No Pain No Gain

One of my favorite observations about places to vacation is that the harder it is to get there, the better they are:

Aspen beats Vail

Montauk beats East Hampton

Tulum beats Cancun

And I think the same is often true of Internet services.

My friend Brad Feld tweeted this out yesterday:

I replied with a suggestion on how to get started

But regardless of my help, Brad is in for a harder time getting SoundCloud working for him than getting Pandora working for him. But if he sticks it out, follows the right people, curates tracks by liking them and reposting them, he will find there is a richness to SoundCloud that simply doesn’t exist on “just hit play” audio services.

The same is true of Twitter. I read this research note on Twitter yesterday:

Twitter: Study Vol. 3 suggests fixable user issues and mass market potential; Buy — MKM Partners 
MKM Partners finished another proprietary study on TWTR. Findings: 
-User attrition is the key issue for TWTR. Like other volumes, this survey shows polarized indicators of stickiness 
-Strong indications that improved user experience and streamlined content mgmt would fix churn issues 

So Wall Street is finally figuring out that Twitter isn’t Facebook. It exhibits “polarized indicators of stickiness”.

Which to me means, some people love Twitter and become obsessed with it. And others churn out quickly.

Twitter is a lot like SoundCloud. You have to do a lot of work to get to “that place” with Twitter. You have to follow the right people (for you). You have to favorite, retweet, reply, and engage. But when you do there is a richness to Twitter that doesn’t exist on simpler and easier social nets.

I am sure we can find many other examples of this. That might be a good exercise for our comment discussion.

When it comes to social media, no pain means no gain.

Disclosure: USV provided early stage venture capital investments to both SoundCloud and Twitter. And I personally own a lot of Twitter stock.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Carl Rahn Griffith

    So true. It took me some 5yrs to optimise my Twitter stream. Life is best experienced when you ditch the passive consumer mind set; you need to participate/curate/share – discussed this stuff often on Albert’s blog. The Internet needs to be more Jane Jacobs.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Emily Merkle


        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Can I ‘ssss’ my own reply? 😉

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            I don’t understand understand why – sadly, I do – all hype is skyscrapers, but community stuff is considered crap. Property developers are the biggest threat to us. Seriously. Assholes.

          2. Emily Merkle

            third-party ssss hold more weight 🙂 or something.ssssssssssssssss

  2. awaldstein

    All in that engagement takes work but I stop at generalizing this around social nets as they are audience specific in their usage.For consumer products and companies, driving transactions and extended networks, Instagram rules my accounts. Hard work but structured to have frictionless growth.For pure aggregating a life, to get off the plane in Prague and ask, where’s the best natural wine bar, Facebook rules. It absolutely sucks for network growth and is transactionless by nature.Twitter–Love it but it has hard edges that are honestly more grating they they need be. One to many at its core, I use its power personally for my advising work. Have yet to have an account that beyond the personality of the leader, has harnassed it for a business purpose.So yes, engagement is work. But I think that nets have their own characteristics and you choose them for a purpose.

  3. GrahamGnall

    In the age of automation the richest services are those that combine machine/man brain power. Soundcloud is a powerful platform that an active music lover will be able to make the most of. Fully automated (pandora) just doesn’t cut it in the end.

    1. carribeiro

      I have the same gripe about Google’s obsession with classification algorithms, automatic rankings, etc. It simple doesn’t work very well for several categories (shopping, for instance). In some senses, Google is fooling itself, because they spend an enormous amount of manpower to fine-tune searching. In the end, it’s all about human classification; they just use computers to leverage that capacity.I remember very well when there was a buzz that Google was about to buy Groupon. Groupon’s owns problems aside. that made sense to me at the time because at least Google would be buying a company which has some human side (Groupon entire business required local marketing teams & salespeople to unearth opportunities and forge local partnerships). I don’t think Google will ever learn to do it, it’s just not in their DNA.

  4. LIAD

    Easy come. Easy go. You reap what you sow. Nothing good ever came easy. According to the effort is the rewardThe beauty of social platforms is that they start as a blank canvas that you can curate to your exact personal tastes and preferences. If you don’t expend the effort you are guaranteed at best a mediocre experience. The challenge the platforms have is encouraging you to stick around and excerpt yourself until you get to the good stuff.

    1. fredwilson

      Four titles I could have used that would have been better

      1. carribeiro

        What about “ease of use is overrated”?

        1. JamesHRH

          because it is not.

          1. F u disqus

            +1 from Andrew Kennedy (can’t deal w disqualify right now..)

      2. ShanaC could have tested them 😉

    2. Guesty McGuesterson

      Exactly. For me it was about getting my feed to be low volume but high signal/noise.How to get there? By unfollowing or muting anyone whose volume is too high, or whose signal/noise doesn’t seem quite high enough, but always following anyone who seems potentially interesting. Repeat every day, and soon I have a nice feed.I sometimes imagine myself as a little neuron in the twitter brain, doing my part to fire (retweet) just a couple or three of the most worthwhile tweets I see on any given day to any other neurons that may be listening.

  5. AlexHammer

    Going the extra mile is, of course, always critical to success (online yes, but everywhere).As is famously, said, “it is never crowded on the road of those who go the extra mile.”

  6. JimHirshfield

    If it were easy, they’d call it “easy”. That’s why they call it “work”.Nobody jaunts off in the morning saying, “Honey, see you at 6; I’m off to easy”.

  7. William Mougayar

    If we can think there’s an “Internet Usage Stack”, the bar is definitely being raised on what it takes to be digitally savvy. I just wrote about this on my blog. New areas that we also need to learn and get geeky about:1. More personal cloud services2. Self-quantification apps3. Smart things and connecting them4. Bitcoin and its cryptocurrency parasites5. Personal Robotics beyond the droneThe early versions will either be really geeky and difficult to use (like drones and how bitcoin started), or they will be really simple with deep single functions, like Nest.And the interesting thing is that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple are all vying to occupy various pieces of our “User Stack”. http://startupmanagement.or

  8. Cecilia

    I don’t know if that’s true for all internet services. But I do agree it’s true for social media. Like relationships in real life you need to put in the time and effort to make social media work for you. It’s a give and take. But for other internet services like, let’s say, e-commerce or online acct management, don’t make me work too hard or you’ve lost me.

