My Techmeme Obsession
Just over a year ago, I wrote a post explaining that Techmeme was moving from highlighting the work of individual tech bloggers to the work of professionally produced tech blogs. In that post, I bemoaned the fact that I had been knocked off of the techmeme leaderboard along with most other individual tech bloggers.
Then something changed. Maybe it was me writing more for Techmeme (by reading the top stories and then blogging about them and linking to them). Or maybe Gabe changed the algorithm. But in any case, by this summer, the AVC blog had risen to #20 on the Techmeme leaderboard.
I don’t actually care about being on the leaderboard itself but I care a lot about being part of the conversation at Techmeme. Over 300,000 monthly readers visit techmeme to participate in the conversation according to Compete:
These are 300,000 of the kinds of people I’d like to be in the conversation with every day. So I want the posts I write here at AVC to show up on Techmeme. It’s important to me.
But in the past couple months, something interesting has happened. As I’ve started writing more about politics and stocks and the financial markets, my readership has started growing again. For the past three or four years, this blog has been stuck at about 150,000 monthly readers (blog and feed). Last month, it was closer to 200,000. And this month, it appears to be headed even higher.
Yet, as the audience for this blog grows, the amount of traffic coming from Techmeme has declined. Here is the google analytics traffic sources log from August, which shows how important techmeme was this summer:
And here is the data for the past 30 days.
The biggest drivers are direct and google, but within the services that cater specifically to the tech audience I want to reach and be part of (techmeme, hacker news, twitter, friendfeed), there has been a noticeable move up by hacker news (news.ycombinator.com) and twitter and a noticeable move down by techmeme.
The dropoff from techmeme makes sense because posts I’ve written on this blog have been there a lot less recently. But I think the move up on hacker news and twitter are also worth noting. If the same people who were finding my posts on techmeme can now find them on twitter or hacker news, then I can still participate in the conversation with them.
I think what’s happening is techmeme is catering more and more to the professionally produced tech blogs. Whatever Gabe’s algorithm does, it seems to point mostly to TechCrunch, VentureBeat, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Gizmodo and that ilk. Nothing wrong with that. But as of this morning, the only individual bloggers I see on the leaderboard are Nick Carr, Mark Cuban, and my good friend Tom Evslin.
Hacker News is peer produced, like Digg. But the community there is very startup ecosystem focused and it’s a great source of readership for this blog. There is no leaderboard for Hacker News (that I know of) but I get the sense that the links on hacker news are more varied and less predictable than Techmeme.
And Twitter. Well what can I say about Twitter? Tim O’Reilly recently tweeted that:
Twitter is my main source of news. Never use RSS reader any more
I’ve never used an RSS reader. I’ve used services like Techmeme and Hacker News to surface interesting posts for me. I still do. I visit each of them about five or six times a day. They are my RSS readers for tech news. Twitter does the same thing for me, but I also get stock news, political news, family/friend news, and some humor too. It’s like reading a custom built newspaper.
But enough about Twitter. This post is about Techmeme. I’ve been obsessed with Techmeme for the past couple years. And I think that obsession is coming to an end. I still plan to visit it as much every day. But I think I’ll stop jonesing for my posts to get picked up there. The conversation is happening all over the place anyway and I don’t think any one service will ever be able to host it all anyway.
This whole post could have been condensed to this:”In this day and age I ain’t sharin’ no leaderboards with indicted inside traders, thank you very much!”
I am not rushing to judgment on MarkPlenty of people have done worse stuff than him
Do you know him? His coach, Don Nelson, was supposed to “vest” $1mil per year until 2012, however Cuban stiffed him by firing him “for cause”. Nelson sued, Cuban claimed innocent and lost. I don’t dislike him, he is quite colourful, but that thing with Nelson was low-class and shows that he somehow thinks laws do not apply to him…
I don’t know him
Doesn’t Hacker News have a points system (karma, IIRC)? I seem to remember a guy called NickB being the first to reach a certain amount of karma points (and receiving a trophy-tastic, color:red; username to help him stand out from the crowd).Yes, Twitter does work well for sourcing information that’s relevant to you and your profession, but it doesn’t appear to be packaged or promoted in that way. Are there third party tools to aid in sharing URLs on Twitter? I’m always on tinyURL.
