plenty of ways to make Techmeme more sticky without gaming Google

    3. fredwilson

      i was thinking of the SEO effect. maybe techmeme looks to much like a serp for google’s algorithms. but it sure works for me.

      1. AndyBeard

        On the SEO side the way Techmeme is structured isn’t ideal. There are permalinks, but they are not ideal for a spider to crawl unless linked to from another site, and ultimately Techmeme passes most of the link equity it receives to other sites.If Gabe was to produce pages with news for each company or topic, that would have a lot of value, and could be used to retain more Google juice. Then again if it was well developed, it would start to look like Crunchbase.It would then be worth adding a search box.To make it more sticky, all Gabe has to do is offer an email subscription box with a single email every day with the day’s headlines, and links through to Techmeme permalinks for the full story.I think that would at least double Techmeme traffic

  3. rickburnes

    A couple points:First, I think Techmeme is more a filter than an aggregator. It’s not just pulling in links to content, it’s also trying to add some meaning and value by organizing/filtering them. This is important because many sites, particularly in the local content world, aggregate w/o filtering. That’s pretty useless, imho.Second, and this is more for Gabe, I don’t think Techmeme’s gap with Techcrunch is an “SEO” problem. Rather, I think it’s a reflection of TechCrunch’s broader utility. Techmeme is great for one thing: Discovering what people are talking about today. TechCrunch is useful for today’s news, but since it’s producing its own content, it’s also a fantastic archive of what’s happened in the past. You can’t dismiss archive pageviews as not “actual daily readership.” Might as well dismiss all Wikipedia traffic.Finally, I think that blogs are underrated filters. Automated filters, like Digg, Techmeme, Topix and are pretty good at producing feeds of content on specific topics, but they’re all missing a key element present in any halfway decent blog: Voice. On automated sites, you have no context for the decisions being made. On the other hand, if you’re following somebody on Twitter or subscribed to Techcrunch, you get a pretty good idea of that person’s/group’s sensibilities. This gives you context, which makes it a lot easier to know whether any link on the site (any filtered item) is going to be interesting to you.

    1. GabeRivera

      Rick, in my comment, I said TechCrunch is more trafficked than Techmeme, so obviously I’m not blaming the gap on just SEO. That said, I’m affirming that an active readership is something very meaningful, especially for a news site. I’m not “dismissing” other measurable things, but you can bet I’ll emphasize active readership, because that’s what I’m gunning for with Techmeme.

    2. Rick Burnes

      It makes sense to distinguish between archive readers and daily news readers, but not by their activity. Why is a Techmeme reader more active than the woman who finds something she’s looking for on a month-old Techcrunch page? Maybe you monetize them differently. Even then, I think they’re both active, and “active readership” is a confusing way to describe the difference.(Sorry about the duplicate disquss account — I accidentally created a second account while signing in the first time.)

    3. Ryan Catbird

      “…they’re all missing a key element present in any halfway decent blog: Voice.”rickburnes OTM

    4. fredwilson

      techmeme has a voice and i like it. gabe’s got a point of view and his service reflects it.

  4. TMC2K

    Fred, I don’t think your experience is wrong. It’s that you are just ahead of everyone else. My bet (a big one) is that more people will scan their info like you in the future.

  5. joelkehle

    I read techmeme for a while but stopped. I still read techcrunch. Most of the the “tech memes” on tech meme were already showing up in my RSS reader. I think the web is at a state where I am still a better aggregator of the information I want to read than anyone else. Fred, I don’t think you are wrong in thinking that people want aggregation. I just think that individuals are better served (today) by doing this in their own news reader.

  6. TimG

    Doing the dishes is a good time to ruminate 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      that it is. it’s my role in our family. gotham gal cooks and i clean. it works well.

  7. michael arrington

    so, putting aside which is better, more popular, etc., here’s a question – which one would you rather own? I own one of them, and I have to say I’m not 100% sure that techmeme isn’t a more valuable property.Gabe created some real technology, solved real problems, and has withstood the test of time for almost three years now.