  9. William Mougayar

    RSS readers are in that same category. It takes a while to set-up the right feeds and maintaining them, but once you do, you’ve got a reliable flow of news coming to you, from the right places.That said, today it’s not enough. You got to check Twitter and other serendipitous news aggregators. I use Zite and it learns from what I read and keeps bringing me good stuff I wouldn’t have been able to find.

    1. carribeiro

      The problem with RSS readers is that they were time eaters. One could easily pass the entire day reading dozens of articles. My feeling at the time was that I was wasting my time but couldn’t avoid it. And I had friends that literally spent the entire day reading RSS.Twitter short messages have a different effect. Maybe because of its real time nature, maybe because there’s a implicit stress involved in reading so many individual messages, Twitter is better consumed in intervals over the day (at least, that’s the usage pattern that I settled upon).Twitter also encourages more participation; in the case of RSS readers, they were simple aggregators, and any feedback involved comments which weren’t under a single platform. Twitter also solves that – and indirectly, lead you to learn more about new content.As for your situation today, if Twitter isn’t providing you the news feed you want, perhaps you aren’t following everyone you should. At least that was my case (obviosuly, YMMV).

      1. William Mougayar

        It depends on the use cases and how thorough you need to be. It does take a multi-disciplinary approach. A single source point doesn’t provide the completeness that I require. Twitter is getting better, but it’s not a complete source of news. You can’t even set-up proper alerts for it.

        1. carribeiro

          One thing that I miss is a better ability to search my own timeline (not Twitter’s entire feed), and some kind of filtering or labeling. Maybe that’s you meant by “alerts”.As for my own feed, it’s really not perfect; some news outlets that I follow post 20+ tweets at the same time with all the day news. It’s somewhat useful but could be done differently, maybe posting with some interval, maybe allowing me to filter posts by category or hashtag, something like that. That’s something that should be done both on the API level and also on the official clients.

    2. kenberger

      So true. I have been using Netvibes as my “at a glance” feed reader for a long time. Open to suggestions if there’s better. Fred has said here that he doesn’t use them because they keep things too insular.I also use a few email digests to correct for this, such as Nuzzel and Twitter daily email alerts.

      1. William Mougayar

        I use Feedly. Nuzzel is interesting but it’s bringing mostly the same stuff I’ve already seen. It confirms we all read 90% of same things. Nuzzel gets interesting if you follow people outside of your typical area of interest.

  10. Brandon Marker

    and Facebook users are the antithesis of this post. I stay away from Facebook and finally retired the app from my home screen– too much noise from a lack of desired voice. Over the past 3 months I’ve been working on getting better at Twitter to stop the lingering 🙂

    1. awaldstein

      Just not true BrandonDifferent. Noisier. Sure.Communities are where they are and you can’t airlift them. If they, be they your interests or your customers or your old friends are on Facebook, your decision is not which network to use but whether you care to engage with them.Old post on just that: You can’t airlift community

      1. pointsnfigures

        Part of the noise on Facebook is the internal monkeying they have done with their feed. Used to be a lot better.

        1. awaldstein

          I agree completely.The feeds are a mess. They are simply late night cable with the worlds population there with ads from hair loss to underwear. Stupid stuff.But–there are populations, mostly contentless populations and communities that thrive there.No one loves them. Not I. But I’m a community pragmatist.And truth be told, Twitter is a hard platform for businesses although a great one for celebs, pundits, and people who are their own brands and businesses.

      2. Brandon Marker

        But think about my feed vs. yours. I am the FB generation and have all of my “friends” on there from high school, jr. high, college, etc. A ton of passive shares of articles that sometimes are obviously false, but the “friend” doesn’t know any better. Even worse, I’m in Texas and my feed is awkwardly [offensively] conservative during political events. If I manicured my friends list it COULD be a better experience for me. But that’s what I’m trying to make Twitter. FB is an all-encompassing friend zone. Sooo noisy but necessary and normal for users like me.I get what you’re saying and am not disagreeing, but my experience with FB is likely very different from yours. Social pressures can explain this in many ways.

        1. awaldstein

          Great comment.I’m a community builder and I use the tools at hand and build from the dynamics I find.A while back a customer sent me photo of an early Apple billboard and said, I want to hire this photographer. I put out a post on FB, and an old buddy of mine Clement Mok (famous Apple UI developer) came back in 10 minutes with the photographers cell #.

  11. Emily Merkle

    Tending a garden.

    1. Richard

      Are you a gardener?

      1. Emily Merkle

        I am learning to be a gardner. Without a green thumb.

        1. Alex Wolf

          My dear friend used to say when the bachelor fern dies…spray paint it green.

          1. Emily Merkle

            I guess my point was, the best social experiences are those nurtured and tended to, like a Zen garden. A plug and play Chia Pet is cute for 10 minutes then…

  12. Andrew Kennedy

    Ever been to telluride? It’s pretty sweet. Hard to get to.

    1. fredwilson

      another perfect example

      1. Andrew Kennedy

        Fwiw — I’ve been skiing park city since ’88… Lot of changes, but it’s convenience makes is GREAT. Best POW out there. Thank you salt lake effect… I actually find park west | wolf mountain | canyons to be hard to navigate; prob makes it great within PC ecosystem… I know that’s what makes ALTA great compared to snowbird… Contextual pain.. Food for thought (at least on my end). Andy ps disqus freaking out on mobile..

    2. Jeff Jones

      Same with Crested Butte – my favorite ski town in Colorado.

      1. Andrew kennedy

        Yup, great place. Best vert on CO!

  13. carribeiro

    Fred, I always learn about new posts here from AVC’s blog over Twitter. It’s my “RSS feed” of today’s (but much better at it). But I’ve noticed that if I comment or reply there, on Twitter, there’s much less engagement and reactions than when I comment here on the blog. I’m not the one to be teaching lessons to anyone, so please forgive my indiscretion; but don’t you think that it’s a little bit weird to talk about Twitter unique advantages and not to use it in the way you mention (interacting, replying, favoriting)?

  14. Chris O'Donnell

    I sort of split my feed following between RSS and Twitter. For mainstream type of sites I rely on Twitter, knowing that the really good stuff will be replied and retweeted dozens of times and I won’t miss it. For my more esoteric interests, I rely on RSS because if for low volume sources I’d likely miss it in all the noise on Twitter.

