Source: Can Anyone Catch Khan Academy?
Source: Can Anyone Catch Khan Academy?
Sports news website Bleacher Report (B/R) was mentioned twice in Mary Meeker’s 2012 Internet Trends report: as an example of re-imagination of both sports news and ￼TV. Bleacher Report, founded in 2006 by four sports fans from Silicon Valley, has become so influential that Time Warner is rumored to be trying to acquire it. What makes B/R stand out and can it continue to fend off much larger competitors like ESPN and Yahoo Sports?
What Huffington Post is to politics and current affairs, Bleacher Report is to sports. Like HuffPo, it has a large community of amateur contributors. B/R posts over 1000 new “content items” every day. In what has been a common theme in the new media era, B/R first made a name for itself by sheer mass of content. After it had conquered Google search and social media channels with quantity, B/R turned its attention to editorial quality (others like HuffPo and Mashable followed the same course). Since 2010 B/W has instituted a training program for its fan writers and hired some senior editors. Those measures seem to have worked, with TIME magazine declaring B/R one of its 50 Best Websites of 2011 and stating that “the standard of quality [at B/W] is markedly higher than at some community-created news hubs.”
B/R’s fan contributers helped the site get where it is, but other sports news brands have now followed suit and opened up their platform to amateur bloggers. Also, older sites have adopted the social media and multimedia tricks of B/R. There is still one thing that B/R has an edge on, however, and that is its iPad and iPhone app called Team Stream. The app’s personalized stream of content is a pointer to the future of sports news. You select which sports teams – or categories of sports – to follow and Team Stream only shows you content related to that.
B/R has some big, smart competitors. Yahoo Sports is still the leading online sports news brand, with 48 million unique visitors in April according to comScore (source: The Wall St Journal). That’s 5 times more than B/R, which had 9.6 million unique visitors in April. ESPN, Fox, CBS and NBC are other big players in online sports news. B/R is just outside the top 10 sports websites in the US, according to this chart of comScore’s March statistics:
B/R has done a great job of reimagining sports news, but one gets the sense that an acquisition by Time Warner may be B/R’s best chance at continuing its impressive growth. Where B/R is still ahead of the game is its mobile app, Team Stream. But that’s only in terms of app design. ESPN actually has the number one iOS sports app, with WatchESPN. B/R’s app is number 12, although it’s more highly rated by users: 5 stars compared to 2.5 for WatchESPN. So if B/R is to extend its purple patch of success in online sports news, it’s either going to have to come up with more mobile magic – or jump on board a juggernaut like Time Warner.
Pinterest, where users come, pin and leave. There are other, far more intriguing reasons why Goodreads is quietly building and growing a smart, devoted host of members.Goodreads is a social reading site that’s easily pusing 20 million unique visitors per month. It’s not talked about in the same way as the Ã¼ber-addictive social networking darling du jour,
According to data from Quantcast, GoodReads began adding more users about mid-2009. In late 2009, GoodRead user reviews started popping up in the Google eBooks store. Only a few months later, in 2010, Amazon announced that Kindle e-book sales had surpassed hardcover sales for the month of July.
GoodReads saw an opportunity, and began offering e-books directly from the site. Now authors could sell 13,000 books to their fans. With the rise of the self-publishing industry, which many writers have taken to nowadays – and with the likes of imprints like Chicago’s own Tortoise Books and Featherproof popping up all over the place – it’s not surprising that 35,000 self-promoting, social-networking authors have taken to Goodreads. The site currently has 8 million registered members who have written more than 13 million reviews and added more than 280 million books to their virtual shelves.
“Many of our early adopters were book bloggers, librarians and book club members,” says Goodreads CEO and co-founder Otis Chandler. “In fact, we have 20,000 groups on our site, such as The Sword and Laser (part of the new Geek & Sundry YouTube channel), The Next Best Book Club and small, private, meet-in-real-life groups like the Boston Book Club.”
To help readers find new books, GoodReads works with an algorithm much like Facebook’s news feed. It is what powers the site’s book recommendation engine, which is based around ratings, what’s on a reader’s virtual bookshelf and what readers with similar tastes have recommended.