    1. Robert Seidman

      While I read TechCrunch regularly and perhaps even more frequently than TechMeme, I’d rather “OWN” TechMeme. It is real technology and it scales over multiple topics. It’s hard to increase the “utility” of TechCrunch, while it wouldn’t be hard for Gabe to increase utility by creating a Meme just for NFL Football.I loves me some! Thank you, Gabe!

    2. Sam

      Great comment Michael.I would love to see feedback on which was more valuable although I don’t think you can separate “better” and “popular” from potential and value. In analyzing the relative value of these two offerings it is important to remember they are both media companies. The comments in this thread illustrate the popularity of both offerings and also how different people prefer to consume media. One of the difficulties in forming a view on the relative value is the lack of/limited information available. At the moment i see a trade-off between audience and economics. Full disclosure: I do not fully understand the underlying cost structure of either company. Based on the chart above Techcrunch have a materially larger audience but intuitively i see the economics of an aggregation service such as Techmeme as more compelling. However as with any valuation it is all about the future potential.Is there an element of Google v Mahalo here? If not I think there is potential for a similar issue to arise in the future.Irrespective of your view of Michael and Techcrunch you have to appreciate how they front up with a view, break news and participate in the subsequent discussion.Michael’s participation in this thread illustrates Fred’s view “The comments here at avc are the best thing about this blog”.Finally I completely agree with Chartreuse’s comment.

  8. Louis Gray

    TechMeme is the gateway drug to great content. It’s a click-through engine, not necessarily a destination site.It’s extremely likely that the overwhelming majority of TechMeme readers read TechCrunch or get the RSS feed. It is not necessary for all TechCrunch readers to read TechMeme, however. But with that said, you could assume a good percentage of readers of other blogs, like ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, GigaOM, also read TechMeme, but might not read TechCrunch, which would push total readers for TechMeme higher… but that doesn’t take in the total views per person per day. It’s likely that with TechCrunch publishing many stories, a Web surfer would visit the site more than once. For TechMeme, would that be the case?I’ve been holding off for some time on a post that essentially reads “TechCrunch = Great. TechMeme = Great. Stop complaining” that would get people who always throw stones at the leaders to think about either competing or moving on. Both are great must-read sites, but they serve a different purpose.

  9. Sam Jackson

    I’ve really appreciated Techmeme recently for its ability to point me to more stories than I could otherwise keep up with, but I still keep in my stable of feeds a good number of individual tech blogs (a LOT, actually) for more in depth coverage of stories everyday. Techmeme I just go on my own and check sometimes… I wish there were aggregation services for some of the other niches I follow. :

  10. Philippe Bradley

    I use techmeme, but via RSS, not in person. So I wouldn’t show up on that graph. Why would I visit techmeme in person? It has no comments. Nothing requires me to leave the comfort of Google Reader.Secondly, why would Google results return Techmeme pages? It’s an aggregator – no fixed pages of permanent content, i.e. nothing for the google bot to chew on, and nothing to attract links from people around the web. Google is in the business of being an aggregator – why would they not bias their engine away from non-content-producing sites towards primary sources?Despite Techmeme not getting the hits, that in no way subtracts from its value to me, or to any other user. This post is an echo of the eyeball fetish that sunk the last dotcom boom and could do so again!Beware reading too much into the site’s value from just that graph alone.

    1. jeremystein

      im the exact opposite. techmeme is in my rss reader, but i always mark it as read.techmeme is my paper version of the wsj (because i actually read the online version). i just use it to skim headlines.techmeme is my “above the fold” for tech news.

  11. Scabr

    I always read TechMeme and TechCrunch.But TechMeme is the first one!