    1. carribeiro

      I’ve found that if I follow some people on niche circles, even when they don’t post directly, a lot of interesting stuff appears on my “discover” tab. It’s a nice way to explore related content that may be of your interest.

  15. pointsnfigures

    agree. I am still learning Soundcloud. There are small things about the UX that I wish I could change, but I like it a lot better than other music services. Here is my only playlist.…One thing I learned early in social media is that it’s not a megaphone. The best people interact. It’s one of the greatest listening devices around. It’s also a great place to learn. Funny thing when I see corporations and politicians use it. They are unwilling to take risks, and so their social media becomes a billboard. Social media is a great place to experiment and take some risk.Except, I am very dismayed at the social media lynchings I have seen. Brendan Eich is a good example. Planned personal attacks. it can destroy careers, and people and it’s executed by people with agendas.

  16. Jon Michael Miles

    I logged of Facebook about six months ago and started engaging in Twitter. I like the curation aspect. It’s much more like the real world. Facebook’s tendency to restrict my feed, narrowing it based on the four people they’ve determined I should see was it’s huge downfall for me. I wanted the expansiveness of the feed, to see what all my friends were doing. Now that I’ve been focused on Twitter exclusively, and I’ve figured out who is going to add depth and richness to my life and who I may be able to contribute back to as well, it’s been a Godsend. If Facebook just let the ecosystem run wild again, they’d get a lot more engagement and curation, people culling their feeds more introspectively. Now Twitter does that well, and I’m enjoying the more open ecosystem.

  17. kirklove

    SoundCloud is definitely steering into consumer/consumption territory and as a consumer of music I like that a lot. Still I find it pretty “hard” to use – and I’m experienced in music apps. Feels like they are trying to serve two masters (consumers and producers) and not doing either extremely well right now. Sure they have plans to address that no doubt. But until they do it will be too much work for a lot of folks. Lili for instance can’t stand SC and doesn’t “get it” at all.They also have a bit of a challenge with the general public user who have grown used to the idea of search for anything and play it. The “reported” upcoming deal with the majors taking a chunk of SC will rectify that. Then I think you’ll really have something. A service for hardcore users who want to do that work, and a service for the general user who wants to hit play on the “hits”.PS: Paraguay is super hard to get to. Prob still not at the top of a lot of travel lists. It is mine. 🙂

    1. Paul Sanwald

      as someone who makes music, I really love soundcloud. I think they do the “producer” side very well.

      1. kirklove

        No doubt – SC has been amazing for producers of music, and superb in allowing you to transport it anywhere on the web.

    2. fredwilson

      the hardest part will be transitioning to something more mainstream without leaving all the hard core early users behind. twitter really struggled with that too.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Twitter continues to evolve. It’s the people, not the platform, all the time. I am long on Twitter because of the people. Who isn’t long on humanity?

    1. Salt Shaker

      This struck me as market manipulation. Is that really the role of the Fed Chair? My initial reaction (jokingly) was Yellen must have shorted select social media and biotech stocks, though I’m sure she’s prohibited from trading.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Congress and their staff members are not prohibited.

        1. Salt Shaker

          Looks like members of the federal reserve system are only restricted from owning stock in a bank, banking institution or trust company.

  18. Emily Merkle

    active curation.

  19. Joe Alicata

    The Soundcloud redesign made this so much easier. I know it’s partially a rights issue but once they solve the offline cache problem it’s my ideal platform. I default to rdio during commute times.

  20. Emily Merkle

    @fred impeccable playlist

    1. Bruce Warila

      There’s a shop in Denver where you can find it and get it…

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Wax Trax?

      2. JimHirshfield

        Denver Kush Club?

  21. Richard

    No pain no is the mechanism that keeps USVs theme of investing in platforms of highly engaged users humming. USV’s portfolio company VHX is another great example of this. Stories of Great Curation, particularly one that helps an artist / entrepreneur/ farmer / crafter etc. has always been an accepted (non-narcissistic) bragging right and always will.

  22. Conrad Ross Schulman

    indeed is another great example! most job-seekers either give it up right away or take the time to find the value in it and utilize it’s greatness.

  23. JTio

    I wish Twitter would expose Lists more. I find Lists to be the best curation feature of Twitter. I am continually curating my lists to get my interests met. And since Twitter has locked down 3rd party clients I worry that as the developers of my favorite clients (Falcon Pro and Plume) move on to other profitable niches that I will be stuck with a poorer experience.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      ++ It’s weird to me how Twitter practically hides its most useful feature.

      1. JTio

        Web and mobile it is extremely hidden, good point!Think about a Twitter with Verified Lists that you could start with and also be able to create your own. That would be a huge improvement for me. 🙂

      2. LE

        how Twitter practically hides its most useful featureThis is what happens when people (who work at a company) become to familiar with something to be able to see it from a new or end user point of view. Or don’t care or are just snooty to an extreme.One reason for hiding and making things difficult is to reinforce the small clublike atmosphere that makes people feel that they are on the inside track (so they are more loving and fawning) and to also create barriers for newbies to clear that hurdle which we can call “the hazing of newbies”.

        1. ShanaC

          that hazing is really important to increase engagement. It makes you part of an ingroup.

    2. ErikSchwartz

      More exposure for lists. Much better list management tools. I’d love to see both.

      1. Alex Wolf


    3. Emily Merkle

      Jason, can we connect off-board on lists? [email protected] appreciated if so!

      1. JTio

        Sending email now. 🙂

    4. Rahul Deodhar

      ++ to Jason and Kristen “hides most useful feature”. I find it quite difficult to consume content on twitter or tweet deck (I use it to monitor my lists). So I have to use Flipboard to read my lists from twitter. Alas, Flipboard only works with iPhone and iPad not for desktop.But to me, Twitter has quite a bit of unrealised potential. It has the right mix of curated and serendipitous discovery of information. Just that consuming information is hell lot more difficult.

