Easy Come Easy Go

I just read that a lot of the social news reader traffic publishers like Washington Post and The Guardian were getting from Facebook has dropped off dramatically.

Next we will read that the traffic social video apps get from Facebook has dropped dramatically.

All of this reminds me of the big drop in traffic SEO driven sites deal with every time Google does an algorithm change.

SEO and Facebook timeline integration is "best practice" on the Internet. You should do both. They can be great free acquisition channels. But they are not great retention channels. Because easy come easy go.

Be your own bitch.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Mark Birch

    New take on BYOB…

    1. andyidsinga

      dude – you have a sweet profile pic!

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I assumed that would be Be Your Own Boss for any entrepreneur..

  2. Ronen Mendezitsky

    In a perfect world people wouldn’t have manipulated search results in a way that begs Google to change their algorithm every now and then, but since it’s not a perfect world – We deal with it the best we can.

  3. Adrian Sanders

    If they spent as much on content strategy and different formats of content as they did on FB they wouldn’t have to bother.

  4. steveasfdfsdfsd

    Social news readers provided no value to users, only to the publications who made them. In fact, I’d say they create more annoyance and/or embarrassment than value for the user.Retaining customers means providing them with value, not being selfish.

  5. William Mougayar

    Yeah! Everything that was set-up by someone else was there to “set you up”. You take the bait but then it becomes stale.The fragmentation and atomization of content means more power to the user. Those that are clinging to intermediary controls have their days numbered.Be your own bitch = Be your own aggregator. Know where you want to get your news, and go get it with the minimum available tools out there. Use the tools that put you in control, not the ones that put the provider in control of what you read.

  6. cauchy

    I have been reading a lot less from those journals as now they require my consent for accessing my private info from facebook. No way. I think those changes explain it all.

    1. ShanaC

      Nah I was fine with them having a certain about of data. It isdefinitely the algorithm change.they hide more Content now

    2. Shyam Subramanyan

      Same here. I don’t mind sharing what I read as long as I decide to share it, but auto sharing of everything I read does not work for me

  7. awaldstein

    I’ve been saying this for months.What is more valuable for context?a) chatter on a Facebook timelineb) discussion on Wattpad, Ravelry, GetGlue or a growing number of niches everywhereMore and more, the context devoid, conversational light, and transactional barren Facebook platform is incentivising the creation of the competition.Evolution at play.

    1. Pete Griffiths

      i agree. Facebook’s need to monetize and consequential struggle to build interest graphs is resulting in a deteriorating signal to noise ratio.

      1. awaldstein

        Yup…Facebook to me is a simply a broadcast media model built on top of a community social playground.Not local enough to do check-ins, not contextual enough to be a marketplace, not conversational enough engage and build new friendships.More and more, just a rolodex for my past life and a few niche clubs.Kicked it a bit in this one: http://awe.sm/5pj6R

        1. ShanaC

          True but it is one of the few places I can get very different sports off people to talk to each other

        2. Pete Griffiths

          Just read your post. Extremely interesting and some excellent discussion in the comments. I am going to need to read it a few more times. You are grappling with some tricky important bleeding edge stuff.I have a very related interest in what I (and some others) call ‘ambient social networking.’ Social networking wherever you are on the web. You carry your social network around with you. And of course, this isn’t really the right term either. Better might be ‘ambient personal networking.’ You carry your networks around with you, available to you at any time wherever you may be. (your social network is only one of the set of such networks.)Unless I am mistaken William Mougayar is also thinking along these lines.

          1. awaldstein

            Thanks for the read and the input.Was a tough one to write. As @markslater said, it should have been 3-5 posts. I just wanted to get it out there.I don’t usually get over 50 comments so it stuck a chord somewhere.

        3. Matt A. Myers

          This fits in well with the idea that there is no macro in economics, only micro – which then make up the perception of a macro. Focus on the micro/context and the macro will exist naturally.

    2. Shyam Subramanyan

      I disagee – it’s not easy as a human being to be in 10 different places however deeply contextual they might be. That’s why my photos are on Facebook and not on Flickr anymore. It has actually evolved from being at 10 different niches to one place – Facebook. You are suggesting that it wil “evolve” back to where it used to be.

      1. awaldstein

        We all use Facebook.Each of us decide how much value you get.I use engagement and conversation as my filters for context and information. On Facebook, that is not possible.To address the fragmentation (which is true) I use Engagio.

        1. Michael Elling

          Funny as everyone was talking convergence of supply I was pointing to divergence of demand. Everyone their own island. Complex system of intranets.

          1. awaldstein

            Hmm….True. I think the social web is more and more about each of us in the center of our own view. But I also believe that once it becomes individual first, this will drive more communities and marketplaces, more convergence.Individuality and self-affirmation is the greatest incentive towards choice and the formation of groups.

          2. Michael Elling

            Yes. Intranets = communities. That’s why the upper layers are tied to the lower layers via middle layer controls. Vertically complete ecosystems. Apple had this in mind which is why Jobs dictated Wifi backup in the lower layers to AT&T’s crummy 2G network. Thank goodness for that. (IMO Google doesn’t fully understand the lower layers yet). Applicators should be thinking about lower layer access (QR, wifi, NFC, etc…). Physical and virtual ways of “touching” the customer via the powerful interfaces on the smartphone. Some of this will happen via cross-app utilities/intranets.