I understand this post more than anyone (maybe not).TechMeme is part of my daily routine, but also very frustrating. First, because it never ever showed any entry from any of my blogs, even when I got dozens of people linking to it (I know, this is my selfish-side speaking), but also because it lacks diversity on the blogs it surfaces. Gabe said he thought he only needed a couple thousand blogs to make TechMeme very interesting, which proves he’s not interested in tweaking the algorithm to be more inclusive/diverse.With that, I launched just recently Seattle 2.0 (www.seattle20.com). Think of it as a “niche-techmeme”. It contains blog posts from the startup community in Seattle (plus our own Editorial posts), but it gives an opportunity for people that have just a few readers to be on top of site read by 6,000 people per month. The algorithm behind Seattle 2.0 is not based on ratings or links, but based on content. Basically, the system analyzes each blog post and give it a score, the higher score, the higher on the homepage (a bit more complex than that, but enough said).TechMeme would never work for that. TechMeme values not content, but links. So, no matter how smart a blog post and how valuable I write, it’ll only make to TechMeme if I have tons of in-bound links from top bloggers. So, it’s inevitable there will be a correlation between # of readers and in-bound links, given less and less opportunity to new entrants.
I am having many of the same feelings. I’m finding that this year I’ve switched from reading TechMeme every hour or two to reading FriendFeed. You should see my “Likes” and “Comment” feed here http://friendfeed.com/scobl… — it is often the same as TechMeme, albeit with a much more diverse set of content and participants. Add in a few other people’s feeds and FriendFeed is really the place to go for news. Twitter is cool too, but only as a notifier. Having a conversation with a group of people on Twitter is much more difficult than it is on FriendFeed. Oh, and because FriendFeed’s search engine has a bunch of web data types (photos, videos, blogs, tweets, etc) it is much more useful during big news events than Twitter’s search is, which just shows Tweets.
I agree Robert. FriendFeed has a lot more power than the other services Imentioned. I just don’t yet have a critical mass of friends there so I don’tfind it as useful as twitter. My wife and her friends have just joinedtwitter. I think it will be a while before they find their way tofriendfeed.
Yeah, but remember it’s only a year old. I got to 21,000 followers on FriendFeed in nine months. That is a LOT faster than I got there on Twitter. FriendFeed needs a few more features before it really goes mainstream, though. I can see the foundation of a house there, but they still need to build it out. Until I really can get data out of the database it won’t have met its full potential. I want to ask the database, for instance, to “please show me all items that have ‘TechMeme” in them and have N or more likes and N or more comments.” If I could do that, watch out.
It’s a great team at FriendFeed. They’ll figure it out. You are right, theyare doing great for only a year old
Wouldn’t you agree though that you got so many followers faster because there was a template of users like you who were bring suggested to all new users? It was a smart thing to do on their part to get the influential crowd hooked 🙂
Mrinal: sorry, you really need to look at FriendFeed again. It does NOT suggest me to new users. It only will suggest me if you add someone as a friend who already has followed me. Even then, there are far more popular people who are suggested like Arrington, Calacanis, Laporte (who usually appear on the recommended list higher than I do). So, why do those people have far fewer FriendFeed users than I do? Might it matter that I participate there a LOT more than they do?
Not to be argumentative, but for the first 6 months, 6 of the 9-12 people FriendFeed suggested were the same. Allen @ CenterNetworks reported on this in detail. It’s better now, but it was that way for quite some time.Not that you don’t deserve the followers, of course, but there was some skewing going on 🙂
Jeremy: I wasn’t even on FriendFeed for the first five months of its life (it started October 1, of last year, and I joined in late February). I was NOT on the leaderboard when I joined. By the way, if the leaderboard mattered, then Arrington and me and Laporte and Calacanis (all of whom had the same advantage and were alongside me on the leaderboard back in the days when it was hard coded) should all have the same follower count. We don’t. Why is that? Hint: it’s because I spent almost all year participating in FriendFeed and forsaking my blog. The “recommended list” is not just “better now.” It’s totally different. What’s funny is my follower growth has actually gone way up since that list no longer has me on top for new members. Why is that?
