Allen Stern at CenterNetworks recently wrote a post arguing that FriendFeed was hurting bloggers by taking away page views. I’d paraphrase his position as this:
Once people comment on the actual blog post, they tend to return many times to see the comments that follow theirs.
I mean, they reload the blog post…MANY, MANY times…
The numbers sounded aggressive to me, so I wanted to give some consideration to Allen’s calculations. I also created a separate spreadsheet that estimates the ad revenue generated from comments on FriendFeed. The tables are presented below.
One note. Allen’s CenterNetworks worksheet for blog-based comments shows ad revenue that crushes the revenue I show for FriendFeed-based comment ad revenue. But here’s the catch – there’s an uber-aggressive assumption about repeat visitors to blogs in Allen’s calculations. Right-size that assumption, and I think FriendFeed ends up looking better.
If you leave this post with one thought, it’s this:
FriendFeed will help the vast majority of ad-based blogs to increase their revenue by driving higher page views.
OK, on to the calculations.
CenterNetworks Blog Comment Ad Revenues
Allen wrote most the calculations below in his blog post. I did have to make some assumptions to hit the $100,000 annual revenue level he associated to commenter page views.
As Allen says in explaining the $100,000 in comment-related revenue:
Last step in the equation - how many people visiting the blog will reload the page a number of times to view and/or interact with the comments – on sites with major trollage, this number can be astronomical. Using our numbers above, I estimate that this could be a minimum of $25,000-75,000 per year. Again this is most likely a bare minimum and for large blogs with controversial content, this dollar figure could be way higher.
At the end of the day, a large blog could easily be generating more than $100,000 a year in commenting revenue alone.
Allen does say the number of reloads is astronomical. As the table above shows, to hit his $100,000 in comment-related revenue, commenters must hit reload 39 times. For all 10 posts. Every day. All year long. All commenters.
And presumably they’re doing this for all the big blogs: TechCrunch, BoingBoing, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, Engadget, Gizmodo, Huffington Post…and do these blogs actually average 70 comments per post?
Anyway, I’m sure there are those who actually refresh 39 times per post on all these blogs. But are there enough to generate $100,000?
FriendFeed Comment Ad Revenues
The crux of my analysis is not page views driven by reloads. It’s based on unique visitors clicking to the blog because of the viral attention features of FriendFeed. Specifically the tendency of comments to bounce a blog post to the top of people’s FriendFeed. Comments in general will advertise the content, and comments by someone you trust will increase the odds of clicking.
As you see, I set the revenue as 10% of what Allen has in his, but I’d argue it’s based on a more realistic assumption about page views. Remember this spreadsheet focuses only on the comments effects, not the Likes or the multiple times a blog post shows up in FriendFeed: Google Reader Shares, bookmarks, Stumbles, etc.
A problem with my spreadsheet is that I carry over the aggressive assumption about comments (70 per FriendFeed entry). But I want to make the comparison to Allen’s spreadsheet apples-to-apples.
Analyzing TechCrunch’s Comment Activity
To get a sense of FriendFeed’s impact thus far, I looked at ten TechCrunch posts from the July 3 period. I counted the number of comments the posts received directly on TechCrunch, and how many they received on FriendFeed. For FriendFeed, I found all instances of the link – TechCrunch’s RSS feed, Google Reader shares, del.icio.us bookmarks, Stumbles, etc.
I excluded notes included with Google Reader shares or del.icio.us bookmarks from the FriendFeed comment count.
Looking at the table a couple things stand out:
- FriendFeed does not appear to have stolen too many comments from TechCrunch
- FriendFeeders have put the link out into their individual networks an average of 85 times – that’s the kind of visibility most blogs would kill for
I want to call your attention to post #10 in the above table, “Judge Protects YouTube’s Source Code”. 29 comments on FriendFeed. 14 of those comments came on a direct post of the TechCrunch article by Jason Calacanis. Jason has 29,000 followers on Twitter, and many of those have come over to FriendFeed. So when posts a question, he can get a lot of comments. But more importantly, the people commenting on his post are in all likelihood doing it because it’s Jason Calacanis.
My guess is that most of those commenting would not comment on the TechCrunch post. They’re more interested in what Jason is discussing.
I’m sure Allen is right about the TechCrunch “regulars” who post and reload multiple times. I’ve seen the reload behavior in myself when it comes to FriendFeed. However, I suspect his estimated number of reloads is way overstated. If you were to look at the 70 commenters in his scenario, you’d be lucky to get an average reload of 3 times, not 39 times. Sure, some commenters will hit double digits in their reloads. But many commenters won’t return at all.
The other consideration is that FriendFeed will take away some of those diehard reloaders. But I’d be willing to bet most of the die-hards will stay on the blog itself. Why? These guys’ relationship is with the blog and if you’re really reloading 39 times, you won’t stop commenting on the blog itself. I’ll bet there are a bunch of TechCrunch-heads who know one another via posting there. The TechCrunch site is their social network.
For most blogs that don’t generate 70 comments per post, the viral attention features of FriendFeed hold greater benefit than comments on the blog itself. Look at the ratio of FriendFeed links-to-comments for TechCrunch:
11.5 times more links for a post than comments (85.3/7.4)
As a blogger, I’ll take that trade-off. All those links are added visibility. FriendFeed is just as much about discovery as it is about conversations. That shouldn’t be overlooked.
Even Allen’s post about this was visible 24 separate times on FriendFeed.
Finally, in an interesting development, check out how ReadWriteWeb is integrating FriendFeed comments into each blog post. That’s one of the top 11 blogs worldwide embracing FriendFeed comments.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Do+FriendFeed+Comments+Hurt+Bloggers%E2%80%99+Ad+Revenue%3F%22&public=1