  8. kidmercury

    damn no mother’s day post? brutal diss…..only sites that take a risky approach to SEO get screwed over on google updates. if you take a “clean” approach, the updates often work in your favor because the weak hands get pushed out.retention is up to the product. i’m not sure how i found fredland, but it’s the good product (i.e. good content and community) that gets me coming back.

    1. fredwilson

      i talked to my mom this morning and my son and I gave the gotham gal a couple gifts. no dissing here.

      1. ShanaC

        I hope you also has an awesome day outside ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. LE

        In its present form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Jarvis with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis on May 9, 1905. Wanamaker, was also famous for “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”. With the amount of money that Wanamaker spent on newspaper advertising it was probably fairly easy to get the papers to publicize this “holiday”. After all they would benefit as well.I hate those types of holidays. It becomes an obligation to throw money away to show that you “care”.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Eventually your SEO won’t really matter, except for niche nuanced searches – though that is innately created with the content of the site/page – something Google has down pretty well compared to any of their competition.

    3. Michael Elling

      Get, keep, stimulate demand. Gotta do all 3 efficiently.

  9. Richard

    Fred, more on “best practice”?

    1. fredwilson

      that really wasn’t the point of the post. but there are a ton of things you need to do. i gave a talk about that once. http://www.slideshare.net/c

  10. another cultural landslide

    “Be your own bitch.”Best. Social. Comment. Ever.

  11. schultzmj

    “Be your own Bitch”Those are words to live by……

  12. Guest

    We have gone from “Happy Mothers Day” to “Be your own bitch.” My, my….This is one of my favorite topics! Its also an important one to me as I have a product to sell people and tapping into traffic sources is very important.I have met, talked to, sought advice, and in a couple of cases hired experts to explore “SEO” and honestly, the return on my time and investment was marginal. I did learn how SEO works and changes and I accept the fact that it is one traffic source, one of many.When you realize that “big and tall” or “big and tall tee shirts” is going to cost you $8.65 per click, you really have to think long and hard about “traffic source strategy” considering that the cost of a PPC is almost all of your profit.The reality is, especially for a niche product, Facebook is all mass market. Games and contests work well, but I have yet to see that turn into a meaningful long term traffic source.No doubt, you have to be on or in in some meaningful way both SEO and FB, but you better have a broader and more defined strategy or you will be disappointed.You still have to create a reason, a curiosity, for the consumer to search for you and or to click on an ad or to like you on Facebook. You still have to generate an “I need to check that out…” thought.Which is easier to do on Facebook than it is with search. Actually, in my own experimentation, Pinterest can generate more “repins” in a shorter period of time than Facebook can generate “likes” then of course you have to have a plan to do something with the repins and or likes.Our retention/reorder factor is 87% so the focus has always been on traffic source.

    1. fredwilson

      pinterest is a good source of traffic for e-commerce, particularly women driven e-commerce

      1. awaldstein

        Great for catalogs goods of all sorts. Be interesting to see the comparison between let’s say a great fashion campaign on Tumblr and its mirror on Pinterest.

        1. Guest

          If I was “fashion” then of course I would focus on Tumblr, but Pinterest is great, from my limited experimenting, for mass market, coffee klatch, type of “gossipy” promotion.Its kind of like HGTV and its shows like “Million Dollar Rooms” and “Selling NY/Selling LA” of course the folks watching these popular shows do not have the millions to benefit from the info/entertainment and those that do, don’t watch HGTV.That pretty much sums up why I think Pinterest is such a home run; just see a picture you like and repin it.

          1. LE

            the folks watching these popular shows do not have the millions to benefit from the info/entertainment and those that do, don’t watch HGTV.Love Selling NY. And Bravo “Millionaire Dollar Listing” even better.To your point though you have to look at the other benefits of being on those shows. You become “the shit” in your own little community of brokers who are well aware of your presence on TV. And they all want to do deals with you.That said the best use of reality TV is if you have a national market as opposed to a local market.

          2. awaldstein

            Super easy and clean way to ‘pin’ things as you wander about the web.Iconic bookmarks of a sort.

      2. Guest

        Now that Zynga is setting up their own website as a platform for game playing, I am waiting for them to develop that into a social media platform. Right now they have more bugs to fix than you can shake a stick at, but if they develop a complete package I would be all over that as an advertiser.You have a community with shared interests and all they have to develop is a means to allow connections to be developed (that is easy since the more friends you have the more fun the game is) so all they have to find is a way to develop profiles that give one a means to share more than just playing a game.The experiment with Martha Stewart and Castleville was interesting…..

      3. Matt A. Myers

        Wish Etsy’s integration numbers were public. ๐Ÿ˜›

        1. fredwilson

          i suspect someday they will be

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Cool cool..

      4. parneet

        Good source of traffic, not necessarily conversions. Similar to other social networks, its a good acquisition play but not a great commerce driver…unless we start looking at first click attribution over an extended period.

