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Techmeme's juicelessness

October 09, 2007

My name's Nick, and I'm a Techmeme junkie.

Even so, I have to admit that the Guardian's Bobbie Johnson is absolutely right when he says, "for all that Valley-centric news junkies claim Techmeme as a crucial aggregator, it simply doesn't refer much traffic." It's true. I've had quite a few headlines sit fairly prominently on Techmeme for many hours, and at most they'll push a few hundred visitors to the story on my site. That's squat. On those rare occasions when one of my posts claws its way up the list at Digg, Stumbleupon, or Reddit, many thousands of visits result. Even some recent headlines modestly positioned on the Y Combinator news feed have generated more traffic than a prominent Techmeme headline will.

So what gives?

Writes Johnson:

There could be a number of reasons for this: firstly, maybe my numbers don't match those of other people. But it could be that Techmeme's important to a small number of technology industry influencers, but doesn't really extend its reach beyond that. Perhaps a huge number of its readers are on RSS and can't be bothered to click the links (it's also worth noting that Techmeme's RSS feed directs you not to the story you're interested in reading, but back to Techmeme's pages). Or perhaps it's still just a product that's still in the early stages of growth.

I'm guessing that Techmeme must have a fairly modest, if rabid, audience. The pageviews are probably pretty high, but the unique visitor count is probably much lower. Techmeme seems a lot bigger than it really is, at least to some of us.

Or maybe Bobbie Johnson and I just have cooties.


I would actually disagree here, Nick. I've found that the top referrers for both "spiky visitors" and "sticky visitors" have been TechMeme and Robert Scoble. While TechMeme won't have quite the spike of Digg or StumbleUpon, referred visitors have higher quality and return more frequently.

I broke that down here last week:

Tech Blog Link Power: Spiky Visitors or Sticky Visitors?

Posted by: Louis Gray [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 11:27 PM

I'm happy to believe you about stickiness (seems logical) but I'm very surprised that you find spikes from Techmeme to be similar to those from Digg et al. I see an order of magnitude (or two) difference.

Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 11:37 PM

I could probably adjust the chart a bit. It'd be safer to write "not to scale", but then I'd have a complete void in the top right corner. :-)

The spike from Digg is higher than TechMeme, for sure, but I've had a lot more experience on TechMeme than Digg, and accumulatively I've gained more total visitors and more repeat visitors.

Posted by: Louis Gray [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 11:56 PM

Techmeme must have a fairly modest, if rabid, audience.

Yes, makes sense. However this is probably a "golden" demographic that may be worth a lot in terms of advertising value.

I worry about TechMeme facilitating the loudness of the tech blog echo chamber rather than pushing it to become more diverse.

Posted by: Joe Duck [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 12:13 AM

Nick, the audience that comes through via TechMeme is a lot less likely to stick around your blog than a tech cheerleader's blog. So for the same size spike, you'll see much less stickiness than people who have web-k00l-aid blogs (no offense meant to Louis Gray).

Techmeme also refers quite a few (web) BigHeads. Again, you won't gain from this much, since they're unlikely to link to you except if they want to flame you. Whereas for someone who wants to climb the tech power-curve, that traffic is helpful in the tedious task of sucking up to the A-list.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 12:24 AM

Of course the question I want to ask is how much of the audience that views TechMeme already subscribes to the majority of the sites that make it on TechMeme. I know that if I've already read an article or that site is in my RSS feeds I won't click through the TechMeme link, instead I'll wait and click through the actual site's feed.

Posted by: Justin Yost [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 01:29 AM

Nick: I've found precisely the same thing (Techmeme, Valleywag, etc. don't drive much traffic, while Digg et al do).

But I've also found something else: traffic from Digg, Reddit, and such don't drive much *real* traffic. Tens of thousands of pageviews, yes, but those pageviews can be quite brief (5 seconds, in the case of Digg on my CNET blog).

Slashdot, Groklaw, and other sites, however, seem to drive (for me) more meaningful traffic, with readers staying for a minute or more. I'm wondering if these news aggregators aren't creating a culture of superficiality where the headline and a pithy intro come to count more than any real analysis.

Because no one is reading that analysis if they're on a news popularity site...?


Posted by: Matt Asay [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 08:16 AM

Jump into compete.com to look at the traffic these various sites get and it becomes obvious where the quantity of clickthroughs comes from. Digg is huge compared to Techmeme, and it's been big for a lot longer.

The comments on the relative quality of the link throughs are more interesting. I've personally seen that for quality and stickiness, traffic from other blogs is best. That traffic seems to be captivated by a topic and hungry for more on it. The other sources are more serendipity and information snacking than a full meal.



Posted by: BobWarfield [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2007 10:52 AM

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