An Analysis of My LivingSocial Blog Post (or the Value of Relationships and Why the NYTimes is in Trouble)

While an average post on Life in Beta will see between 40 and 60 unique readers, my LivingSocial post from last week registered just over 2,000 readers in a 3 day span.  Though its no Lolcats image, it was a relative viral moment for my thoughts and opinions on this blog.

However, while the extra traffic is really exciting, the understanding the underlying data of how the post spread is even more exciting – and led to some interesting conclusions about the value of relationships.

To begin, the post went live at Thursday, January 19 at 8:32 PM.  It was first RT’d by Courtney Guertin of Kiip – who happened to be sitting next to me at the time and read an early draft of the post.  (Thank you Courtney!)

Most posts from my blog are usually retweeted once or twice – with a majority of traffic coming in via my few Twitter Followers.

However, about 30 minutes after the post went up, the post was retweeted by Eghosa Omoigui.

And then followed quickly by a Tweet from Tristan Walker, Business Development at Foursquare:

According to my BackTweets data, courtesy of True Portfolio Company BackType, these two Tweets caused the massive initial chatter on Twitter which drove most of the traffic to the site.

These two Tweets were followed the next morning by two more tweets – one from Amanda Peyton of MessageParty and one from Micah Baldwin of Graphicly, which caused an additional spike the following day.

The final bump came near the end of the day from Anthony Ha and Owen Thomas of VentureBeat – who RT’d the post around the same time the post hit HackerNews.

In the end, over 85% of users came in via TwitterFeed, with the remaining handful coming in via HackerNews, StumbledUpon, Direct, and Google.

Great right?

Added visibility to the blog, great referrals – should totally have more engaged reader base moving forward …

Wrong.

Five days later – I’ve added only 7 new Twitter followers and only 6 new FeedBurner Readers.

Seriously? WTF?

Well to start, let’s talk about the traditional media business model:

In the old days, content producers made money by controlling distribution – writers worked for the NY Times because they could get their message into the most end users hands and end users paid the NY Times because they had the best writers.  It was a simple world controlled by the distribution of media.

Flash forward to today, distribution is free and easy.  I can write my post on my WordPress Blog – share on Twitter & Facebook – and the whole world has access to my content. As such, content has become ubiquitous – with anyone having the ability to write down their thoughts and share them with the world.

In this world – owning a channel for distribution no longer really matter.  The NY Times can no longer sell to their writers the idea that they are the farthest reaching platform for their content.  And as they shift into a pay-wall model, quite the opposite is true – and we’ve seen blogs such as Freakonomics already move outside of their walled garden.

So what does matter?  Why can Freakonomics succeed outside the walled garden of the Times?

In short – relationships.

In long – truly engaged customers who have a relationship with your brand.

This is the same effect that enables Tristan Walker & Micah Baldwin to drive tons of action from their followers.  The same reason that PG & Y-Combinator have such a valuable asset in PG’s Essays and HackerNews.  The same reason indie musicians and bands can get consumers to pay for tracks that they could have downloaded online for free.

It’s the underlying value in Groupon & LolCats – users who trust & evangelize my brand and stop by to at least check out what’s going on everyday.

The opportunity for new media is that its really hard to shift from having a distributor relationship to having a trusted relationship with your customers – and its going to be exceptionally hard for the NY Times (or any other major media publication) to be truly relavent.  Unless old media learns how to develop and own a relationship, their business will become hits driven (much akin to the situation with my LivingSocial posts) – and users won’t stop by unless you’re continuing to post the latest and greatest.

So moving forward, to start my plan to help foster my growing relationships, I’m going to:

That’s the short list to start – what do you guys think?  What else should I do? Any other ideas on how to better connect with potential readers?

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About adam

I work for True Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with offices in Northern Virginia, San Francisco and Palo Alto. We partner with promising entrepreneurs at the earliest stages in the technology market providing hands-on management support to guide our portfolio companies through the challenges of early growth. View all posts by adam →