        1. fredwilson

          pinterest will have to make some changes in order for it to be a good driver of conversions.

      5. Riaz Kanani

        Feels like the digital equivalent of coffee table magazines to me. Something to do when you are passing the time or bored with the added benefit of buying immediately on impulse.

    2. awaldstein

      What you say about PP Carl seem logical, but I would think that SEO, natural categorical search for your business would be useful. Not something to build a business on but certainly 10-20% of traffic that you would take. And SEO best practices for a catalogue are not very egregious to build into your workflow once you clean up your templates.Re: Facebook….Makes sense to me what you have discovered.

      1. Guest

        When we first went live on the internet we found that organic search accounted for over 40% of our traffic and our label/brand was our number 1 keyword, I cannot remember the full top five keywords, but I know “Made In USA” and me personally, my name, were also in our top five. I have tried to determine/develop a matrix to develop “categories” but I have not been successful at all. I also find that trying to use expert advice is tough in a niche market.Oh, the reason my name was on the list, because I found out early on, that a brand has to have a persona, a voice, a spirit and I provided that via our direct mail catalogs and our email marketing. You have to “talk” about something other than your product, you have to talk about values that you hope your product aspires to, I mean, there is only so much you can say about a tee shirt then you start repeating yourself. So somehow, consumers may not have remembered much but they did remember me…

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Stating values gives more / and more of a feeling for people to attribute to something, reenforcing its strength in their memory / how much they will remember you.

          1. Guest

            My favorite line is, “We are expensive..and don’t apologize for it!” People relate to brands that go against the grain. Or another line I like to use is, “Yeah, others have sales but only on the stuff that nobody wants to buy….”From a retail perspective I do not want consumers to be trained to wait till they get a sales flyer to buy because eventually then no one shops until there is a sale. (JC Penney is adopting this philosophy also).Its like I tell our customer service folks, the only way you can explain anything to a consumer is to start with “I am sorry” or “You are right…” then you can work a “but” in, if you start your sentence with anything else you have lost a customer. Oh, and don’t rely on email, if its a problem, then pick up the phone; that is advice for every tech start up. Waiting 3 to 5 business days tells me that I am not important, regardless of how much you profess to value my patronage.

        2. awaldstein

          Brands are a wondrous thing Carl!You seem to have a pulse on yours.

    3. ShanaC

      Those numbers about pinterest are interesting

      1. Guest

        Actually, Pinterest is interesting….like a female friend of mine on facebook commented early on about Pinterest, “…not sure what you are supposed to do on it but it is fun…..”I think that pretty much sums it up.

        1. awaldstein

          Yeah…it it fun.I created 5 boards and playing around with it.http://pinterest.com/awalds…My New York is getting the most attention.Why I’m dong this and what I’m getting is unclear. Fun at least.

          1. Guest

            “Why I’m dong this and what I’m getting is unclear. Fun at least.”Sometimes I think we attempt to overanalyze things; its obvious if you are having fun, then that is what you are getting…fun.Nothing wrong with that at all….As far as why you are doing it, well I ask myself that question a lot, especially recently, and the only answer I can come up with “I just have to….”

          2. Matt A. Myers

            People like to sort and organize things. It’s innate to us, at least once we train our brains to be doing it. And fun is anything that isn’t work, right? So Pinterest is letting us sort things, in a non-work stressor environment.

          3. Guest

            Matthew,I agree that mentally we love to sort and organize things, and all of us aspire to the ideal of organization; but if you know anyone who can sit down and organize and file and loves doing it, then please have them call me, I have my home office and my business office and there is at least a month’s worth of real hard work available to them! ๐Ÿ™‚

          4. Matt A. Myers

            No way — I’m going to keep them for myself! ๐Ÿ˜›

          5. ShanaC

            My mom, but she won’t stop by. Also, she has a tendency to throw out important things not realizing they are important…

          6. panterosa,

            Carl, please let me know if you get responses on a massive OCD filing type. My office and studio have another months work waiting, and that doesn’t include image management of my visual materials in digital formats. Keeping up to date on all that stuff is to much of a time drain yet it becomes a future time drain when not managed well.

        2. ShanaC

          Right, I just don’t have enough time to play with it.I think the idea of mood boards online are just interesting, but what am I supposed to be doing?

    4. Matt A. Myers

      SEO only makes a difference when you know all of the little details of things, though those details don’t necessarily matter for most sites. For many people you’re better off focusing on the other aspects that make a business a great business, and that will have more impact than heavy understanding and implementation of SEO practices – don’t completely ignore them though of course..

      1. Guest

        You see it the way I do. I never really saw any great benefit from SEO because I realized that we were a niche product in a niche market. Now, if I had a broader product class my thoughts would be different.Having said that, I still focus on SEO and I still attempt to constantly improve our results, but you have to be realistic in your expectations and build your strategy realistically.That’s why I borrowed the term “wall of sound” to explain my strategy and thus I see advertising and marketing kind of similar to being behind a console at a recording studio.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Indeed! SEO really matters when the difference of 1% increase of visitors is 100,000+ people; Pulling numbers out of my ass, but you get the idea..