  24. jmcaddell

    This seems to me to be a general rule (with of course some exceptions) in internet apps – there are truly mass applications that are easy and sort of shallow – and there are deeper apps that are going to be adopted by a smaller audience, which demand more of the user but deliver more return.The trick, I guess, is to figure out which one you are, and adapt as much as possible without losing that essence. For shallower apps, that means adding some stuff without messing with the simplicity. For Soundcloud and the like, it means making it easier without losing the depth. By this thinking, Soundcloud could never be as large as Pandora, and that’s fine.Each type of app has its own churn profile. For shallower ones, people leave because they don’t get enough out of it or get bored. For deeper ones, they are not worth (for those who leave) continuing to invest the effort.

  25. Richard

    Good advice for diet and exercise as well.

    1. awaldstein

      ;)Interesting is that this whole approach is really outdated.It’s all about the process and that drives the initiative to work at it. You don’t do it for the result and you don’t embrace pain, you embrace the process.$2T wellness segment is a case in point of this.

      1. LE

        Sounds like you are saying to make sure you don’t waste your time on the wrong things.$2T wellness segment is a case in point of this.Can you explain that?

      2. awaldstein

        Pressed for time.This idea of pain for gain is like the idea of counting calories to lose weight. Or losing weight not getting healthy as the goal.Not the direction in the market as I see it, the wellness market especially for exercise, nutrition or a balanced view of the process as the end goal.

        1. Alex Wolf

          Be the best you.

  26. Bruce Warila

    I just find Twitter to be incuratable. Vanity metrics encourage bad behavior, egos override commons sense, and the brevity breeds nonsensical posting.On Soundcloud, if I could find the person that was the PD at 92.5 (River Boston) six months ago, I would follow him or her in heartbeat..

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Sounds like you’re following the wrong people on Twitter. Follow 15 people you know and/or respect. Put them in a list. Stick to that list when looking at Twitter.

      1. Bruce Warila

        I spent too much time trying to make Twitter work for @brucewarila. The daily pontificating, the noise, and the repetitive advice and chatter caused me to give up.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Flush it, reboot it, fresh start.

          1. Bruce Warila

            a “flush” feature would be great

          2. JimHirshfield

            There are 3rd party services that do this; just can’t remember them.

  27. Pat Clark

    This post is exactly on point. As it relates to “the same is true of Twitter”, it reminded me of your Tweet Storm from early July. Nailed it. (…. My favorite of the stream is #7 — and another way to look at this post — “Twitter is like a great relationship. It gets better with age” – same holds true for most apps/services you work at instead of passively consume.

  28. Twain Twain

    I churned out on Twitter faster than on Facebook. My friends don’t tweet much and it’s become like an RSS feed for topic interests and technology personalities I follow. It’s also an inconvenience that on mobile I have to click on the bitly link to see photos or the Vine link for the video.I don’t FB either because, design-wise, the status update boxes aren’t great.The experience on G+ works for me. Photos display really nicely, writing a new post is easy and I discover interesting non-tech-celebrity people to follow like Trey Radcliffe the photographer.For tech celebrity updates, I’d rather go to their blogs (like AVC) because then I can read the rich comments which don’t appear in Twitter or FB.

  29. Paul Sanwald

    I’m currently reading a book on Stoicism that talks about this a bit. How you enjoy a meal more when you are hungry. Fred’s travel example hits home, one of my favorite vacation memories ever is in the time we spent in Puerto Angel, Mexico, which was a huge pain in the ass to get to, but so great once we were there.I think this is true in more than just the consumer space, it’s also true in the arts. After 20 years of putting countless hours in on guitar, I’ve recently started playing upright bass. With the bow in particular, I sound like a sick whale, but I know that in a few months being able to bow a beautiful melody on the bass is going to be really rewarding.In contrast, I tend to not to be interested in things that are too easy to get good at, because in my experience I’ll lose interest just as quickly.shameless self promotion: here’s a recording I made of me playing bass shortly after I got it. not great, but not too bad for a couple weeks of practice!

  30. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I do think SoundCloud could do a *little* more to nudge users in the direction that will get them the best experience, though. Also, I really wish it would let me sign in with Twitter. The problem with FB sign in is that I follow a ton of people on FB whose musical tastes I hate (old classmates, mostly). My Twitter friends are my actual tribe.I find myself using Rdio a lot (sorry!) because in the beginning it automated the behavior it wanted from me, and now I know how to get what I want out of it (although, weirdly, I think the desktop experience is better than the mobile). What I don’t like about Rdio is that it’s harder to discover brand new stuff than on SC.

  31. Shaun Dakin

    Switching costs are too high for me. I’m already a paid member for Spotify and LOVE it.Twitter is great for real time news and sports events. Twitter is pretty much useless for informed and nuanced discussions.Case in point. I ran #PrivChat for almost three years and shut it down in Dec 2013. Why? The conversation had run stale and people were just saying the same thing, over and over again in 140 cs.I rarely participate in twitter chats any more. They are simply not worth my time.Twitter is great to see what is happening right NOW.Unfortunately for twitter I don’t need to see that right NOW.Shaun Dakin@PrivacyCamp

  32. Brandon Burns

    Justifying user pain? This sounds like an excuse for bad UX.Foursquare is where we should be looking for guidance on this issue. Instead of settling for pain in the user experience, Foursquare took on the pain themselves and made some sweeping changes. Instead of excuses, they had the balls to completely alter the core experience, break it into two apps, and did everything under the filter of “how do we make things **easier** for our users?””No pain no gain” is not a product strategy. If someone came into the USV office with a hard to use app and the entrepreneur said “no pain no gain” there’s no way in hell anyone’s buying that argument.

    1. hansHager

      thats a crock, 4sq ruined the ux by “forcing” it. I think we’re beginning to see product ux people go too far out with fundamentalist approaches, always trashing the ux for ‘better’ ux is wrong. 4sq couldnt have done worse to a user, go read them reactions on twitter.

      1. Brandon Burns

        People complain about all sorts of things on Twitter that the masses come to accept later on.Foursquare’s changes will be judged by the results, in numbers that we’ll hopefully be privy to soon.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Even grannies I know use Google/Twitter. 4sq is still urban elite hipsterville. Needs a massive rethink. Huge potential but Google Maps kills it.

        2. Vineeth Kariappa

          If the numbers were anywhere near half decent, it would have already been everywhere. Most likely scenario, they sell the company.

      2. Cam MacRae

        Colossal fuck up from my perspective; 4sq constantly imploring you to switch apps is absolutely maddening.

