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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 061209

From the home office in Palo Alto, CA…

#1: RT @palafo Facebook URL rush should have been hashtagged #nerdolympics. “Just sayin’. ”

#2: Enjoyed the Building43 launch at TechCrunch’s offices tonight. Knock ’em dead @scobleizer Looking forward to following and participating.

#3: Reading: Why SaaS Has Better Functionality than Enterprise Software http://bit.ly/ZPLlF

#4: Left comment on New York Times post, The Stalled Promise of Innovation http://bit.ly/BlgNT Really, it’s not bleak, we’re doing fine.

#5: New Spigit blog post: Medplus Built Its Innovation Program with 12 Moose-on-the-Table Questions http://bit.ly/11UOMZ #innovation

#6: RT @innovate Knowledge Management is more about “How do I?” while Innovation is more about “Why don’t we?” – #yam #innochat

#7: Participating in an ABC7 prediction mkt: Will Dianne Feinstein run for governor of California in 2010? http://bit.ly/1bJL1w I’m betting ‘no’

#8: RT @Hammarstrand Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions. http://is.gd/W7Uc #innovation #tech #future

#9: TV news story here in SF about the CA education budget cuts, shows a teacher out of a job as “layed off”. Guess the cuts are hurting already

#10: Kinda sad…took down the crib tonight. Our 2 1/2 y.o. is sleeping in her own big girl bed, our 5 y.o. long ago left the crib.

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Do FriendFeed Comments Hurt Bloggers’ Ad Revenue?

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.

Some Conclusions

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

Breaking the Rules and Still Winning: Twitter’s Je Ne Sais Quoi

When I was in grad school our professor gave us an assignment. Our papers had to be within a set word count. Nearly all of us diligently stayed within that rule, constraining our analysis as best we could. But not one classmate. He blew right through the word count restriction. When the professor discussed our papers the next day, he called out this student’s paper as the best of the lot. We all learned two things that day:

  1. Ignore this professor’s word count restrictions in the future
  2. Rules don’t matter if you create something people love

Twitter is going through its toughest stretch ever right now. Here’s a FriendFeed search on the phrase “twitter is dead to me“. And here’s Steve Isaacs’ thoughts on the current Twitter:

I expect Twitter to be 1) reliable = epic fail. 2) Something more than a simple one way alerting medium = fail 3) to grow and mature like all great web services = also a fail. Am I being too hard, I think not.

Pretty grim, eh?

Well, not so bad. Several big names have recently stated their new interest in FriendFeed in lieu of Twitter. But read these comments closely, and tell me that these guys have really given up on Twitter:

The beautiful thing about Twitter is that spontaneous, diverse conversations erupt that are almost synchronous, or chat like – Michael Arrington, in post praising FriendFeed over Twitter

I’m steering people to FriendFeed, can’t help it. My discussions are happening there. And bonus: It pisses off Steve Gillmor. 🙂 – Dave Winer

Really tired of Replies being broken here. Spending more time in FF, but still subscribing only to close friends over there. – Shel Israel

There are others. These are people who are practically being dragged away from their favorite social media app.

Their words say FriendFeed, but their hearts say Twitter.

And this is what I mean. Let’s look at the rules Twitter has broken.

Rule #1: Build a scalable platform

Well, this is the crux of the current problem, so clearly they messed this one up. Google didn’t mess this one up. Amazon.com didn’t. eBay didn’t. Yahoo didn’t.

Twitter did.

Rule #2: Communicate with your users

For the most part over the last several months, communication has been via the Fail Whale. Not a lot of feedback to the loyal users about the problems. And when features are removed, it doesn’t seem to be communicated correctly.

Dave Winer noted that Twitter’s own employees are not among the power users of Twitter. The shoemaker’s children go barefoot.

Rule #3: Web 2.0 companies actively add features

A hallmark of hosted web 2.0 services is they constantly roll out new features as they get feedback from users.

Not Twitter. They rely on a robust ecosystem of developers to take care of that. Twitter users relied on a member of that ecosystem, Summize.com, while they took down the Replies tab this past week.