          1. Guest

            Yes, I understand your point and I know exactly where you are coming from. In the world where one’s product is a web service then a 1% increase in visitors is only an issue if you do not have the infrastructure to accommodate the additional traffic.Since I have to have inventory, which takes 2 months to replenish, my focus is on increasing my customer base by 5,000 new purchases a month. Normally I am explaining this to old economy businesses, people who actually manufacture what they sell (this also makes me a lot different than companies that may come to mind for you such as Threadless, Custom Ink, and Cafe Press, which while they embellish a tee shirt as I do they actually get their stock of tees from wholesalers, who make the goods and maintain inventory).If a 170,000 impressions only nets you 170 visitors a day, and you look at just those two numbers that looks like really poor results. But if you take the 170 visitors and multiply by 30 days a month, you got 5,100 potential purchases. One little ad on Facebook is going to get you your 170,000 impressions and 170 visits all by its self.Then I do the math and show them that 5,000 purchases a month will average to 1.6 million in sales a year for me.Little numbers by themselves mean nothing but if you put them into context they make you realize real quick that the internet can put you out of business also.I always like to start this “stump speech” with this line: “All I want is .0022 percent market share of my niche market and I can do it with a conversion rate of 1% and 20,000 visitors a day.”Most tech folks attempt to get as big of a chunk of the internet as they can while I focus on getting a predetermined sliver as efficiently as possible.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            That’s smart – what a sane person would do. I’m not necessarily sane though, and relatively young still, so am aiming for the stars. Selling product that way is too boring for me (not saying it’s easy), just not complex enough to keep me engaged. I like big problems. I hope I can start sharing these big problems with more people soonish.I know I have a lot of million dollar ideas, even just like selling tshirts. Though really it’s the same amount of effort to build a hundread million to billion dollar idea, it just takes more patience, maybe more luck / chance / things being aligned in the universe.

          3. Guest

            Matthew, “Know Thy Self” as I always say…I am not a “big problem” guy and the concept of “changing the world” is one I view very cynically. I am a perfectionist and I tend to balance the big picture with the reality of all the moving parts.I am the guy who swings for base hits, one base at a time, so if you are looking for a homerun keep me on the bench and make both of us happy.If you “know thy self” then its real easy to work with other people and its really easy to share….I like being the underdog and think awesome means that I do things better than everyone else, not bigger…I am no visionary but I am a radical….and you have nothing to apologize for. I sell tee shirts to really big people that’s all I do and that ain’t rocket science!So, shoot for the stars and I will cheer you on all the way!

        2. ShanaC

          That actually is a great metaphor, a sound mixer of advertising. I try explaining why I’m holistic about these things to people, and I think the sound mixer probably is the best explanation so far.

      2. parneet

        The chief benefit of SEO first and foremost is that it forces us (as business managers) to fact check what we think people want against what they are actually looking for. At a time when business decisions are increasingly tactical (partly because the duration of a business’s lifecycle is a lot compressed), it forces us to be more strategic about what we spend time on. To me, the traffic increase from SEO is important but incidental.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Fair point. It’s definitely a good exercise.

        2. Eric Siu

          @mattamyers:disqus The thing with SEO is that it ties in with so many aspects of business. I think an important thing to realize is SEO is not all about changing a few meta tags and building some back links. Far from it. If anything, SEO fits in very well and even strengthens other acquisition channels: http://searchenginewatch.co…If you’re doing good SEO, that means you’re also focused on improving user experience, building relationships, and writing content that genuinely delivers value to your audience.Good SEOs don’t just focus on SEO. (http://www.rimmkaufman.com/…I think the misconception here is that SEO seems to be a shortcut. On a tactical level, there might be some dirty tricks that can get businesses ahead temporarily. THAT’S when you get knocked down by Google’s algorithmic updates.

          1. parneet

            Couldn’t have said it better myself! ๐Ÿ™‚

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Agree with everything you said. SEO is a good framework to follow, for dictating quality. The greyhat/blackhat methods are attempts to game the system which will only result in short-term gains; Google’s good at detecting this now, and most people should be thinking of long-term affects and benefits for anything they are doing for their business (unless it’s a money-grab like Facebook’s IPO.. not SEO-related, just thought I’d spit that out.. hehe)

    5. Donna Brewington White

      I thought he WAS saying “Happy Mothers Day”Works for me.

      1. Guest

        Maybe if I was “cool” and “hip” I might actually understand what the concept is behind “Be your own bitch….” :)It just sounds nasty to me…

        1. Donna Brewington White

          You are plenty cool, Carl, in my estimation, and quite the gentleman (not sure about hip –and that’s not a bad thing) but you may not be aware of the initial context of that statement. ย Fred made quite a stir with it and I admit that it’s one of my favorite Fred-isms.Sent via Samsung Galaxy Sโ„ข II Skyrocketโ„ข

  13. William Mougayar

    This ties in so well with my blog post this morning on Social Discovery from Social Conversations. It’s a more natural thing than what the social readers offer. http://blog.engag.io/2012/0

