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Earlier this week, I took a look at the social news service Propeller and wondered if the service was coming in for a landing. Since that post, one of Propeller’s users submitted the CN story to Propeller and I thought it might be interesting to see what we got from the submission.
The story was posted on Propeller 27 hours ago as of the time of this blog post. The story (as seen below) has received:
- 45 props (these are the up votes)
- 2 drops (I guess these are like down votes)
- 60 views listed on Propeller (not sure if this is how many people visited the page on Propeller or something else?)
- 247 comments!
I count 16 total pageviews in my analytics software using the propeller.com referral domain. This means that nearly none of the people who commented on the story actually read the story. This is an issue for most social news sites – and I think will be an issue for Buzz as well. Outbound traffic is the only real measure for a social news site – the more traffic that the service sends out, the more people want to invest in it.
Can you believe it’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since the social news site Propeller went live? It’s even more amazing that the “new” Netsape launched almost four years ago! In case you aren’t familiar with the story of Netscape and Propeller, here’s a brief history lesson. When now Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis sold his blogs to AOL, he became the product manager for a new social news site within the AOL network named Netscape. Yes, the same Netscape that in the early Internet was a Web browser. Soon thereafter Calacanis left AOL and Tom Drapeau took over as Netscape Director. We interviewed Tom shortly after he accepted his new role.
Tom noted that Netscape had a crew of “scouts” who were paid for, “several activities, including posting stories, engaging in thoughtful conversations in comment threads, and keeping an eye out for spam.” This made Netscape a bit different than Digg although Netscape was called a clone of Digg since day 1.
In September 2007, Propeller took flight and the social news site took the place of the Netscape site. Many wondered if the new location might hurt the overall ability to brand the social news service. While lots of people called Propeller a Digg clone, many (including myself) had high hopes for the service.
Pingdom has released a new report about traffic trends across a variety of social news sites. The sites included in the report are: Digg, StumbleUpon, Slashdot, Reddit, Mixx, Propeller, Newsvine, Fark, Dzone and Sphinn.
What the report shows is that while so many sites focus only on Digg, there are other players that are still worth working.
Here are the findings:
- Traffic-wise, Digg.com stands heads and shoulders above the other sites in this survey, but they seem to have reached a plateau. They have roughly the same number of visitors now compared to a year ago.
- Mixx.com has the most aggressive growth curve. Propeller.com (previously hosted on the Netscape.com domain) is also growing fast, doubling its traffic in the last year.
- Slashdot.org (the original) is losing visitors. They have roughly 25% less visitors now compared to a year ago.
- The five largest based on website visitors (sorted, largest first): Digg.com, StumbleUpon.com, Slashdot.org, Propeller.com and Fark.com. (Reddit.com is in 6th place, and is about to overtake Fark.)
The report uses Google Trends for the raw numbers. It’s clear the Digg traffic needle is stuck in neutral. Also, whatever happened to Newsvine? The service were acquired by MSNBC last October and haven’t been in the news since.
When Propeller launched, everyone had questions about it’s ability to survive. Propeller launched in mid-September (let’s call it two months ago) and was a shift from the Netscape.com domain. It’s safe to say, most (if not all) of the former Netscape.com social news traffic made the move just fine. Both Alexa and Compete show very nice increases for Propeller since launch. And what’s even more interesting (though not part of this article) is that Netscape.com traffic only halved itself when Propeller split off. I assume this might drop some more as time moves on but it’s still showing stronger than I expected.
And even better for the Propeller crew, it’s getting closer to passing Reddit. Wonder what the team over at Wired is thinking on the acquisition now? Now Propeller has to work on growth – I haven’t seen any stories cross my desk after the launch – they certainly need to work on this.
First let’s take a look at the stats via Compete – unique visitor count for October 2007:
- Digg – 17,417,569
- Reddit – 1,683,673
- Propeller – 1,454,912
And a yearly chart showing growth — the Digg growth is just amazing:
Now the numbers from Alexa – this is their "traffic count" metric with a 3 month average (1 week average):
- Digg – 117 (156)
- Reddit – 912 (1,100)
- Propeller – 2,308 (1,695)
Does this mean that Propeller will grow to the Digg traffic level in a year? Nope, I certainly doubt it. But could Propeller become a strong #2, absolutely. And looks like Duncan Riley might just be eating these words, "It might be too early to Deadpool the Netscape Social news experiment yet, but without the type-in traffic and brand recognition of the Netscape name, the whole idea will struggle to survive. I give it 12 months max."
The real key to longevity for Propeller is whether it’s bringing in revenue for AOL. If it is, then it remains, if it isn’t, then it goes and Duncan is right. This isn’t two developers in a basement creating Propeller.