Ah – sorry that I did not dig in deeper. I though Allen Stern had a post on something like that but I obviously didnt look at it harder. There is no question to your participation on FriendFeed 🙂
Fred, I don’t know if Robert (or others), convinced you already to check out FriendFeed, but your reason for not doing it is not correct. You don’t have to wait for your friends to move over to FriendFeed, because you can follow their Twitter updates and even react to them using Friendfeed. All you have to do is add them as an imaginary friend.The advantage you have is that besides following who you already followed on Twitter just got a lot more interesting because you can start following other interesting people WITH the direct ability to join the conversation. It is also a lot nicer to see videos directly instead of clicking to it and with some greasemonkey tweaks you are even able to ‘preview’ posts within FriendFeed… Put it in your sidebar and give it a try… It is well worth the try ;-)Good luck…
I was one of the very first users of Friend Feed and have used it a bunch oftimes since.It’s the UI that gets in the way for mePlease don’t take that as a critique of friendfeed.I can’t use gmail either and I realize that I am in the minority on that apptoo
Fred, respect Tim but not willing to walk away from my RSS feeds esp since gaining the Feedly app. Do agree with your notion on Techmeme. My pov: it lacks cognitive diversity b/c they are not keeping up, adding with new voices.
Fred,You’re traffic is likely increasing simply because you’re expanding your brand and content to a wider audience by writing about politics and stocks.As for Twitter, I don’t see it as a replacement for an RSS reader but a sweet complement.Mark
My view is that Techmeme is very focused on breaking tech news, which is why me and many other people follow it religiously and update it several times a day. The fact that TC is top and Venturebeat has risen to #4 and AlleyInsider #5 shows they all put a big emphasis on breaking news. ReadWriteWeb at one point was #3 or something, but then we changed tack a bit and focused more on analysis of tech trends and products, rather than worrying about breaking news. We like to get the odd scoop of course, but it’s not really what RWW is about. So we’re now at #9, which indicates we still get scoops and are involved in the discussion around top tech stories. But I certainly don’t see Techmeme Leaderboard as one of our key stats, because the focus of our site is different than TC and VB and others.Anyway, fwiw I think that is relevant to your experience with Techmeme Fred. You too are not about breaking news, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t be one of your most important traffic sources.
Richard is right. I noticed this change about a year ago in TechMeme. The algorithms became far more focused on news and it was clear to me that Gabe was trying to not cover what bloggers thought anymore (in early days TechMeme was all about bloggers and individual new voices talking about each other) and far more competitive with Google News. That was cool and FriendFeed has jumped in to take up the slack and give new voices a platform to get exposure.
That last line is a great thought Robert. But I believe a key to that is a major voice drawing attention to them in that setting (to start with). At least that’s what I’ve observed. I believe Twitter can grow to become ubiquitous among most web users. Yes, I mean most. Smarter people than me, closer to it, will be more cautiousthan that. But there has always been a side to Twitter, that is everything the web ever wanted.
I too have noticed that I’m using Twitter as a primary source of interesting stuff. I still read my RSS reader (about once a week) and Hacker News (about twice a day). But twitter is the most human voice in my input sphere, and I actively nuke twitterers who act like robots.
Here’s something for you: I run a memetracker as well, its a weekend project for me that I’ve been fooling around with for a year or two. About a month ago, I started using the Twitter API to post items from my tracker to twitter, and was pleased to see some take up.Now, though, I’ve taken it a step further: Twitter provides attention data that feeds back into my algorithm. Because each story is presented identically on Twitter, I view twitter click-throughs as great organic indicators of interest – i.e.: clicks aren’t driven by page placement, font size or what have you. The twitter attention data seems to be driving some interesting results, generating a page that covers many of the same things as Techmeme, but that also surfaces some really different things.Have a look at the feeds: http://twitter.com/techwatc… and http://twitter.com/techwatc…
Very cool. I’ll check it out
I took a lookThese feeds are very gadget/mobile focusedIs that on purpose?