  14. rudy

    If I could give my 2 cents. The IT world used to be ‘ahead’ of the real world in eclipsed time. That meant that companies such as microsoft, google and apple really dictated what ‘commoners’ needed and wanted. As TIME magazine proclaimed, The year of the Geek.In my estimation FACEBOOK changed all that. Now 4 the most part it’s the masses dictating what people want. The internet is changing much the way TV has and in a great way I would think of it this way, if I had a TV show on CBS tomorrow, I would get a least 5 to 10M viewers immediately, but if the show sucked, how many would be back the next week? In the end, it’s always about content and/or entertainment. Social reader is way to intruding. I have read about my neighbors whom I am friends with on FACEBOOK reading articles about why their SEX life sucks, being posted on FB. I’ve also read about my ex’s brother reading about tax problems and how to deal with them. Things people are trying to hide not post.Apps on the other hand are mostly mindless interactions for VERY bored people 95% of the time. When I first started my project, I had a long discussion with Lew Krause. I think he summed up best about social media, ‘The rules are still being made.”I think if companies and these ‘great’ tech people want to participate in this game, they should be using TV as the next barometer and not the pass 20 years.

    1. fredwilson

      great comment. an entrepreneur friend of mine told me about seeing notifications of VCs watching sex videos on viddy on FB. yeow. fortunately i don’t use viddy.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        I still don’t understand why there wasn’t a bigger backlash when Facebook switched to “passive posting” on what users are reading and watching. It seems outrageous to me.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          There was a backlash – but people are stuck there, for now.I know many people not on Facebook, I know many people wanting off of Facebook.No solution exists for them, though it will.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            That move by FB is what turned it into “my mother’s internet” for me.To my mother’s credit she adopted social media before I did รก la AOL. AOL is still how she does email.I have a lot of admiration for Steve Case; at a recent event for entrepreneurs and investors he made the point (good-humoredly to his credit) that AOL was a forerunner to Facebook.Is Facebook a forerunner?

        2. William Mougayar

          It is somewhat freaky when something you just read shows up there bc you just clicked it. Maybe you didn’t read it.

        3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Luke Chamberlin

            Edit: oops double posts

          2. Luke Chamberlin

            If you took a survey of the number of people who even understand what’s happening, I would guess that number to be very small.

      2. falicon

        Couldn’t help but chuckle a bit that you specifically say you don’t use viddy…not that you don’t watch those videos…Know the message between the lines wasn’t intentional…but still gave me a good chuckle this morning. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. LE

          I think (with respect to a similar issue) there is a saying. 80% of people do it and the rest are liars (or something like that).

        2. Donna Brewington White

          I noticed that too. ๐Ÿ™‚

      3. ShanaC

        O_o why is there no backlash to that?

    2. Alex Murphy

      Your examples are great. The key point here is don’t do crappy things to get traffic, otherwise you will get slammed!

    3. ShanaC

      Nothing wrong with entertainment – what I did find is that my highbrow friends and I would read the same things.

  15. Elia Freedman

    Speaking of be your own bitch, using app stores to drive traffic and revenues is another fail.

    1. fredwilson

      what are the other options with mobile apps?

      1. Ric Fulop

        Tapjoy? Great post.

      2. Michael Elling

        The mobile device is a tremendous interface with the real world. QR codes, NFC, wifi, etc… all ways of introducing yourself to the customer on the fly in a particular context. (Have to think about OTT and UC as other forms of virtual access that can be harnessed). When looking at time, space and financial budgets (leaving emotive aside) this touch at the edge maybe more effective than “core” touchpoints. 800 and ad=sponsored calls or wifi access are just the beginning.

        1. fredwilson


  16. ShanaC

    aka know your audience and build your product around them.don’t use Google/Facebook/whatever to know your audience for you

  17. reece


  18. Brendan

    Yup, also has interesting implications for FB vs google long term – though I don’t think any of us are surprised by those implications.

  19. jimmystone

    Be your own bitch. Control your own destiny. Amen.

  20. Dan Lewis

    I don’t think you can “be your own b” any more. Retention is SO DIFFICULT for a media company nowadays. You used to own your content delivery system. Newspapers were the perfect example. You’d own the printer, the delivery service, everything. (Or license it out, same thing effectively.) Your readers would subscribe and you’d push the content to them on a daily basis via this system. All that stuff is going the way of the dodo.You don’t really own your Facebook or Twitter account (you’re subject to the whim of the platform). Search traffic comes and goes. RSS never really made it into the consumer market (too bad, too) and email, which I love, isn’t for everyone and is kind of wonky at times. Apps as readers (i.e. not web-native delivery) is similar to Fb/Twitter, just for hardware.That may never change, either. More likely, large media companies will just die, and individuals and small teams will take their place.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I trust Twitter far more than Facebook re: being in control of the ecosystem; As far as I know Twitter just spits out all tweets to your account that you follow, and only inserts paid-for tweets to help circulate them. Facebook however only shows 16% of what everyone you’re a friend with followers – I don’t like this at all. It’s backwards. It solves a problem – but the wrong way.

    2. Gunta

      Seriously, could we please quit with the over the top death predictions in tech circles?With the amount of people in tech talking about how they’re going to kill this and that, when you look at the situation objectively and realise how little has actually been killed by tech in recent history, a neutral observer may begin to feel like there’s a lot of Kool Aid being passed around these parts.

