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 …


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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I work for True Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund with offices in 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.

  • nlwhittemore

    Hi Adam – Good thoughts. This is something that I'm working on a bunch with our posts on the Assetmap blog. We're getting shared like crazy – averaging somewhere around 200 shares/post on FB/Twitter. The conversion to a) signups, b) likes on FB, c) new followers on Twitter is decent but not where I want it to be.

    A few things that I've tried that have worked well to help:

    1) Kissinsights for grabbing emails – This isn't my favorite use of Kissinsights in the long run, but for now, email signups are so important to the startup that we use it, and it significantly increases that data capture.
    2) The "Like on Facebook" button is by far the easiest thing for people to do to stay in touch. For some reason I only just added a permanent sidebar for people to like Assetmap on FB like a week ago and its already doubled the size of our community there.
    3) I've started to use Hootsuite to make sure I follow everyone who tweets any post I write about on Assetmap. This alone has significantly increased the number of people who follow. Often someone Tweets something out but doesn't think to follow the account. If the Assetmap account follows them within a day or so of them tweeting about us though, they more often than not follow back.
    4) I've also started to add those people who we follow because they've shared our content to a list called "Assetmap Twitter Crew" that we'll begin to interact with more diligently and specifically than our general follow list.

    Great post – thanks for sharing this behind the scenes look! Hope some of our ideas help too

    • Dude – this rocks!

      1) Working on adding this now.
      2) I have no idea how to add this, but I'll assume their is a WordPress Plug-in and make it happen shortly
      3) Interesting. I'll give this a try – especially if HootSuite is free or I can find another workaround 🙂
      4) I have a private list called "Conversationalist" which I diligently track during the day of people I interact with Twitter and who share my work online – would definitely make sense to separate the two though.

      Thanks for the tips! I'll let you know how it all goes.

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  • Hey Adam, congrats on the original post (which was awesome) and the interesting follow-up. A few reactions. 1, I don't think it matters that you didn't pick up lots of followers — what's more interesting is that interesting people are following you and actually reading what you write. 2, You may want to use Quora for direct questions. 3, One idea a good friend of mine does is to host a weekly happy hour and just start small, sounds a bit different than "Office Hours" which may point to more pitches, etc. -Semil

    • Hi Semil,

      Thanks for reading and I totally agree. My first company was a donation-based record label where we preached the value of relationships and leveraged free music to drive new fan relationships. It's always nice to confirm a belief about media with a real-live case study with this blog.

      Re: Quora – That's an awesome idea and one that I'm going to work harder on moving forward.

      Re: Office Hours – I totally agree with you, but I think its more a branding thing than anything else. Happy Hours at a coffee shop? Do you think that would work? It's just more my scene.