  12. alan p

    I can’t add much to the comments above, except to note that my pattern is to see soemthing on the aggregators and then click through to the main story if it interests me, so in a typical “workflow” I would read TM then TC.Thus, we clearly need a better metric for value than a pure Eyeball countAnd Fred, my reading habits are roughty the same as yours – in fact I’m almost in “post aggregator” mode, I’m increasingly interested in filters

  13. Mike Butcher

    TechMeme is Reuters. TechCrunch is Mahalo. Think about it…

  14. dave

    But a link from Techmem delivers a lot more readers than a link on TechCrunch.I noticed this a while back. A prominent link on TechMeme is worth 1000 or more page reads. A link from a TechCrunch piece, not nearly as much. Obviously this is far from scientific, to get a better idea we’d have to pool data.I think the proper conclusion to draw is that people read TM to find new stories to read, and people read stories on TC, and it’s not jumpoff site.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a great point daveBut I often use TechMeme for a quick scan of the news without clicking out to anythingI would have thought more people would use it that wayfred

      1. Rick Burnes

        I do my quick scan of the news in Google Reader.You’ve said in the past that you don’t use a reader. If that’s still true, sounds like TechMeme serves as one for you.Chartreuse is right.

  15. Ada

    I am not an avid reader of techmeme or techcrunch, though have looked at both in the past. And I am not an avid reader of many individual blogs. But I do read this one a lot and I get feeds from a couple others (which I read less frequently). So my guess is techcrunch is probably something similar. This blog is awesome and interesting because of the content and because of the community of readers around it. Perhaps the same goes for techcrunch too.

  16. chartreuse

    i know the main point of this post is Techmeme/Techcrunch but the killer thought is “I am not you” last paragraph.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. That came out at the end and I like it a lot too

  17. kid mercury

    IMO it’s all about the hybrid. the expertise of a human editor (i.e. blogger) coupled with the automated news finder that techmeme is. i feel like that’s a best of both worlds, and will combine the attention allocation value of techmeme with the community value of a blog.

  18. Prashant Sachdev

    Well it is going to talk time for aggregation services to take off. It is still in stage of early stages of adoption. So what I mean is early adopters have jumped in, but the main stream market is still using the same old blog pages.

  19. m

    cow paradox? it would seem tm is the cow providing the value you see — quick scans of everything / the free milk — but the reality, i suspect, is that tm is just a pareto distribution where 20 percent generate 80 percent of the “wealth” in stories. once you read tm enough, you know who those 20 are and just go to those sites b/c you “know” they are the tops. so why have a single cow ™ when you can have a bunch of mini-moos producing not just the milk (posts) but all the cream? or something like that.

  20. fabiansiegel

    Techcrunch fulfills the role of the Editor – unlike Techmeme. While people might argue that they want to be their own editor and need an aggregation tool that delivers them all relevant information (some technical filtering might help), I believe that the broad audience appreciates the service of an editing instance. Over time they start to trust the associated brand to do this editing for them. Nothing incredible new – many people trust the NYT to exactly that. People that want/need to be part of the information leadership might not want to be dependent on such an editing instance, but this is imho not the majority.

  21. Danny Moon

    Techmeme is my first stop in the morning but I still read individual blogs because of the additional information in layouts. Whether that is widgets, arrangement of articles, discussion in comments, or even ads, there is more info in blogs. A couple of posts ago you talked about removal of widgets to clean up your blog but first solicited feedback from readers. That shows me that you care about the overall experience of your blog as opposed to being simply about individual posts.

  22. jeremystein

    i had this same thoughtinterestingly enough, id pay for techmeme but not techcrunch


    Lets not forget, the #1 Business & Technology news community. Only nobosh (no nonsense)!

  24. Lloyd Fassett

    re: “But once again, what I do doesn’t map very well to what the average audience member does. I think I need to remind myself of that fact on a daily basis.”I thought you were the Wayne Gretsky if Venture Capital though….go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.And Chartreuse’s point here and on his blog is really the point anyway. Markets fragment on the net to the point where the markets are individual consumers. Some say po-tay-to, some say po-tah-to, the markets are big enough for Tech Crunch and Techmeme to both be right.

    1. fredwilson

      LloydI love the gretzky lineNot sure its true in my case but its going to be my mantraI need gapingvoid to do me up a big painting for my office with that line in itFred