However, not everyone is thrilled with GoodReads. Some liken it to the self-promotional focus and narcissism of Facebook users.
“The mix of GoodReads users is a discordant blend of true fans, self-promoting, gaming-the-system e-book authors, and people who want to turn the site into Farmville,” says Sarah Browne, managing editor at TrendistSF.Â ”As a hyphenated-user myself, (TrueFan/Author) I was initially deeply interested in meeting my tribe. I think plenty of writers and fans have found a home on Good Reads.Â But for all the real value I was starting to find, there were the countless forum notifications with post after post of various word games.”
For those whose work centers around social media and writing, GoodReads can function as a universe all its own, and a place to quietly cultivate community. As with all types of social networks, those who engage more frequently generally tend to get more value out of the site itself.
This is the case with power user Letizia Sechi, who also happens to be the editor and social media manager at 40K, a digital publishing house based in Italy that has a wide selection of multilanguage titles.
“What I may suggest is to discover the tons of tools that it has: the various forms of recommendations (that you can use to ask directly for what you’re looking for), lists, polls or groups, according on how much time you’d like to spend in there or how much you like having conversations with other readers.”
What Goodreads offers moreso than the nerdy marginalia is the community. It’s a place to stop by, chat with others and stay awhile.
“Living in a community of readers creates habits and affection to a place – think about readers’ reaction each time that the site changes interface, even if it’s technically better than the older one!” Sechi says. “I think this is the hardest part with new community: Convince people that there’s a new place they can feel like home.”
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Om Malik wrote a post today called What do Yelp and Twitter have in common? I thought that was a pretty interesting question, so I read the post. It turned out to be something about back-stabbing Silicon Valley dealsmanship. I don’t know anything about that stuff, but I was disappointed. I was thinking of something else.
You know what else Twitter and Yelp have in common? Apple. Both of those applications are married to Apple. They’re built into the operating system. Twitter is the social sign-on service baked into iOS, and Yelp is who Siri asks for restaurant recommendations. The other important thing about them is that they are not Google.
Twitter and Apple are quite cozy. Twitter is built into iOS 5, it’s coming to OS X Mountain Lion, and Apple promotes the official Twitter client in ways no other app gets. But Twitter promotes Apple, too. Have you looked at a tweet of an App Store link on the Web lately? It displays a rich, embedded iTunes view:
For Yelp’s part, it’s built into Siri. So much for Google. Google and Yelp have been at each other’s throats for years because Google wants the local business recommendation racket so badly. Naturally, Apple went with Yelp.
Yelp had a big IPO today. Interesting timing, right? It feels like IPO fever all over again. But Yelp’s day was surprisingly bright. I guess 66 million unique visitors and integration into the iPhone 4S will do that.
And look at this. Apple hit the 25 billion mark for app downloads tonight. Check out the graphic. Who’s that, front and center, at the App Store’s right hand? (Stage right.) It’s Yelp, with Twitter right next to it.
Twitter and Yelp have something in common with some other companies, too, like Wolfram Alpha and Vimeo. Between Yelp and Wolfram Alpha, Siri tries pretty hard not to search Google for things. And people testing the new OS X Mountain Lion beta have noticed that the new sharing options include Vimeo for videos and not YouTube. Curious, huh?
Apple uses Google itself for maps now, but it’s well known that Apple is working on its own maps. As soon as it can, it’s going to push Google right off the home screen.
If I were Yelp, I’d do my IPO right now, too. I’d be built into Apple, which is having its way with the entire stock market right now, and the iPad 3 is coming out next week. I imagine that, for mobile software companies that compete with Google, the Apple Coalition feels like a pretty safe place to be.
The social Web space is abuzz with new developments and entrants these days. Facebook’s IPO. The explosion of Pinterest. The rapid evolution of Google+ into a place where the president of the United State hangs out. One name you never hear is one that all the rage just a few years ago.