        1. ShanaC

          yes. Also, its confusing to search in one and check in in another

    2. Ryan Frew

      Amen. Pandora and Soundcloud are just fundamentally different. Spotify, on the other hand, as brilliant tools for easily discovering new music. I don’t think Brad investigated quite far enough.

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      4sq is still a tad lost. Needs reinventing.

    4. Vineeth Kariappa

      When the numbers are good, you dont change anything. When the numbers are bad (4sq), your only option is to change everything. Another example; apple.

    5. JamesHRH

      Saying the UX is better when it is harder is like saying marketing is for products that suck.

      1. Good grief disqus

        +1 again from Andrew kennedy

    6. LE

      Instead of excuses, they had the balls to completely alter the core experience, break it into two apps, and did everything under the filter of “how do we make things **easier** for our users?”Balls in need are balls indeed.Many times the motivating factor for that action is that things aren’t going well and they need to make a change. Nobody messes with a formula that is working or is even doing “ok” as much as they do when they know they need to take some action. (Addict needs to hit rock bottom limping along is not rock bottom).there’s no way in hell anyone’s buying that argument.Certainly true.

    7. Alex Wolf

      I love a good Brandon Burns rant. Digs in.

  33. jason wright

    please tell me something i don’t already know

    1. fredwilson

      you will have to wait until tomorrow for me to try again

      1. LE

        You seem to be in a good mood. Must be a reason for it.

        1. fredwilson

          just had lunch

  34. Salt Shaker

    Analysts Notes:”User attrition is the key issue” “Polarized indicators of stickiness” “Improved user experience and streamlined content mgmt would fix churn issues”Just insert the name of any sub based biz here.Every sub biz:1) grapples w/ churn/attrition, 2) is trying to convert light users to heavy users and 3) is toying w/ ways to improve the user experience. Hardly a revelatory analysis.Bigger short-term issue for Twitter is whether they can successfully monetize the traffic they have. Wall Street way too obsessed with MAU trends than ARPU.Long on Twitter.

  35. bfeld

    I bounced between SoundCloud and Songza yesterday. I’m on Songza now, but will alternate and keep going deeper on each.

    1. John Revay

      Hey brad – I was on a youth group mission trip last week w/ 15 High school kids….I frequently asked these kids two questions…1. What is your favorite iphone app & why.2. What is your favorite music app.Mostly heard Spotify, a few mentioned Soundcloud..biggest issue w/ not using itunes or similar was – limited off line playing…..One kid – rattled off several services…and commented back that he ” mixes it up!”

        1. fredwilson

          just followed him. thanks for the recommendation

          1. bfeld

            He’s Ari Newman @ Techstars – great spinner or whatever the kids call DJs today.

          2. fredwilson

            i love it. when the amateurs are the new pros.

  36. LaMarEstaba

    I started using Twitter to communicate with one person – my best fried who moved to New Zealand. My use slowly grew as it became a channel for communication as a blogger and as more friends joined the site. It can be more effective to communicate via Twitter than by text. We use it more often than email. The only person I’ve emailed outside of work in the last week has been my sister.I haven’t put in the work on SoundCloud.

  37. Alex Wolf

    I agree with you Fred.Islands are the model for me, the hardest to get to, worse than Montauk. I’m writing this from an island with 600 houses. I prefer the total getaway, Isla Mujeres vs Tulum (at least back in the day…).You must be prepared to go through the extra trouble to get the results which are slow grown in hard to reach places. But as our resident wine/juice geek awaldstein will tell you, once they are your drink of choice your palette has been cultivated differently.My daughter’s name is Islabella. Named for all the islands I grew up on. Totally worth the trip.

    1. Salt Shaker

      Love Isla de Mujeres. Quiet, picturesque and not the least bit trendy. A bit of a misnomer, though 🙂

  38. Mesh Lakhani

    It took me a few years to get my soundcloud stream going. I also started making “mixtapes” to force myself to curate, and now i find myself adding such random great musicians. There’s something so rewarding about other people enjoying the same music you do.

    1. Emily Merkle

      good stuff, thanks for sharing.

  39. Chris Phenner

    I agree with the ‘work harder to find better’ theme of Fred’s post, but part of me reads this as a recommendation for SoundCloud, which has a looong way to go before offering useful curation for finding new music.8tracks launched almost six years ago as a Curation First service, and years later 8tracks found a plurality of its users’ tracks were hosted via SoundCloud.I think of SoundCloud as ‘YouTube for Audio’ (a view informed by AVC), and if you think about the role YouTube plays in curation almost 10 years after its launch, they too still have a looong way to go. YouTube is a benign and helpful platform, but if you rely on Youtube for navigation and curation (as I try to via Chromecast), I find myself awash in content that is non-specific enough to be interesting.If I hit the ‘Trending Music’ page on SoundCloud, I am offered two choices:1. An infinite scroll of playlists from uknown artists and people, or2. At least 30 sub-genres down the left-hand-side navigation.’No pain no gain’ (?). How about ‘this is a pain.’I will add SoundCloud to my Sonos account and keep an open mind, but part of me sees this post as creating an excuse for a PLATFORM (not a Curation First service) that simply has a looong way to go before its curation features are useful.

  40. ErikSchwartz

    I keep trying to like SoundCloud, I want to like it, but at the end of the day I think the product is just weak.For example: The waveform, their representation of the audio to the user, has almost zero meaning to the average user (I suppose it gives you some sense of how loud the track is). I get it, it’s like YouTube’s programmatically chosen screenshots of your video. But a screenshot actually conveys some useful information that helps me decide if I want to hit play. A waveform doesn’t do that. It’s just a gimmick. To the user, a hardcode-techno waveform looks the same as folk waveform.There’s other stuff like that. It’s like they built the entire product with a single user archetype. All of the “no pain, no gain” stuff really comes down to that. All that is simply an issue of weak product management.

    1. LE

      This is somewhat similar to on a PC (or Linux box) seeing the startup sequence of events (in a terminal type window). People who are in to that thing like it and don’t understand that end user normals it means nothing or is actually a negative or confusing. (I like seeing it but have gotten used to not seeing it under Mac OSX for example). It’s not bad that computer types like it but it’s bad that they don’t understand why their aunt doesn’t care for it.Never forget on my first Unix System which had a long time to boot up and after the long startup sequence seeing”File system needs to be fixed…running fsck….The system is coming up…….the system is ready”. “Login:”I really liked seeing that. As if I was commanding some big mainframe with tape drives.