Editor’s note: Compete is a current CN Sponsor. They had no involvement in the creation of this story.
One of my favorite reads is the good doctor (yes, a real doctor), Tony Hung. His commentary and opinions are almost always on point and accurate. However last night he wrote a piece that had an incorrect diagnosis. He should know that a doctor can’t just look at a chart and know what’s wrong without talking to the patient (or in this case investigating the cause). Unfortunately, Duncan at TechCrunch immediately posted about it as well, thereby furthering the incorrect diagnosis.
Here is Tony’s analysis:
About a month ago, I wrote about how Netscape dumped its social news component into its own site, Propeller.com and wondered rhetorically how it would turn out — with the subtext being, perhaps, how *Netscape* would really fare now that its social news component was on its own. Well, a month has come and gone, and I think that if Alexa is any indication (and yes, it certainly has its problems), the answer might be “substantial”.
He then shows the following chart to backup his "substantial" claim:
So what did Tony miss?
- Naturally when you switch domains traffic to the former will decrease
- If we look back before Netscape became Jason’s social news failure, those people who liked the old Netscape left. They wouldn’t have any reason to return after the site moved to the Propeller domain.
- And lastly, and most importantly, netscape.com does not exist anymore – it redirects to aol.com – hello drop. Rogelio Bernal Andreo, coRank CEO agrees. His comment on TechCrunch, "I just noticed that nestcape.com now redirects to netscape.aol.com. So I guess the whole argument is just flawed then. It doesn’t take into account what I mentioned before, and it doesn’t consider that netscape.com is now a redirect to netscape.aol.com."
For Immediate Release:
To: Tom Drapeau and AOL Executives
From: Allen Stern
Please accept this notice of my disappointment in the launch today of your Propeller product. Before I get into my concerns and issues with Propeller, I want to say that I have been quite loyal to AOL since I started using the product in 1990-1991. I still have the same email as I had then and have stuck with you through thick and thin. My first AOL bill was $450.00 and I never burned one of those thousands of spam CDs I received in the mail over the years.
When you guys allowed Jason Calacanis to talk you into changing Netscape into a social news rating service, I gave you a chance. Even when others called you a clone of Digg, I stood by you. Even when Jason ran away from the drowning ship and left everyone else to drown and die, I still offered suggestions for improvement.
When Techcrunch writers believed that the site was going to close and Tom Drapeau said it wasn’t closing, I offered Tom an interview to air his side of what was going on and coming up.
When the announcement came out that the name was changing to Propeller, many bloggers said it had already failed. I stood strong against Duncan for example and said let’s give AOL/Propeller a chance. Even when Robert Seidman told me I was basically a moron for even thinking you could offer something innovative, I told him let’s wait and see. I did note one important thing which is that you should absolutely not put up the same site just on a new domain.
Yet today I see you launched (or is it re-launched?) the Netscape site on Propeller with just a change of logo. Not one change. Now Tom talks about upcoming changes on the blog, but why not hold back on a launch and wait until the changes are ready? A bad first date means no second date my friend.
Marshall and Netscape scout Muhammad say there is more coming, but is it too late? Why was the change so critical to make today? Was someone upstairs in HQ looking for the Netscape.com domain to be switched asap?
I am disappointed with your decision and while I will continue to use the AOL product, I will never again stand up as a Propeller/Netscape defender.
I guess I shouldn’t have expected more from a company who gave out a CD case to the TechCrunch audeince where almost everyone has an iPhone or iPod.
I look forward to your response.
The Netscape social news experience that you are currently using today will be migrated and revealed soon at http://www.propeller.com/. We’re working hard behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition before we officially launch at this new destination.
It is important to us that you feel empowered to choose how you want to consume your news and participate in the community. As we mentioned in a recent post, the Netscape.com site will soon be redirected to the new Netscape portal, a more traditional and editorially-driven news experience. It’s already live, so you can check it out now if you haven’t already. You’ll notice some elements of our social news site there in short order, so that it will be easy for you to go back and forth and engage in each if you like.
Interesting name. Tip comes from Muhammad who notes, "my first thoughts on the brand name and the logo are both great. here’s what ‘propeller’ means to me. by definition, to propel means to motivate, actuate, move, prompt, incite, impel, or to give incentive for action and cause to move forward with force. that said, what will we (at propeller, previously netscape social news) be propelling?"
And he is right. I think it’s a good name and could lend to a feeling of forward movement which is important for AOL/Netscape/Propeller.
Update: They better have a damn good redirect script for the netscape submit buttons – otherwise it will be bad… Britney VMA bad.