TechMeme, Twitter, and Pownce

For some time my working hypothesis about new niche tech sites is that they appear to have explosive early growth followed by traffic stability or only slight traffic increases as all the early adopter tech enthusiasts sign on, and other people show little interest.     The following Alexa data really supports this hypothesis:

Alexa Graph

TechMeme is one of my very favorite sites and I know this is true for many others.   I’m surprised TechMeme’s growth seemed to have tapered off so early, but in some ways this makes sense because there are only so many people – a small percentage of all onliners – who are heavily absorbed with the latest buzz from the technology world.    Twitter would have broader interest and appears to be growing still, yet I’m skeptical enough people have time to play the Twitter game to make this a mainstream application.   Pownce is a great application but I think people are unlikely to abandon Twitter for Pownce, and thus Pownce will struggle to grow from an entirely new set of social networking non-twitterers.

Why Microsoft+Yahoo>Google

The Yahoo Microsoft Merger is a very good idea.   Although Yahoo is in some ways a different culture from Microsoft, It seems to me that both of those corporate cultures have become bureaucratic, sluggish, and uninspired when compared to Google’s freewheeling yet very productive approaches.    Yet very importantly, the thousands of Yahoo and MS employees are very impressive, and certainly capable of great things as the online world is reinvented on a regular basis.

If Microsoft can pool the innovations of the LIVE project with Yahoo’s superb developer support programs, and hire and inspire more people to have the evangelical zeal of Googlers, it could be a whole new online ballgame.

The big reason this makes sense is actually very simple, yet is seems to be missed by many analysts now ranting about this as a bad idea.    It’s a mathematical reason.    The traffic from Yahoo+ Microsoft is very substantial.    Yahoo had more total traffic than Google before the merger – it just didn’t have as much of the lucrative search traffic and did not monetize the traffic as well.  With Microsoft traffic, the combined Yahoo Microsoft company will still initially lag Google in search traffic, but it will have *far greater* total web traffic.    This is hugely significant, especially if Microsoft begins to focus more on how important it is to drive potential searchers to search portals inside their own network.    Fear of lawsuits and lack of interest in what for Microsoft was a small revenue source led them to failure in the search business.     Although the LIVE project was inspired, search share still lags so far behind Yahoo and Google that rolling all this into Yahoo search makes a lot of sense.       The combined company would control an enormous share of  global web traffic, and it won’t take too much imagination or innovation to redirect this far more profitably than now.  

Microsoft remains the overwhelmingly huge legacy player in the information technology space.    Google is the clear leader as the new  player.   Can Yahoo inject enough energy into the monstrous Microsoft machine to compete effectively in the online space?    I think there are many potential pitfalls, but on balance  you need to do the math, which says that in online footprint, content, and market capitalization:

Microsoft +Yahoo > Google.  

News release from Microsoft

Disclosure:   I have Yahoo shares.  In fact I doubled them on Tuesday!  Yippee!

TechMeme on … TechMeme

Gabe Rivera’s TechMeme is a favorite info destination for thousands of technology enthusiasts and news junkies all over the world.   However Bobbie Johnson over at the Guardian  has taken a mini-swipe at TechMeme, suggesting that the relative low traffic from the site shows that people are overrating TechMeme’s importance in the scheme of things technological.    

Robert Scoble, in response, has a  great  summary of how he gets very different traffic depending on the source.     Although he does not focus on the *topic*, clearly that matters a lot as well.    Scoble’s blog is influential enough that it would often send more traffic to a linked site than TechMeme.     I’ll have to check my own stats to be sure but I the times I’ve had links from “A list” bloggers like Robert Scoble, Jeremy Zawodny or Matt Cutts  it has sent more traffic than my frequent links at TechMeme – though I have never had a post be a “headliner” at TechMeme.    In fact I don’t think Gabe’s algorithm would allow his “second tier” sites to have featured posts.   My (wild) guess is that TechMeme has at least two lists of blogs/sites, and only sites and blogs on his top tier list can have the posts featured prominently – others are relegated to the comments section even if it’s a more detailed, more linked, or better post.  

I think this “small stable of premier technology sites” may be a potential defect at TechMeme that keeps the Tech echo chamber very loud but not very diverse, though Gabe may have learned that this helps keep irrelevant posts out of the mix.     At SES I was talking with Matt Cutts about how the TechMeme algorithm might work, and how it might be applied to a broader set of blogs as a ranking mechanism.  

Nick Carr jumped on this TechMeme traffic bashing bandwagon suggesting “juicelessness” which is a  cleverly coined phrase but  misleading because TechMeme clearly reaches a lot of key technology folks and that’s a juicier kind of audience in terms of advertising and influence than, say, 16 year old Diggers.  

So, I’m sticking with TechMeme and redict it’ll get bigger and better.