  41. John McGrath

    This makes me wonder why I’ve been working so hard on usability all these years. I can cause pain with the best of them 😉

  42. josephcohen

    Shouldn’t these services be more accessible?

    1. fredwilson

      they want to be, but getting there without losing the magic is not a simple thing to pull off

      1. josephcohen

        Absolutely. But glorifying esotericism is dangerous…

      2. LE

        A new model of a luxury car brand that I just bought is said to become (according to the car press) “their best selling model”. I was sorry to hear that. To me that makes it less attractive. [1] I’m not interested in seeing the same car everywhere I turn. (This has happened already with both BMW and Mercedes..)Remember what happened with stereo gear? You had these quality niche brands that ended up being sold through mass distribution. And they didn’t seem as attractive in your brain anymore. [2][1] I’m guessing Arnold isn’t drinking any Beringer Zinfandel.[2] History of Marantz. Note the demarcation point, 1980, “sold to Philips”…

  43. Stephen Bradley

    Pandora is an application; Twitter is a platform… at least much farther toward the platform end of the continuum. A platform isn’t an end in itself, it is a starting point for others to build from. Those who invest the time in Twitter are creating and perfecting their own, often unique, “applications.” The best we can do with Pandora is to create a channel and then try to fine tune what shows up on it – but the application is still the same for everyone.When I was on the board of Savage Beast Technologies (later renamed Pandora), I pressed hard for Pandora to take advantage of its enormous music-matching flexibility to become more of a platform. More like EchoNest did much later. At the time (circa burst-bubble 2001), I didn’t believe there was room for yet another music app or portal. Then Larry Marcus and Walden came in and proved me an idiot, paring some 200+ “dials” that Pandora had at its disposal down to exactly one: enter a song or artist, create a channel. They went long on “lean-back,” and I like many benefited nicely from their lack of faith in consumers to invest time and energy creating a more perfect listening experience.Twitter on the other hand has found a rabid following for where it sits on the application to-platform spectrum. But its “churn” is also a function of where it sits. New users expecting an “application experience” find much less of one than they are accustomed to. So many give up. Twitter rewards its “power users,” who are willing to invest the time, with a great range of opportunity… but I think this is the meat of Twitter’s current challenge. They have sold themselves to investors as an application, something for the masses, but their core users use it more as a platform for their own “applications.” I don’t believe Twitter can do both well. I personally wish Twitter would move even further toward the platform end of the spectrum, notably making it much easier than they do now for partners to create effective end user experiences. But as a public company now, that door may now be closed.

    1. Stephen Bradley

      … and Aspen definitely rocks Vail’s world.

  44. Emily Merkle

    I joined Twitter in JAN 2012. I thought I would use it for “networking”….but it seemed like all of the people I wanted to interact with were just talking past one another. That was my first impression of Twitter.I revisited a few months ago, with a more open mindset. I listened a lot; learned some things about the community; met and continue to meet great peeps; try to shape things a little myself. Twitter did not design Twitter; human behavior has (and does).I will take that experience over a spoon-fed UX any day.

  45. RichardF

    I completely get what you say about travel, restaurants,wine and long may it stay that way because the fact that somewhere is little known or difficult to get to is part of what what makes it, quieter, away from the masses and the mainstream. But for music discovery and social media forcing the end user to do work is just plain wrong, doesn’t make sense to me at all. Surely you want people to dive in and easily discover your content.Twitter need a rocket up the backside, they are purportedly not a niche product anymore.

    1. LE

      somewhere is little known or difficult to get to is part of what what makes it, quieter, away from the masses and the mainstreamWhich is kind of funny because living in NYC is the exactly opposite of that.Would mention that when you live in a place that is “quieter, away from the masses” you’d sometimes (at least me) be in a place that wasn’t so “quiet and away from the masses”. Like to be around all that energy actually.

      1. RichardF

        I do too LE I am not a “cool hunter” by any means.

  46. David Biggs

    Hopefully people treat this as a life lesson in such a disposable world – the harder you work at something the greater the reward… other than travelling to Aspen, when you’ll probably just want to turn around and get back to Vail.

  47. cyanbane

    There are two reasons I use rdio 1.) I have a really solid list of currated people I follow, I am always greated on the front page with new albums *that I actually might enjoy* and also b.) I have taken so much time getting this list where I want it that it has increased the “stickyness” of the site to where I don’t want to start that process all over with another music service.

  48. Kunal Tandon

    Twitter has a moment where it just clicks, and you understand why some people spend so much time on it. That is a result of following the right people, and for many of us engaging with people we might not be able to interact with in real life. I think twitter would be better served by not emphasizing following brands and celebrities, but rather featuring people who tweet about certain subjects, and who engage with others at high rates. The real magic of twitter to me is being able to interact with people who are knowledgeable/interested in the topics I’m also interested in.

    1. bmathes

      So, more like localized (to a specific social group) celebrities? Absolutely. That’s what most people get out of social media: you don’t have to take the mono-culture, but can pick your niches.

      1. Kunal Tandon

        yup, basically promote people who are using the platform actively, in an authentic way. Many of the celebs that Twitter pushes to new users simply promote their own work, rarely reply to followers, and many don’t even tweet for themselves, but rather outsource that task. People who stick around long enough quickly learn that the real value in Twitter is finding people who are saying and sharing interesting things, and willing to engage with others. If Twitter found a way to make those connections easier to find earlier in the on-boarding experience, it might help with churn.

  49. David A. Frankel

    I think what you are talking about is that point where something gets solidified in your daily workflow. It’s the relationship between setup time invested to cost/daily return on that investment that determines this. As a result, I tend to look at it more from a free vs. pay service perspective instead of pain vs. gain.For free services, I think setup time needs to be fairly minimal and the daily return needs to be outstanding (almost life changing) in order to make it sticky. If I don’t have skin in the game, I won’t want to put time in to set something up (unless I know for sure the daily ROI will be outstanding), and I quickly lose interest if my daily return is just “meh”. FounderDating is an example of a service like this — way too much effort to setup and very little daily return to keep me interested. AngelList is much better — appropriate amount of setup to daily return.For subscription services, I think those platforms with setup times that are longer do generally ensure stickiness, but there needs to be a measurable daily ROI to get the renewal. I also believe the services like these generally need controlled onboarding (either with people or automated curation) and regular interaction with the user over time to ensure it gets ingrained in a workflow. In the financial services world, FactSet has been phenomenal at this for a long time.Interestingly, this is also why I believe free trials of subscription services are an absolute waste. The user has no skin in the game and the cost to get something setup and show enough ROI to get adopted into a workflow in such a compressed time is too great for both the user and the provider. Long term adoption rates are much greater when the customer has skin the game.