MySpace has been losing traffic since 2008, when Facebook first surpassed it on Alexa. Last year, the company was sold for $35 million by News Corporation, who bought it for $580 million six years earlier. Its new owners, Specific Media, have tried to reposition the site as an online entertainment hub rather than a full-fledged social network. If early numbers are any indication, the refocus appears to be working.
For the first time in quite awhile, MySpace has some good news to report. Since December, it has added 1 million new registered users. That may not sound like much, but it begins to reverse the downward spiral the site has been in for the last few years.
If this particular trend line continues to move upward, it would suggest that the site’s music-centric gamble was a wise one. It would certainly make sense, given the site’s history. When MySpace first came onto the scene in 2003, it was used by independent musicians to share music and connect with fans, who quickly flocked to the site. By 2008, the site attracted nearly 80 million unique visitors per month and was considered the preeminent social networking service.
Specific Media’s new strategy aims to capitalize on MySpace’s roots while building new features and functionality to help better reposition the site as a music hub. Even as the site’s popularity has declined among the general population, it continued to be big among bands and other musicians.
Over the years, the site has amassed a library of music containing over 42 million tracks, which positions it quite competitively with the likes of Rdio and Spotify, even if MySpace’s content leans heavily toward unsigned and independent artists.
Is this enough to turn things around for MySpace? The site won’t return to being the social behemoth it was before the rise of Facebook, Twitter and Google+. By more aggressively carving out this niche, its new owners could at least allow the site to grow and build a viable, more focused business.
Source: MySpace’s Music Focus Pays Off
Paul Berry, the Huffington Post’s CTO since 2007, is one of the best regarded tech leaders in New York. After helping build one of the biggest news sites in the world, Berry announced this week that he’s leaving AOL soon to focus on two new ventures: A social startup called Rebel Mouse and an incubator called SoHo Tech Lab to goof around with a bunch of different ideas and see what works.
I caught up with Berry this week to learn more about his experience growing HuffPost and what he’s planning for his new projects. Following is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
ReadWriteWeb: I think a lot of people don’t realize how big Huffington Post is and what a technical challenge that can be. What’s a current snapshot?
Paul Berry: We’re 120 million unique visitors a month, 31-day view by Google Analytics. We’re at 1.7 billion pageviews, still growing fast. To give an indicator of the velocity, at acquisition [about a year ago], we were 55 million uniques and about 700 million pageviews. So just by sheer volume of traffic and audience, those are big numbers.
The other piece is the complexity of my CMS, and sort of how wide and deep the technology is. The team that I was leading as CTO of the Huffington Post Media Group, I had product, design, and engineering for the Media Group. There are a bunch of domains that are powered by the technology. When I started at Huffington Post, it was metaphorically day two. We were 3 million unique visitors and 70 million pageviews a month and there were three of us in the tech team. The team that Tim Dierks takes over as the new CTO is about 220 people.
And these 220 people are…
That includes a lot of designers and product and project managers. The core of Huffington Post… we had some innovations in how we would put the team together that were built out of a combination of our own character and culture and out of necessity. I was born in Mexico City, my wife is Bulgarian. International, I always knew, would mean a great deal to me. And in the last ten years and in previous jobs, I started to work out: How can you truly put together a dynamic global team? That was vital to Huffington Post.
The election year growth was driven by figuring that out. It was pretty stressful – we had no money. I couldn’t just buy another server. And we had so much to accomplish. And what everyone wants from their tech team is to pull an all-nighter every single night. But you know that’s not sustainable, so you know as much as you want it you can’t have it. You can actually do it by playing that timezone game and passing batons. That was insanely vital to all of our growth at HuffPost. Literally HuffPost has people on every continent in every time zone. Eastern Europe and Latin America, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Philippines.
What were some of the technical challenges you had to deal with?
Scaling was always a point of pride that we never talked about. And we never talked about security. If you’re spending a lot of time talking about security, it’s because you’ve gone through a horrible Gawker hack type of moment, and it’s terrible. You do internally talk about security, and you have a security team, and you do a lot to make it happen. But at the board or ops level, if you’re talking about security or scalability, you’re generally suffering. It’s a point of pride that that was never a big topic at ops or board meetings. We had very, very few moments of actual downtime.