Its not on purpose, no. There’s a few factors that contribute to that.1: The gadget blogs interlink, a lot – i.e.: engadget, gizmodo, crunchgear – if one covers a story, they all do. That interlinking pops those blogs up a notch in the algorithm to begin with.2: They tend to get a lot of clicks – people appear to be very interested in gadget news both mainstream and esoteric.3: Right now my seed list of feeds is probably too gadget weighted. Some of the off-shoots in particular (Engadget Mobile) should be downgraded in the algorithm. That’s a symptom of the metrics that I use to choose which feeds to add to the seed list; Engadget Mobile, for instance, looks like a good seed candidate based on the number of inbound links it receives, but a large portion of those links are from other Engadget properties.4: The gadget weighting also seems to be a Monday-morning phenomenon due to the relative lack of business news over the weekend; as more business/tech news develops in the work week, the prominence of gadgets will decrease.So – to answer your question, its not on purpose – but the algorithm is performing as designed, based on the inputs I’ve given it, and the data it collects.
FYI, here’s one of yours that just bubbled up:http://techwatching.com/clu…
Rod, I like techwatching.comI just added it to my ff toolbarWhich means I’ll start visiting it daily
I don’t use RSS or Twitter, but I still check Techmeme to know what’s going on.
dang, i honestly had no idea that techmeme only gets 300k per month. Thought it was much larger than that…
It could be. That’s just what compete says. It could easily be twice as big
I doubt it is much higher. The last time I was on the top of TechMeme I got 1,200 visitors.
Individual bloggers have a hard time staying on the leaderboard because the linkage isn’t there from others. You have to chase the news if you want linkage (which drives the leaderboard). Thought leadership and opinion is what the individual blog and blogger is all about.
Yup. And who has the page that showcases that?
John: explain to me why many of the people on TechMeme can get there without having ANY links to their stuff. I’ve seen that happen over and over again. In other words, links aren’t the only thing TechMeme studies. Truth is, Gabe decides whether you’re going to be on the seed list or not (based on your past behavior) and he decides what your news ranking is for various topics (based on your past behavior). He’s totally changed that ranking behavior away from bloggers who didn’t have brands and toward journalists who do have brands. I’d care about this game, but I saw very quickly that Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed would be more important news vehicles than TechMeme is. Based on my referer logs it sure worked out that way. Oh, and Duncan Riley’s Inquistr is seeing sizeable growth and he’s NEVER on TechMeme. How did that happen? Hint: Being a leader and participant in FriendFeed matters more than TechMeme does.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat Robert but you are right to notice what Duncan has done on the back of FF. it’s impressive
I don’t know obviously how TechMeme decides to show a post without any links but it doesn’t have to be manual process.One possible method. Techmeme records how many people click on the different articles. Once having that data, it’s a simple step to calculate how popular articles by a certain author on a certain topic are. If an author, writing on a certain topic consistently gets loads of clicks, than techmeme will automatically boosts the article to the front page.I’ve been working (slowly) on an open source memetracker for awhile (http://drupal.org/project/m… and this is roughly how I intend my my memetracker to work. Like Scobleizer said, there are a variety of measures which TechMeme uses to calculate where on the page to place a meme. Content on an unpopular topic but with tons of incoming links could still be boosted to the front page. Or an extremely popular topic (measured by clicks) with no incoming links could still have a high enough score to make the front page.
Fred, it’s funny because about a month and half ago I added your blog to the daily tag on my delicious toolbar, meaning I now visit your blog daily (with about 9 other sites).While I can only offer an explanation for the way this occurred for me, I thought maybe if I brought it up, then it could help you understand why others have been visiting more often too.I had always been familiar with your blog through the techmeme posts and other random diggs and what not for at least a year, but it wasn’t until I ran across one of your music related posts that I really took note. Then I read your post about A Turnaround Plan back in October, and that’s when I realized that you weren’t just another voice in the ether, but someone who shared my tastes and values in tech, music and politics.I think once you started giving more of a glimpse into your worldview, people started skipping techmeme to get here.