  50. bmathes

    If This Then That ( is another great example. Work to set up, but once you have recipes all hooked up, then the internet starts working for you:I have:- an email anytime something is adding to a curated list of Internet of Things products- a notification when there will be snow tomorrow where I have my season pass- my twitter avatar updates alongside my facebook profile.- email notifs turned off, but emails matching specific filters buzz my phone.- auto-post to a work Slack channel to notify my colleagues that I’m in the office that day.- daily updates of new results of craigslist searches when I was looking for an apartment and/or a car…. and more.

    1. Emily Merkle

      big fan.

  51. bmathes

    Also: It makes for one hell of a defensive moat — switching cost is high.

  52. John Revay

    Re: Soundcloud on Sonos ( last week’s fun friday) – I got soundcloud as a source..only issue is that I listen to mix tapes…and on Sonos – you can not appear to jump ahead or back vs how you can on the native Soudcloud app.Still happy to be able to easily listen to SC on Sonos

  53. Matthew Perle

    This was my Twitter experience as well. I didn’t see much value when I first joined but once I found interesting people to follow it became indispensable.One thing I take from this is that we’re still a long way from passive recommendation engines rivaling manually constructed networks in terms of relevancy of posts (not just in social media). I think that’s partly why many companies promising personalization have yet to meet expectations. The same problem vexes companies trying to personalize the lock screen and smart watches – when you have to guess what your user wants to see, you’re often going to guess wrong.

  54. LE

    So Wall Street is finally figuring out that Twitter isn’t Facebook. It exhibits “polarized indicators of stickiness”.What is this propensity for everyone and their uncle (that’s a way of saying “easy” btw) to want to invent new words (that are difficult to understand at first read ie “hard”) to try to sound as if “work” is being done. And to sound smart (people have a tendancy to infer stupidity on themselves if they don’t understand something).You’re the first hit in google for that phrase “polarized indicators of stickiness”. Can someone translate that? It’s not used let alone widely used. It was just invented. I have no idea what it means at all.Why do writers (the person who said that (MKM Partners‘s Rob Sanderson) [1] have to invent new ways of saying things when there are existing good old ways to make a point?Here’s one for you. I’ve found that when people make things more difficult (or embellish) than they have to be they are often trying to get one over on you. (Difficult to read legal contract, fine print, being to wordy so you give up, etc.) Or to justify their existence (examples: auto reviews, restaurant reviews, movie reviews, and so on).[1]

    1. fredwilson

      i got google juice for “polarized indicators of stickiness”my work is done for the day!

      1. LE

        my work is done for the day!Said in jest because you know the other guy is still juice When I used to write to reporters way back I always had a bunch of things lined up in advance (sound bites) that I knew they would probably repeat in the article and get me mentioned.4 words (with so many syllables) in a mouthful. Perhaps “polarized stickiness” is even better.Typically the shorter the better “viral marketing” [1] “google juice” or a port·man·teau [2][1] Credited to Tim Draper[2] Example: affluenza, from affluence and influenza or guesstimate, from guess and estimate

  55. LE

    Work and effort begets greater enjoyment and love for something – if you get to that point. In order for this to happen though you need a modest level of intermittent reinforcement.An example would be skiing vs. just riding down a hill on a board. Or sailing vs. driving a motor boat or a jetski. Or using a 7 speed manual vs. an automatic transmission. Or developing your own photos vs. having a lab process them (prior to digital). Or playing piano vs. listening to someone else play (or any musical instrument).I have mentioned in the past that as someone who flew RC Helicopters back when they were difficult to learn to use (1980’s Gas) (had to assemble them, crash them, rebuild them) I find the current crop of computer controlled electric “fly back to me” boring. [1][1] My wife bought me a v1 AR Drone when it first came out (was pretty much the first thing of it’s kind). I flew it 1 time or 2 and it’s been sitting in my basement ever since). I have an electric that I fly in the outer office at work and it’s at least a bit of a challenge and more interesting because if you are not careful you crash into the walls.

  56. kevando

    I love this theory and it articulates the iPhone Vs. Android argument. Androids are way better for almost everything (except getting popular apps first!), but it takes time and effort to configure the phone. Effort iPhone users don’t like.

  57. Matt Zagaja

    A year or two I read something by Robert Scoble that professed his love of Facebook but he explained there is a lot of work that goes into making it really work for him. I think the difference between Facebook and Twitter or Soundcloud is that Facebook kind of starts with a natural core of friends and then the algorithms work to try and tailor based on your behavior, but there are a few “tricks” that greatly influence how relevant Facebook is. You have to put in some time tailoring your likes and then also setting it to hide things from people that do not interest you. The newsfeed at Facebook is zero-sum once you have enough friends, so by telling it to post less of what bores you, you get more of what you like.

    1. LE

      Much of the attraction of Facebook is also visual and easy to digest and get sucked into “a picture is worth a thousand words”. And you can appreciate pictures or cat videos or panda videos very easily. [1]Plus Facebook creates emotions (positive or negative) very easily. You see pictures that someone posts and either like them, hate them, are jealous of them etc. But even the jealous becomes kind of a “slow down and see the car crash” type thing.All fitting in with constant intermittent reinforcement. Because not everything is good but most likely something will get your attention or interest. [2] I purposely have nothing going on on facebook because it’s such a time waste even with the few people that are on it that I had from the start.[1] Reading or listening is much slower than seeing.[2] That’s the other thing going on in many of the things we like. Intermittent reinforcement. Every day is not a good skiing day, golf day, boating day, beach day, winds are sometimes to much to fly the heli. Otherwise we’d get bored easier and wouldn’t enjoy the days that are good.