      1. ShanaC

        The issue is the transferring costs and how to pay the writers. It is pretty clear that a lot of the long tail stuff that people actually read isn’t paid for.I’m sure the NYTimes will survive, and I am sure the huffington post will eventually start to meter. I’m just not sure who will be doing the writing(have friends who have lost jobs as writers in the industry, that is how I know)

    3. Michael Elling

      History repeats itself. We can find many analogs.

  21. Matt A. Myers

    This is Facebook’s attempt to squeeze money out of publishers to show their content links in people’s feeds more than others that people use.

  22. LE

    This is just another version of the classic business problem which is how many eggs you have in one basket or how much business you get from any one customer etc.It’s a total live by the sword die by the sword thing. That said many businesses will take that risk and profit (to which they are told how smart they are) and many will end up falling flat on their face after loosing the cheddar.It’s really hard to turn down the big account and opportunity whether it be SEO or a key client. The problem is that when you get that opportunity you spend money and expand based upon it being there long term and are left holding the ball when things go south. Over my years in business and watching business I’ve seen this happen so many times. The money doesn’t always love you long time.When I was a kid I remember my father turning down an opportunity to sell to Sears. If I remember correctly he felt it would take his inventory that he was selling to many customers and then if they didn’t order the next year he would have lost his entire customer base. (At least that is the way I will spin this for now..) And of course he would be their bitch. This was years before Walmart had bitches.Also growing up I remember the “rich guy in the neighborhood”. Bought his kid (who was 16) a brand new Trans Am. He bragged to me “the kid has it made in the shade”. I used to wax his cars and he was a good tipper. He owned a wholesale bakery and had the nicest house and toys in the neighborhood.I think by the time I was in college he had lost a big contract with a supermarket (Acme) and had to file for bankruptcy. (By the way people always would spin this as “see how he spent money” as his downfall when in fact it was the contract loss).I’ve actually seen many of these reversal of fortunes in business. I think people who don’t operate at this altitude would be amazed at what hangs on a thread in the business world with the chances people take (which are necessary of course in many cases.)

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I think the problem is people don’t have a base understanding of why they are doing things. They depend on what they see other people doing to determine if something is a good idea – at least initially.I commented below where stating that you only see 16% of what your friends post ever hits your feed – and how much you see of that, will be less. That doesn’t make sense. Facebook wants the noise and then wants people who have money to pay to highlight their posts. And they just expanded this to their userbase, similarly to what Tumblr just did, by allowing anyone to ‘highlight’ something they post ($2 cost I believe).If you’re riding a wave without understanding why that wave exists, then that’s risky because you may not realize when that wave’s going to crash down on the shore.

      1. Michael Elling

        Amen. Spend 20% of your time on strategy; peering out of the fox hole and taking a survey of the landscape. Good example. Numeric paging made it big because touchtone in the US was ubiquitous by 1990; 90%+ vs 20% ROW. The paging sector (Motorala) had NOTHING to do with this exogenous factor; it had everything to do with WAN competition in the 1980s (T, MCI, Sprint). Paging guys had 33m numeric addresses by 1996, which were extremely valuable and many could have been upbanded if they had agreed on common gateway/platform for “touchtone for text messaging”. Text paging was 1/10th cost of blackberry (and more focused; as twitter shows) and SMS wasn’t pervasive til 2002 in the US. But NO, they stayed in their own silos, couldn’t see and didn’t understand the landscape and their origins (the wave they were riding) and the rest is history.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to pick your brain about this once my plans evolve into hardware. ๐Ÿ˜›

          1. Michael Elling

            Everyone is riding the 4th and final wave of digitization: broadband. It is just beginning. 3 prior waves were WAN (1980s), data (1990s), mobile (late 1990s/2000s).

  23. Luke Chamberlin

    Publishers are trading their long-term health for a short-lived fix of traffic.I would use a drug dealer analogy but that would be hyperbolic.

  24. Matt A. Myers

    A little high, little low

  25. philhayford

    This post triggered two things for me. First, today you have to build systems that dynamically adjust as social (and search to a lesser extent) algorithms change. If you don’t, you’re building something that will de facto become irrelevant sooner rather than later. We are building all our systems now to be dynamic, e.g. our social publishing system (for pushing content onto Facebook, Twitter, etc.) constantly tests and learns what works and doesn’t work so we know real-time when algos change. We call it a dynamic playbook (using a football analogy); you can’t just run a static playbook, you need to be ready to call audibles at the line. Our mantra is “every post on Facebook has to be part of a test,” so you can drive traffic now and use it to learn how to better drive traffic later.Second, there’s increasing evidence that there’s a strong correlation between social traffic and search traffic (@elowitz wrote about it here http://bit.ly/GH6vRq), which makes perfect sense, as both Google and FB are trying to deliver what the audience wants, using their own approaches.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Dynamic Playbook, love it. I agree you should know what your plays are, and how they can potentially change. Tracking and using metrics will help you see the effectiveness of things, though knowing why certain plays happen certain ways will give you an advantage over competition and when creating short and long-term strategy.