That’s great to here. I used to post a lot of music to the avc blog but have moved all of that to fredwilson.vc which comes back to avc via the fredwilson.fm radio player at the bottom of this blog. Would you like me to blog more about music at avc or is this ok the way it is?
Well for my own selfish reasons, I would love to read more music relatedposts on your A VC blog, but now that I you mentioned fredwilson.vc, I willstart going there too.
There’s a link at the top of AVC, called Tumblog
If you’re interested, I have started a discussion on HN this morning aboutnailing down the best conversations and discovery methods for music. Youmight enjoy some of the sites people are referencing.http://news.ycombinator.com…
CoolI will check it out
Fred,My comment is less about techmeme and it’s evolution, trip to entropy, rise of friendfeed etc -but perhaps it is more to the point of your original post – and that is “why do people read your blog?” and “where do they come from?”For this pair of eyes (I’m a tv producer by trade) I read less for tech news, stocks, or anything specific – for me it is the intersection of all these things.In short, you are my “outsourced obsession.”And as you move from techmeme, to twitter, to friendfeed to whatever is next – it allows me to stay ahead by following someone who is ahead.So by all means please continue with the self-analysis, discussions about ‘what’s next,” the funding of wild and wooly startups, conversations about cash flows, investment trends – because THIS is the conversation I like listening to.
Thanks JonI’ll try to stay ahead. It’s not easy.
Definitely not easy, but you are doing the best job of it. And I for one personally appreciate it.
Interesting. I dropped Techmeme from my daily reading list last week because there was never anything on it that I had not already seen. I think their shift to the mainstream was a huge mistake. It simply no longer offers me any value or insight- I’d rather view the original sources.
I hate when companies lose focus. And I see that Techmeme is taking a page from Fedex.Today’s ‘bricks and mortar” analogue is Fedex office. Why fedex is flushing a great brand like Kinkos down the toilet is beyond me. It astonishes me when brands, companies etc decide to “maintsream” -Imagine if Mt. Everest decided to mainstream – turning itself into a non-distinct lump of a mountain. Where’s the beauty in that?
Jon,I’m not sure where you live but the Kinkos in my neck of the woods offerterrible service. I’m happy to see that brand go away if it means a betterexperience in these places.And I agree, Techmeme has lost focus as have many of the popular tech blogswho all seem to be writing the same story at the same time. Part of it isthe fault of widespread distribution of press releases. It is a lot moreeffective for companies to offer one leading blog an exclusive. You’re goingto get more attention. This of course from a non PR pro!
kinkos had a good brand name here in DC – i understand your service point but fedex office isn’t much better.But my point was more that big companies tend to absorb and brand everything, and become these big bloated non-things. I’m amazed that all the endless lessons learned in the B&Mortar world are being learned all over again online daily.
I agree- another example is Mailboxes Etc., now known as The UPS Store.
Cheers, Fred – I appreciate the positive feedback greatly.
I just did a google search for TechMeme and this article appears on the front page of the search results. Found that interesting, thought you would want to know.
Ah, the joys of google juice!
lately I’ve given up techmeme for http://technewstube.comcoincidentally that site also aggregates most of what techmeme covers
This really speaks to a turning away from LOYALTY.I do use a feedreader as a main tool, constantly monitoring a list of blogs that I choose to trust for content. But it is true that this approach keeps me more insular, and with so much great content from various sources, loyalty is not the best approach. I might soon give it up.The same points to the erosion of brands like the NYTImes– people still subscribe because they delegate their news coverage to a name they trust. But being such a conduit keeper is slowly becoming less tenable.
But if the trend continues, and we (everybody) goes through brands like they’redisposable, who will want to build or back major projects from then on?And if developers adjust to that culture, who will build deep entities?What do we lose without them?