Tracking burnout at Turntable FM (or How to Solve the Dopamine Problem on the Alive Web)

At the end of July, we saw two articles showcasing the burnout affect of the Alive Web

To summarize, while early usage of Turntable FM followed the typical pattern of a consumer web application (heavy weekday usage with a slight decline in overall usage on Saturday and Sunday) – the last month has seen a significant drop off in during the week listening activity – with users only listening during their weekend.

Probably worse, according to App Data data from the Betabeat article, the number of MAUs on Turntable FM has flattened and the number of DAUs is down from a high of 49,892 on Sunday 7/17 to 41,865 on Sunday 7/24.

Overall, this highlights the issue with the first wave of Alive Web products – mainly that the rich, engaging experience that drives such quick, widespread adoption – also makes it difficult for consumers to use on a daily or even weekly basis.

Because of this – engagement with the product moves to the weekend (too rich of an experience for work hours) and has to compete with other free time activities (like family and real world activities – which is difficult)

(This is in comparison to traditional consumer web products such as Facebook or Twitter – where users can stop by for a few seconds, generate value, and then get back to life.  These products actually see an increase in during the week traffic relative to the weekend as people use it to substitute for activities at work.)

Because of this – it requires different type of thinking by companies about how to enjoy long-term success and for investors, it requires a different type of thinking when it comes to thinking about metrics for success (especially early on.)

For companies, early focus should be on driving light-weighted utility into their product.

The best metaphor is Facebook and Zynga.  Most users don’t go to play Farmville everyday, however, they do stop by Facebook (utility) where they are drawn into the game via viral hooks around gifting.

Create some light-weighted utility feature that doesn’t require much work from a user – they’ll come back more often – and when they do have a few extra minutes – will quickly find themselves sucked into the deeper Alive Web experience (which is easier to monetize)

For investors, in traditional web products, exceptional growth like that seen at Turntable is a strong signal of consumer traction.

With most utility products, usage and adoption would continue in most cases in a similar pattern into the future.

With Alive Web products, the initial “Wow” factor drives a huge pop in usage – but the adoption speed and stickiness of users is much lower than traditional web products.  The key is to dig in deeper into the cohort analysis (even a short-lived one) and track individual users time on site and how often they come back – both initially and over time (or at least learn more about a Founders plan to create more utility-driven features.)

Alive Web products are great from a revenue perspective – deeply engaged and excited users are willing to pay real money to continue and enhance their virtual experiences.  The key is creating some light weight product feature that is low cost for a user to engage with (its super easy for me to check in to Facebook and Twitter with the few extra minutes I have between meetings) that has a fixed positive outcome (the upside of me checking isn’t terribly high, but I know what it is and the cost is really low)

Once users are in the product, you can more easily pull them into the Alive Web experiences when they have the time and energy to engage – but just in case they don’t – you want to ensure they have enough value to keep coming back.

* These are from my observations of the consumer web services as a user.  I don’t have any insight or data beyond my usage as a consumer and lover of the products listed above . **


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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.