    2. ShanaC

      I want to see what you are building so badly, does it measure social changes over time????

  26. Esayas Gebremedhin

    the reason why many startups become a fb bitch is because fb has focused for years to suck in everything on the web with their shares and likes ect. they have trained their users to expect any service being published on their timeline. startups who listen to users requesting a constant timeline integration are actually just following fb’s dictate.with a potential of infinite domain names available, nothing is more narrow minded than being a slash page of someone. the strategy i suggested within our team (when it comes to fb integration) is called “black widow strategy” lol

    1. fredwilson

      “nothing is more narrow minded than being a slash page of someone”i like that

  27. Arthur Welf

    Allowing automatic posts about every content people have read/watch was not a smart move by Facebook. Not every post people have read was worth reading, but apps shared a link. It overloaded their friends with a lot of not relevant content, because it was not always the content people really liked.When people push the Facebook Like button they filter content for their friends very efficiently. People become friends in online and offline world only if they have same interests, only if they have common themes for conversations. And if many of my friend (people with same interests as me) like certain content, it means there is an increased probability I will like this content too. So, Facebook became an efficient crowdsourced “people powered personalized RSS reader of the whole web”. And OpenGraph for content projects just killed this brilliant filter.Initially people readed (watched etc.) “OpenGraph delivered content” because they thought it was really recommended by their friends. Because of it content providers saw a huge amount of traffic from their OpenGraph apps. But Facebook was smart enough to make OpenGraph links visually different from links people have liked by pressing the Like button. So, when people realized that “your friean read” is not equal “your friend liked”, they started ignore these links and traffic dropped.But I think OpenGraph was a smart move for other types of people’s activity. For example for music startups like Spotify. It’s because news reading and user generated video watching is always about exploring. You never know whether you will like article you want to read or it will be a waste of time. People explore music too, but mainly they listen tracks they already love, so OpenGraph traffic to music apps should not drop so dramatically.So, I don’t recommend to use OpenGraph integration for content projects where content is exploring by users, because it is annoying and decrease a level of satisfaction of their customers. But I’d recommend to integrate with OpenGraph projects where people mostly use content they are familiar with, like music, especially organized by users in playlists, because it will drive traffic and customer’s satisfaction will remain at desired level.

    1. Michael Elling

      Aren’t the views falsely biased to the positive? Dating sites have compatability scores that help you know something about the person a priori. Seems like you can develop a compatability score on FB that shows level of likes and dislikes. Maybe brutal; but real and valuable.

  28. Gary Chou

    I’m in LA for a film festival and we’ve been talking about how to create lasting audiences for content.One of the sayings I’ve heard: “things that sizzle fast fizzle fast”.

    1. fredwilson

      yes indeed

  29. David Petersen

    For many business models, you simply cannot grow and profit without ranking high in organic search. If you are in a business where you can win despite no search presence, then you are lucky.I run an online business where we use strategies such as personalized hand written letters, telemarketing, paid search, email marketing, word-of-mouth, and television advertising to sell. That’s great, and it feels good to not be at the mercy of Google.I also run a business that lives and dies by search. There is simply no realistic way for this particular business to not live and die by search. If you find yourself in a business like that, a lot of your time needs to go towards SEO. In that case, I think the focus needs to be on SEO that builds value. In other words, building a great product that ranks well in search because the product is so good, instead of buying links and using other non-value building SEO techniques. Focus on metrics like time on site, bounce rate, site speed, viral coefficients, etc. And happy users of course.You’ll still need links to get maximum respect from Google, but try to get those links in the form of articles from legitimate publications who are impressed by your site.

  30. Tom

    I’ve learned that it’s very difficult to gain interest, let alone sell anything on FB. People go to Google when they want an answer. They go on FB to join the happy-talk-cocktail-party with friends (not to be pitched).

  31. takeareport

    Artfully put and brutally true, Fred. Anyone veering from SEO “best practices” should think twice.The past 4 months have already made 2012 the worst year for SEO charlatans on record.

