Hacker News, Techmeme, and Google Blog Search

I just hate the word "killer" in a headline. It means the author is sensationalizing the potential outcome of a new product launch. Friend Feed was going to kill Twitter, Facebook was going to kill MySpace, Google Base was going to kill Craigslist. None of these things happened. Facebook’s a juggernaut. Friend Feed might be. And Google Base is probably not. But new web services don’t often kill existing web services, certainly not nearly as much as bloggers like to assert that they will.

So today’s headline from Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read Write Web, Google Blogsearch Relaunches as Techmeme Killer, immediately made me laugh. I almost hesistate to link to it but that’s not right if I mentioned it. I think Jason Kinkaid’s post on TechCrunch is more balanced and realistic. And Matt Cutts from Google takes pains to explain why Google Blog Search is not a Techmeme killer.

Here’s what I think. Blog post aggregators are great. I use them every day, at least several times a day. I use them instead of a feed reader. And I like to read at least three or four of them, a couple for tech, one for politics, one for music, and so on and so forth.

In the tech sector, I like techmeme, hacker news, and Tim O’Reilly’s retweets on twitter. Those three links sources really cover the bases for me. And behind each of them is a voice. In Hacker News’ case, it’s Paul Graham and the Y Combinator community. In Techmeme’s case, it’s Gabe. And in Tim’s case, it’s Tim.

The new Google Blog Search is very nice. It’s a big improvement to the old one. But it’s like a lot of Google’s services. All algorithm and no "voice". It may attract a mainstream audience the way Google News has and that’s fine. But for me, it’s not close to the value that I get from aggregators with an angle. It’s like a mainstream newspaper versus a blog. On one you get the news and on the other you get insight.

Anyway, enough Google bashing for now. I’m off to read my aggregators.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. kidmercury

    killer post!IMO it’s all about competing on the voice dimension, not so much the algorithmic dimension. to that extent i am expecting algorithmic stuff to be commoditized and value to shift to voice stuff. ergo, the highly profitable blogger revolution coupled joins the open source revolution to create a mega disruption.

  2. Wesley Barrow

    hello, fred. which aggregator do you read for music?

    1. fredwilson

      the hype machine, you get to listen and read at the same time. it’s awesome

  3. Ben Ruedlinger

    Fred, it’s about influence. While Google will likely win the race for traffic, Techmeme already has the hearts and minds of the influencers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that changing soon. Now if Gabe can only figure out how to monetize the influence….Ben Ruedlingerhttp://wistia.comWistia, Making Video Productive

    1. ProductArchitect

      Now if Gabe can only figure out how to monetize the influence.”Monthly rates begin at $5500″ per http://techmeme.com/sponsor … x6 ads at the moment = nice income, even assuming part of it goes to “pay him back” for working without any salary initially.

      1. Ben Ruedlinger

        That is the ratecard price….actual revenue may vary….

  4. Josh Young

    How does Gabe’s voice shine through Techmeme? How might it be different if someone else built it?

    1. fredwilson

      i think if i ever meet Gabe, i’ll immediately recognize his voice. it’s all over techmeme actually

  5. kenberger

    I follow Techmeme by monitoring its homepage RSS in my feedreader. blogsearch.google.com doesn’t seem to have that (someone pls tell me if i’m missing it).That’s a BIG deal.

  6. Jamie Lin

    And I think we ought to give techmeme credit for actually featuring the google blogsearch news on top of its front page most part of this morning! (I actually linked to this post via there!) If that’s a choice Gabe actually made, man I admire him for embracing the news and stay true to his site’s purpose, serve its readers.As far as comparing the updated google blogsearch with techmeme, besides what you have said, I think google’s interface is also too standard google cookie cutter. they still have a long way to go before becoming as easy to use as techmeme, which is essentially what aggregators are about — providing convenience, right?

    1. ProductArchitect

      And I think we ought to give techmeme credit for actually featuring the google blogsearch news on top of its front page most part of this morning!I’m pretty sure the site is more-or-less 100% algorithms not editorial selections. Still, there’s an indirect “voice” by the way the algorithm works, the various tuning parameters that it surely has, and other secret sauce that I won’t even speculate about.

  7. ceonyc

    And “people” live to die another day against our machine overlords…


    You’re not doing a very good job pumping the stock you just bought…..:D Just kidding. Thought it was funny. The important part about Google Blog Search is that it isn’t limited to the tech scene. I think that will appeal long term as more and more influencers crop up in other industries and disciplines.

  9. steveray

    The last true killer technology may have been VHS

  10. Ezra Nugroho

    Hi Fred,It’s nice to know that you like blog aggregation sites. I personally like that over feed readers too.Anyway, do you have a favourite on VC blog aggregation?I just launched http://www.planetvc.com yesterday, featuring vc bloggers including you!! :)Hopefully you might find it useful to keep up with other VC bloggers.Do let me know your thoughts about it.

  11. delmar

    that’s how you inform yourself? eek. you’re really self-selecting. sorry but that ain’t enough. i use all three of the sources quoted above – but that’s just the beginning of knowledge.

  12. Andrew

    I do the same thing when I see the word “killer.” Its so annoying. Iphone killer? Ipod killer? Yeah right.If anything, techmeme killed google’s tech news section years ago.

  13. Lenny

    I agree. TechMeme works beautifully. I have no desire to change no matter what comes along. I still check multiple news sources every day as Google News is just not a very nice experience.

  14. Peter W

    Just curious, Fred … what blog aggregators do you use for music and politics?

  15. Dasher

    I was trying to think of one major service that Google created/invented first.Search engine Paid search Email Online docs MapsMobile OSOnline videoSocial networkingBrowserRSS/news/blog aggregatorsNone of the above. See what I mean?In some of the cases they made major improvements to existing services, but I can’t think of one thing they created first. So is 20% time mostly used to copying original ideas of others and trying to improving them?Can anyone list services that originated from Google?

  16. Mrinal

    Apart from the ones you mentioned, I would recommend Popurls – one source for all other social sites.

  17. Isaac

    — All algorithm and no “voice”‘Good observation. Hadn’t ever stopped to think about that but it’s quite obvious now that you’ve mentioned it.As kidmercury says, the lack of personality will leave them competing on price and functionality alone, leaving loads of room for people to ‘add flavour’ with their own forays.

  18. jarid

    Case in point, do a Google search for “Google Killer”:-Cuill-Powerset-Quintura-Clusty-Hakia-WisenutOh, and 2 more.. lol-Microsoft-Yahoo

  19. Richard MacManus

    Interesting observation to say that Techmeme has Gabe’s “voice”. I’m not sure he’d like that, because as humans we have biases – so is that saying Techmeme has Gabe’s biases? I don’t think it does – my understanding is that Techmeme is about the algorithm, which evolved from the initial blog sources Gabe used right at the start. But right now it’s the algo that runs things. I would say Techmeme has a unique brand and maybe that brand has a ‘voice’.I kind of agree though that Hacker News has Paul Graham’s voice, because Graham is a very influential and outgoing personality on the Web (i.e. his fans love him and generally follow his opinions, which you can see in some of the stories on Hacker News).

  20. tjgillies

    very insightful!

  21. Sahil Singh

    nice article gonna bookmark this page !!!!