Rule #4: Web companies need realistic paths toward profitability

And that generally means advertising. But not Twitter, at least not yet. Profitability shmofitability. But to be fair, when you see YouTube picked up by Google without revenue, and Powerset purchased by Microsoft without revenue, you realize this is a rule that is getting relaxed more and more.

.

But Twitter’s Got that Je Ne Sais Quoi

Dave Winer appears to be twittering about as much as he always has. He has also started to engage folks on FriendFeed as well, as a look at his comments there shows. But Twitter got its Replies feature back Saturday, causing Dave to wonder:

Now that Replies are back, we get to find out if our fling with FF is the real thing, or just a summer love.

And here’s a sampling of FriendFeed comments on his tweet:

  • “Twitter is the Cliff Notes of Friendfeed. Quick and easy & you get the gist.”
  • “For me, it’s like friends with benefits and evaporates when my true love returns.”
  • “Twitter is my Best Friend… Friend Feed is my Book Club… there’s more ‘deep conversation’ over here – but I don’t always want every conversation to either be non-existent or terribly deep. Sometimes I just want to twitter like a little bird.”
  • “I like FF – I love Twitter – FF needs to be organized differently, I think – it doesn’t have the right logical setup for me.”
  • “I’m sure people will complain about twitter when it fails to work, but when they manage to kick themselves and make it work, people will flock back”

This comment from Arrington’s FriendFeed-favorable TechCrunch post captures it for me:

I will stick with Twitter for now, because even though about half of my tweets are @ replies, I don’t really use it for _conversation_ per se – more like spontaneous short IM chats that end in ❤ tweets and involve 2-3 people. Don’t need an entirely different website to “manage” that.

Twitter’s got that new funding including Jeff Bezos, they’ve got heavyweights rooting for them (e.g. Arrington’s “Twitter!” post) and loyal users who are sticking with them despite the limited functionality.

Twitter also has going for it the same asset that helped AOL through its downtime crisis in the late 1990s. If you were on AOL, you had all your email connections there. Switching costs were high. Same thing applies to Twitter. Social network switching costs are high, a point recently made by Corvida.

Here’s what I predict will happen. The new architecture is built. New features will be added (threading tweets, Seesmic-like video conversations, etc). There will be an avalanche of positive coverage: “Twitter’s Back!” And it will continue its growth trajectory after a 9-month rocky road.

Twitter…breaking all the rules and living to tell about it.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Breaking+the+Rules+and+Still+Winning%3A+Twitter%E2%80%99s+Je+Ne+Sais+Quoi%22

Weekly Recap 062008: Baby I’m-a Want You

Babies sure can take a long time to arrive, can’t they? I don’t want to see an update from Louis until at least an hour after their birth, even longer…first things first…

*****

Benjamin Golub, creator of RSSmeme, received an email from an irate blogger this week…a couple of her posts had been shared via Google Reader, and ended up on RSSmeme. She wanted them taken down…

I was surprised, as I had only seen links and partial feeds for blogs on RSSmeme…turns out, there was a full feed option…

RSSmeme does run Google ads, but Benjamin’s not getting rich off them…they offset the server costs…

Still, it did set up an issue where the full content of a blog was accessible on a different site, and the site was earning money on the content via ads…

Duncan Riley came out pretty strong in favor of the blogger…partial feeds are fine, as the reader must visit the actual blog to read the whole thing…but full feeds crossed the line…I find myself agreeing with Duncan on this one…

The cool thing about RSSmeme is that it indicates how popular an item was by the number of shares…it also tells you who did the sharing…so if someone’s interested in the full blog post based on (i) its subject; (ii) the number of Reader shares; and (iii) who did the sharing, they will click the link to read the post on the actual blog…full feeds on RSSmeme aren’t needed…

*****

TechCrunch posts are published under two separate users on FriendFeed, Michael Arrington and Erick Schonfeld…but the action always seems to be around Arrington’s user ID…