  58. markslater

    just landed last night from a week in tulum. We rented out the Casa Behla complex for a wedding of a friend. It was epic. For the very reason you identify. Try googing tulum….try getting there….trying telling people where you went!But like every paradise, the commercial side is beginning to appear i’m afraid and its only a matter of time before it becomes more like playa and less like paradise….right @aw

    1. awaldstein

      Oh so true.We’ve been going for years. Rent a house around KM 9. Every year I drive down the beach road and say, its over. Every year, I don’t wear shoes for a week, bring in a cook, read on the hammock, walk into the biosphere at dawn every day and still think its the best.I agree though. Looking for an alternative. Know I won’t find one that I leave NY at dawn and am swimming by 2 but I’ll take something anywhere with this magic.

      1. markslater

        big difference i found this time were the prices…….the locals are now ruthless about gouging. but you cant beat it. We saw 200 baby turtles hatch and make their way for their first dip – the locals were keeping us all a safe distance and doing their best to protect their way of life…..its still hard to get to and info is opaque – and land ownership very challenging so it might have a chance…..

        1. awaldstein

          Prices are going way up for certain.Have a place that I have a set deal with but its going up bit by bit.We don’t do much except shop at the market in town, cook, drink wine and hang out so a bit aloof from the rest except for the people walking by of course.Craziness kept us from buying but if an airport goes in, well..that may spell the end.It’s still pretty special as you say.

  59. ErikSchwartz

    My 8 year #Twitterversary is in about 2 weeks.

  60. sigmaalgebra

    Working on a solution, best gain, no pain.One of the reasons I started the project is weakness of existing Internet means of music discovery, recommendation, curation, etc.I believe that it’s easy to do much better than getting recommendations from other people, a ‘social graph’, ‘friends’ on social media, what YouTube is doing at the end of each clip, etc.

  61. Otis Funkmeyer

    That would be a bullish statement on cryptocurrencies then, huh? 🙂

  62. jaymosio

    You can see this in Twitter vs. Google Plus. I slowly built up Twitter through the years, and the content is good. G+ prompted me “hey, you probably like all this stuff, follow it?”. I did that, and now it’s just a page of too many animated gifs, all with zero value.It seems obvious that the more you work at something, the better it’s going to be. That doesn’t mean apps like Soundcloud can’t find a good way to help people learn to get started. Maybe they should send everyone the tweet from above when they join.

  63. Levi Morehouse

    I’ve appreciated your blog posts for a few years and now I am streaming your music in my office. Great taste, as I expected!

  64. Nick Ambrose

    Tulum definitely beats Cancun, every time 🙂

  65. Jeff Jones

    Your Montauk > East Hampton is spot on. Saw an incredible Gary Clark Jr show at Surf Lodge on Sunday. Great venue right on the water and GCJ was filthy on guitar!

  66. Mr. Doof

    I guess everyone has different definitions of pain when it comes to traveling. Aspen over vail. Montauk over East Hampton. Errrrrrm. ok.

  67. Chris McCoy

    When building YourSports (launching later this month), we designed around this problem by bundling the best articles, videos (through a really unique YouTube relationship), and user-generated content about any athlete or team in sports history–and distributing that to the entity’s followers. So as a user I can follow the Yankees or even Michael Jordan, then get the best content created today (and across history) distributed in my feed through Top News. I have an All News feed too, which is basically a firehose of everything. In the future, All News canautomatically get promoted to Top News (=Promoted News algo). So as a regular user from Hoboken, I can create content about the Yankees and get broadcast distro to their 0000’s of Followers on YS… This is an evolution of RSS, basically. It’s really cool. Hope our users enjoy. Has taken a lot of work (and data!) to design, build, ship.

  68. awaldstein

    As long as work is fun and iteratively enjoyable, its all good.Instagram is the best most recent example for me. Takes work, really does work, builds extended nets and changes your behavior to use it as the center of your photo sharing.But–its fun all along the way.

  69. awaldstein

    For the wellness market ($2T/y that is everything from clothes to food), wine, food in general, it’s a powerful tool.

  70. Matt Zagaja

    How does it compare to Pinterest?

  71. awaldstein

    I have less experience with them honestly.I find the following:-only so many soc nets you can work well. All of my accounts/investments use Instagram, FB and Twiiter. Some Pinterest but no showcase results.-In each of the top three there are indigenous populations that are targetable. Haven’t discovered that for Pinterest.And Pinterest with embedded links structurally should be a great traffic and transactional conduit.Wish an expert would chime in here.

  72. Emily Merkle

    <not an=”” expert=””> but a scientist; to find “indigenous populations” you have to wade in and observe the flora and fauna. Poke it. Prod it. Interact.

  73. Ruth BT

    Not an expert by any means but agree that Insta is powerful for wellness and fashion. Being in the jewellery trade I am finding Instagram is far better than Pinterest in generating actual interest and sales. Pinterest at this stage is a bunch of aspirational shots – perfect for those in the homewares/building scene and definitely a place to store recipes but I find Insta far more satisfying in building a network.

  74. Alex Wolf

    I get pushed to use Pinterest more since it seems to be driving sales in markets tangent/in my groups.

  75. ShanaC

    to make pinterest work you need to do pinterest seo – it’s not a true social network

  76. SubstrateUndertow

    Work but fun – two mints in one – thats the ticket !

  77. awaldstein

    Great feedback.Also instagram is just natural at extending your networks to new people and contexts. Hashtags are seriously a language of gestures that work there.What’s your Insta handle?

  78. awaldstein

    Go to where your market is at this stage.And at an early stage, be careful to not let the need for revenue obviously, mitigate the true longterm economic value of your brand.And–something I’ve been thinking about alot–the difference of positioning toward a market and simply positioning around a product.

  79. awaldstein

    What are people buying when they buy your bread?Sure delicious. Certainly healthy. Absolutely local. W/o a doubt a true sense of the community of the place.Who cares about this? Not only those in front of the aisle in the store? How do you include an extended community of good will around the intermesh of those characteristics.And for all of them, what channels do you work with to craft that story and let people make it their own?Standard stuff.

  80. Emily Merkle

    Standard in theory, perhaps, but far from common in practice.Really great way of breaking it down.

  81. awaldstein

    Thanks–this is part of what I do every day with clients.