The emergence of mobile and the emergence of HTML5 together is what’s really interesting.
Personally, I think people are making a lot of mistakes in developing everything as native apps completely, when you can have a thin shell as a native wrapper around HTML5 plus responsive web design. And now you solve the problem. This really drove me crazy at HuffPost. We had so much to do, and then all these tablets kept on launching with different screen sizes and different OSes, and everything we did was native because at the time that was the way everyone was doing it.
And now what I think key companies and developers are realizing is that HTML5 and responsive web designs solves for whichever dimension and whichever OS. And you have to get really, really, really good at it before you can pull that off and still have it be a smooth app. But that’s where our focus will be.
The most interesting stuff to me was how could we keep up, how could we push the whole industry farther than it was.
Facebook, Google, and Twitter were all fairly frustrated with the media landscape – how slow media companies were to implement stuff, how slow they were to be creative and to push the envelope. And that became the roadmap pillars: Editorial efficiency and pushing the envelope with partners. A lot of the stuff that I plan to take into the incubator and into the new company is that culture of pushing those limits.
So what are these new projects?
There’s two parts to it. Both, unfortunately, I have to remain a little stealth about, or I guess a lot, annoyingly. Part of my contract with AOL allowed me to work on things during this transition. So I’ve actually had a team working on Rebel Mouse for a while. I’m really excited about releasing some alpha and beta stuff in recent months.
Rebel Mouse is the startup company that’s well defined – it has its name and its logo and it’s a really well-defined concept that we’re deep into. The incubator is a way to give us space to throw a lot of stuff up on the wall. It’s not meant to be a 500 Startups thing, where there’s a ton of companies. It’s going to be much more sharing a technology stack and a social approach. And it will be social, web, and mobile that defines the companies that we end up creating. What we’ll be doing is trying with a very small but elite and awesome team to take things into prototypes that start to gain real traction and go viral, and at that point, fund those into companies that we build into really big businesses.
My definition of viral is: We don’t spend on marketing and ads. And that was another point of pride at Huffington Post. We never spent on SEM, it was always SEO. We never went and bought Facebook ads, we just did really well at social. These things have to have their own organic growth, where they hit this mark where you see them growing by themselves. Then you realize we have something now that we can double down on and go raise money and built that toward a big business.
Are there any specific technologies that have been particularly useful to you at HuffPost?
When I started with HuffPost about six years ago, there was still debate about whether open source would win or not. I think that has been answered. The open source stack – whichever you end up using – you have tremendous potential. It’s crazy how much has been built out the last five years. The trick has really been to keep up with those sorts of things the way you keep up with a Facebook, or a Google, or a Twitter, and their product releases.
One of the surprises has been that MySQL – when Oracle bought MySQL, everyone thought it would die – and it’s actually very much alive. We use Redis (“sort of a database alternative”) a lot at Huffington Post, for example. There are some of these core technology stacks and open-source libraries and etc. that we’ll definitely be using at the incubator.
The Wikimedia Foundation, parent organization of Wikipedia and other super-wikis, closed out its annual fundraising campaign with another record-breaking haul. The campaign raised $20 million, about 71% of its planned operating budget this year. Donations have risen every year since the campaigns began in 2003.
Wikipedia serves more than 470 million unique visitors every month, and it doesn’t pay for all that bandwidth with advertising. This annual fundraising campaign provides the bulk of Wikimedia’s funding, and the rest comes from gifts and grants like the one Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki made for $500,000 in November.
Wikimedia’s planned spending this year is $28.3 million. The funds raised in this campaign will go toward key operating costs like servers and other hardware, as well as expanding mobile services, covering legal costs and supporting volunteers around the world.
As usual, creepy Jimmy Wales pics adorned Wikipedia pages throughout the campaign. This year’s pleas also featured volunteer editors from all over the world. You may find it creepy, but these sultry faces and their hilarious juxtapositions must be working.
“Our model is working fantastically well,” says Wikimedia’s executive director, Sue Gardner. “Ordinary people use Wikipedia and they like it, so they chip in some cash so it will continue to thrive.”