  32. Rand Fishkin

    Fred – I’m gonna have to disagree with some parts of this post, though I really like the message in the title.First – you read about these drops, but did you confirm them? If the sources are places like Comscore, Compete, Quantcast, etc. I’d be extremely skeptical. These rating sites are, in my experience, rarely better than a coin flip (more here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/…. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that if we looked at the web analytics of 50 publishers, we’d see consistently rising traffic from social sources as a trend.Second – I really disagree with this bit: “the big drop in traffic SEO driven sites deal with every time Google does an algorithm change.” When Google changes their algorithm, sites that employ short-term tactics generally fall while those think long term about building value generally rise (assuming they also get SEO best practices). In a single update, this might not always be true, but as a pattern over the last decade, I promise that it is.Relying on social media and search engines for traffic is a good bet. As far as traffic channels go, Google/Facebook/Twitter/etc are probably the most reliable – on par with direct/type-in/email. If you mess up big or take shortcuts with any of these (with Google, your SEO; Facebook, your social strategy; Direct/type-in, your UX/content; Email, your messaging practices), there will be negative consequences. But, I think the derision given to any of these channels as “unreliable” or the motto of “live by SEO, die by SEO” is relatively false.If you build up complete dependency on any of them, I agree you’re in for a world of pain (because it almost certainly means you’ve found an exploit/shortcut if you’re not building value/traffic across multiple channels as your brand grows). But I worry that the way you’re describing it (and how I’ve heard other investors talk about it) isn’t telling the whole story and is creating a lot of undue FUD. Granted, I have a company in the inbound marketing space, so come from a biased position.Third and last – couldn’t agree more with the overarching message of “easy come, easy go.” If you’re making investments in marketing/growth channels that come easy, they’re probably not gonna last long term. Real, lasting value is built through long, hard work that others aren’t willing to or cannot make. Like everything else in life, nothing worth having comes easy and long term investments pay off far bigger than short term ones.Thanks for the post, and for letting me rant a bit ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      hi rand. thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with us. i can’t argue with any of this. i think these are “best practices” but i also worry that investors and entrepreneurs are relying on short term gains using these channels and not focusing on a long term approach that is sustainable

      1. Rand Fishkin

        Amen to that.

    2. Ben Popper

      Hey Rand – these drops are refering to a measure of user activity on Facebook. The info comes from AppData and you can check it against Facebook’s numbers by heading over to the social network and typing the name of the app into the search bar.So for example AppData says today that the WaPo social reader has 7.2m monthly active users. Facebook says the same thing. AppData just charts these numbers of time.As for the long/short term nature of these gains, the jury is still out, since Open Graph is less than one year old. A good precedent to look at might be the wild west days of Facebook, when companies like Zynga, Roku, Slide and many others relied on spammy tactics on Facebook to grow. It worked for a few of them long term, while many others perished.The most important element to this however, is Fred’s point that investors are allowing short term gains through these channels to dictate their strategy. Viddy, for example, just picked up a $30 million investment based on less than two months of growth, almost all of which was powered by FB.I wrote a piece on this phenomenon (startup steroids) here – http://www.theverge.com/201

      1. Rand Fishkin

        Good post over there Ben. I totally agree that anytime your company receives an almost artificial boost (like what appeared to be happening with Pinterest auto-posts to Facebook), it’s good to separate it from the more reliable traffic channels. Good example I know of was when Apple started featuring UrbanSpoon in their ads for the iPhone, and the company saw huge traffic to their app, their website and all around their brand. They knew it would end as soon as the Apple ads did, and planned accordingly.I think I got confused as to the intent/message behind Fred’s post. Executing on strategies that grow referrals/engagement/value from any of these channels is a good thing in my experience, and is pretty reliable (as reliable as any source can be). But the point that artificial boosts or shortcuts on these networks aren’t reliable is a fair one (and perhaps I missed that message in the post).

    3. ShanaC

      Hi Rand – thank you for stopping by.One of the really big problems I see with the way facebook is structured right now is that the tools for organic “viral spreading” are extremely poor. (and inorganic viral spreading as well)By extremely poor, they tools aren’t there content side to measure both changes in buzz of a specific shareable unit (article, picture, link), sentiment of that buzz, and overall changes in buzz for your industry OVER TIME.It is extremely hard to plan out without good tools.

      1. Rand Fishkin

        Yeah – I agree that it’s pretty hard to see how content performs on Facebook if it’s not activity on your page(s), but if the interaction brings traffic back to your site, your web analytics can be relatively good at watching that. You could then tie it to likes/shares on the OpenGraph and form some fairly good predictive systems (e.g. if we produce content that appeals to audience A and share it at the right times, we can generally see X, Y and Z).

        1. ShanaC

          True about basic web analytics being good at that – the issue is if you are not trying to immediately bring people back to your site (see, branding campaigns)I still would like to see that sort of predictive modeling happening in its own software – most of what is produced is meant for predicting ad buying.

  33. jason wright

    Where did you read this?

    1. fredwilson


  34. laurie kalmanson

    there was a time when aol paid businesses to provide contentthen there was a time when businesses paid aol to be on therethen aol, well … here we are today

  35. timraleigh

    ” Be your own bitch.” Best line ever.

  36. Ben Elowitz

    Hey Fred, actually the irony is that while virality is sexy, retention is the bigger business opportunity on Facebook and Twitter. Leading publishers are seeing 50% of their Facebook fans on a weekly basis, 80% on a monthly basis, and can drive traffic from Facebook back to their own sites at multiple clicks per fan per month. Thatโ€™s all retention, and itโ€™s a ton of value. Ben (@elowitz)

  37. Marc Delurgio

    I’m glad to see these spammy services on the decline. They contradict the very notion of sharing. Simply perusing content does not implicitly mean that the user is recommending it to their friends.

  38. nabeel

    Fred, I love the underlying message to not forget to build a sustainable product. But it’s not quite true that they are not great retention channels. Facebook, and SEO before it, were and are -incredibly- powerful retention channels.I don’t think that changes the fundamental message that the product needs to have lasting value. But teams should be aware of (and optimizing for) both acquisition and retention in these channels.

  39. Lifetime

    How about using Twitter for sign-up?