Web Services That Cater To Both The Publisher And The Reader
I've been noticing a trend lately that certain web services are starting to cater to both the publisher and the reader. And I think this is an important direction for a host of reasons.
You have to build a service with the user/reader in mind or you won't get any uptake. But if you can't engage the content creator in your service, you'll lose something important. When publishers start paying attention to a service, they build hooks into their content that drive more users to the service. An early example of that were the "digg this" and "post to delicious" links that publishers put at the end of their stories.
And monetization opportunities can result from publishers engaging with the service. A good example of this is the sponsored posts section on techmeme. Publishers and bloggers come to techmeme every day to see what the tech world is talking about, but also to see if any of their stories got picked up. So it makes perfect sense that Gabe offers publishers the ability to feature their content for a price on the right side of the page. I've suggested to Gabe that he do more to service publishers. The leaderboard is one very smart thing he's done. But he could do more. There's no page on techmeme where I can go type in my blog url or feed and then see stats on my posts. I tried to use techmeme search for that, but it's not really suited for that application.
Outside.in (one of our portfolio companies) does a great job with this. The outside.in front page and the personalized radar page are totally designed for the every day reader, showing them what is happening in their neighborhood. But they have a page for publishers that allows me to give them my blog info and get stats on how many of my posts have been picked up for each location they service and who else is blogging about those stories, places, and neighborhoods. By engaging the publishers and local bloggers in their service, outside.in insures that all of their content is coming into outside.in and they engage these publishers in various monetization opportunities that outside.in offers publishers and local bloggers.
A service I've started using a lot lately is bit.ly built by our friends at Betaworks (our firm does not have an interest in bit.ly). John Borthwick of Betaworks has a good post on bit.ly on his blog. There are dozens of url shortening options on the web these days, all taking from the good idea that tinyurl started. And they all do a pretty good job of shortening urls quickly and easily. But bit.ly is thinking a lot about publishers in their approach to building out their service. If you visit my political post from early this week and then click the bit.ly bookmarklet, you'll see this list of places that post has gone. You can see that 194 people on twitter clicked thru to that post with bit.ly, eight did it on facebook, four did it on netvibes, etc, etc. That's very useful information for a publisher and getting publishers interested in bit.ly will get them using it and possibly providing a way to monetize it, something that has eluded the url shortening category to date.
That click tracking picture reminds me of another of our portfolio companies, Tumblr. When David and Marco built Tumblr, they built it from day one with both the publisher/blogger and the reader in mind. You don't just blog/create content in Tumblr, you also consume it there. The Tumblr dashboard is a very simple and elegant "rss reader" but they don't call it that. But in keeping with "serve both the publisher and reader" mantra, the dashboard is also where you go to find out how people are consuming and engaging with your content. On the right is a screen shot of the way tumblr readers engaged with the kozmo photo I blogged at fredwilson.vc yesterday. Right from the dashboard that I use follow what other people I care about are saying and doing on tumblr, I can see how people have reacted to what I have done. It's a great example of the power of social media in action.
Any post on this topic by me would be remiss if it didn't at least mention friendfeed and twitter. Both have tabs that let me focus on how people are enaging with my content. The reply tab on twitter does that for me and the "me" tab on friendfeed (or the "my feed" page in the new beta version of friendfeed) also does that for me. That said, I think both services could do a much better job of surfacing what people are doing and saying with my content. Twitter can't tell me (at least I don't think they can) how many people favorited one of my tweets, how many retweeted, how many people clicked on a link in one of my tweets, etc, etc. And I have not been able to figure out how to just see all the comments people have left for me on friendfeed. So both of those services could improve the way they service the publisher in my opinion.
We are at an interesting point in the world of media. Bloggers and every day people are creating more and more relevant content that mainstream people are consuming. But big media companies are seeing the power of social media and they are engaging with the very same services more and more every day. This is mashing up and mixing up the concept of the publisher and the reader. And so services that do the same by focusing on both of them at the same time are going to prosper.