As the volunteer-run encyclopedia has grown, it has shown signs of stress. Editorial work has fallen behind, held back by a difficult markup language and some snooty veteran editors. But Wikipedia is an irreplaceable online institution now, and the ongoing success of its fundraising campaigns proves it. If Wikimedia can scare us into donating to keep its vast resources alive and ad-free, more power to it.
Check your browser history. How many times did you visit Wikipedia in the past week?
According to data shared by Experian Hitwise US, Google+ received around 50 million visits in December. That’s a jump of nearly 20 million from the month before and its biggest month of traffic since its launch at the end of June.
Google’s social network launched a holiday barrage of commercials featuring the Muppets and pro basketball stars using Google+ video Hangouts. CNET called the commercials “desperate,” but according to Hitwise’s numbers, the effort paid off.
Hitwise’s data are significantly lower than the comScore numbers TechCrunch reported last month. Those stats reported nearly 67 million unique visitors in November, which would be more visitors than Hitwise’s reported number of visits. That would be impossible. But as TechCrunch’s Eric Eldon pointed out, third-party numbers are never 100% accurate. What both comScore and Hitwise agree on is that Google+ traffic is rising slowly but steadily.
In its Q3 earnings call, Google reported 40 million registered Google+ users. Today’s Hitwise numbers are more consistent with that level of activity.
Google+ also got some significant upgrades in December that may have contributed to better traffic. It got better noise control in the stream of posts, somewhat clearer notifications, and a new interface for photos. It added long-awaited features for managing brand pages as a team. And video Hangouts, the distinguishing feature of Google+, got major updates on the desktop and mobile to be more visible and accessible.
Google+ is now integrated into long-standing Google properties like Gmail, Blogger and YouTube. Google reported that ‘Google+’ was the #2 worldwide search term last year. Its momentum made Google+ our top social Web product of the year.
Are you using Google+?
Today Twitvid announced that it is launching a new open social video network and redesigned site focused on helping users find their favorite videos. TwitVid wants to make it easier to upload clips and share them to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter.
For now, TwitVid’s frontpage interface looks more like Digg’s (before the social newsrooms). It shows most popular TwitVids by views, along with a featured TwitVid and a TwitVid Tuesdays Winner. There is a list of popular members on the right rail. TwitVid is tossing this simplistic design for user profiles that focus on personalized video taste. Sharing will be more focused around personal interests rather than top rated content. Imagine the Facebook news feed, but only populated by video that has been personalized to your tastes.
TwitVid will also feature channels organized around specific interests.
TwitVid has seen its user base grow 100% since last year. Currently there are more than 12 million unique visitors. Twitvid launched in May 2009. We first wrote about it in July 2009, back when it was a a brand new iPhone app for uploading video to Twitter.
Today, BBC.com has launched a U.S. election hub at BBC.com/USelection. It opens with an introduction to the Republican candidates along with a few topical analysis posts. It’s a redirect to the BBC.co.uk topic page, so it’s the same coverage that the British audience gets.
As the election gears up, the site’s content will include articles, video series and interactive maps and polls. BBC.com averages 17.4 million unique visitors per month from the U.S., about a third of the site’s global audience. Big news months, such as in May, when Osama bin Laden was killed, drew more than 19 million readers.
BBC North America editor Claudia Milne will run the site. It will feature reporting from Milne’s counterpart, Mark Mardell, as well as Katty Kay, anchor of the BBC World News America TV program. That show will be a platform for cross-promotion with the website.
“We don’t expect people to come to the BBC as the first port of call for their coverage,” says Milne, “but we offer a different perspective.” The BBC wants its outside viewpoint and impartiality to balance out the blood sport in U.S. media. “The way the American media are going to cover this election campaign, there will be a lot of heat,” says Milne. “We’re going to shed a little bit of light.”
The BBC isn’t the only British news organization vying for Americans’ attention this election season. In September, The Guardian launched a U.S. homepage, and it’s staffing up a U.S. newsroom.
Visit BBC.com’s U.S. elections page at BBC.com/USelection.
Where do you go for your election news?