Looking at the past ten TechCrunch posts, Arrington’s FriendFeed has 22 Likes and Comments, Schonfeld has 2…

Why such a disparity?…Arrington is the public face of TechCrunch, so people will gravitate toward his feed even if he hasn’t written the post…Arrington follows 1,329 people on FriendFeed, Schonfeld follows 79…Arrington’s FriendFeed handle is techcrunch while Schonfeld’s is erick…so if you looking for the TechCrunch feed on FriendFeed, you’re naturally going to find Arrington first…

*****

Finally applied the FriendFeed Block function to a user…it wasn’t that he was hassling me, but he has a tendency to spam FriendFeed entries with unrelated things and links…he added one right after I posted a comment on one entry, which disrupted the vibe of the entry…so I finally pulled the trigger…

I actually feel bad about doing it…

*****

With the recent post about nudity on FriendFeed, the search term nudity is starting to show up a regular referral to my blog…not quite was I was looking for, but traffic is traffic…

Which makes me wonder what kind of search term hits Ginger Makela will get for her recent post Now That I’ve Got Your Attention with BOOBS, a Word from Our Sponsor…Ginger did ad sales for Google, so she knows a thing or two about SEO

*****

I did experience a few users unsubscribing from me on FriendFeed the past week or so…you write about nudity, gay marriage and Like Flickr pix with nudity, that will happen…

*****

Some couples on FriendFeed that I enjoy…Lindsay Donaghe and Tad DonagheThomas Hawk and Mrs Hawk

*****

And thanks go out to Steven Hodson for putting this humble little blog up on pedestal…if you’re not subscribing to his blog WinExtra, you should…click here to add it to your reader…

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22weekly+recap+062008%22&public=1

Facebook Fatigue: Ten Reasons

TechCrunch has a post up, “Facebook Fatigue? Visitors Level Off in the U.S.” It appears the number of visitors to Facebook has stopped its inexorable growth, and even declined in January. This is newsworthy because that’s a real change in the trendline. Facebook has been on a tear the past couple years.

I personally enjoy Facebook very much. I check it a couple times a day, and I have activities and apps I like there. But I see some of the issues that afflict the site. Below are ten reasons for Facebook fatigue.

1. Friend activity junk mail: I love seeing all the things my friends do. I hate seeing all the things my friends do.

2. App invite spam: Yeah, too much of this. There are apps you really like, and apps that force invites. More of the former, less of the latter.

3. Lame apps: I got an email from “Compare Friends” detailing my “highest rated friends”. Inane.

4. Non-friend friends: LinkedIn is great for professional networks. Facebook is really best for friends. Adding non-friend friends reduces your interest in “keepin’ it real”. [UPDATE: Robert Scoble, with 5,000 “friends”, expresses his lost interest in Facebook]

5. Is that all there is? Tons of apps. But the killer activity on Facebook hasn’t yet emerged. Amend that…the killer activity for the new joiners (> 30 y.o.) of the past year hasn’t emerged.

6. Backlash by the under-25 set: For the younger crowd, maybe the growth of the over-30 crowd has killed the cool vibe. MySpace making a comeback? Bebo growing?

7. Backlash on the under-25 management conceit: It’s true that Facebook came from college kids. But too much blah-blah about how they really “get it” sours the older folks.

8. Stop the presses: Is it possible for there to be too much media coverage? Facebook, and its ecosystem get a lot (e.g. Slide’s $500mm valuation). Too much talk about how members are making these companies rich.

9. Inevitable bumps: Beacon. Scoble raising hell over lack of contact portability. Inability to delete your account. Competitors’ responses (LinkedIn changes, MySpace API, etc.)

10. Heat always dissipates: Hard to stay hot forever. Google’s been the closest thing to that.

Let’s remember that Facebook still draws massive numbers of users, and continues to drive a lot of discussion and innovation. They’ve got money and smart folks there. Looking at the list above, several are within the control of the company.

As Mark Twain said, “The report of my death is an exaggeration”.