February 15, 2007

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled self-promotion to bring you this special self-promotion

The digital video blog I used to write for, DVguru, has been axed by its corporate overlords, which, in my (obviously less than objective) opinion, was a shortsighted mistake. I will now write about why this is the case, I will take some time to further inflate my own ego, and I will come up with an angle that could've undoubtedly saved the site.

Given the ongoing explosion of video content online (YouTube = $1.65 billion), given the ongoing DV revolution (take you pick of any number of digitally-shot films, the first that pops into my mind is 28 Days Later), and given DVguru's relation to the digital video news market--that is, being the foremost oft-updated video site that caters to content-creators--it would seem that DVguru had a bright future. Say what you will about its less-than-stellar name, say what you will about its limited appeal, the site was a valuable resource for many filmmakers, especially of the aspiring sort.

Not to criticize Weblogs, Inc. or its sugar daddy AOL, but let's briefly look at the other blogs they closed at the same time as DVG, according to Valleywag:

PVR Wire was a blog specifically focused on TiVo/PVR/DVR technology. It's since been folded into TV Squad, which makes sense (as ex-WIN honcho Jason Calacanis points out), but if the topic of time-shifting television technology isn't considered too small a niche, I don't know what is (also, the opportunities for growth shrink as the technology becomes more and more commonplace, and/or integrated into other systems like Media Center). While PVR Wire was, in fact, garnering more traffic than DVG, I'm not surprised they shut it down. Another victim, Divester, was a blog on SCUBA diving: not a terrible idea but I'm not sure that anyone but the most passionate of divers would want to visit such a site on a daily basis. Though I'm a PADI Advanced diver ("advanced" not "Advanced"), I had visited Divester maybe twice in my life. So that one's understandable too. The last one, BBHub... I have no idea what that even means.

Digital Video, on the other hand, is a rapidly-expanding field. NewTeeVee, part of the GigaOM network, launched a mere month before DVguru shut down, so clearly Om Malik and co. recognize a opportunity in the burgeoning video field (though they are more focused on the consumption and distribution of video than they are on its creation). Still, DVG could and should have covered all three areas, and to a certain extent it was starting to, by the time it was shuttered.

DVG also compared favorably to some other video sites I visit frequently: HD For Indies, Cinematech, DV.com, and Studio Daily. According to the traffic stats on all these sites, DVG was the leader.

Anyway, enough on the axing of a niche blog, and onto my own ego-building!

Here are the exact traffic numbers for DVG at the time of its closing (I don't think I'm doing anything unauthorized here, as the site has always had a public Sitemeter available):

Looks like growth to me: 20k page views/month at the beginning of the year, 120k by the end. What is that, 600% growth? The curve would be much steeper, in fact, if it weren't for those spikes--and what might those be, you ask?

They're feature articles pulling in outside readers, above and beyond the usual daily audience. So pray tell, who was responsible for those? Moi.

First off, a disclaimer: if you think this is about the size of my ego, you're terribly wrong. Someone with an ego the size of mine, in fact, scoffs at even writing about mere video technology. Instead, Ryan refers to himself in the third person, writes the next great American screenplay left-handed, pours champagne on strippers (working pro-bono, no doubt), and snorts lines off the deck of a yacht.

Kidding aside, let's talk about me some more.

Above is a graph of the month in which I wrote my first feature, Ten video sharing services compared. Not a piece of literary genius, but perfectly timed. The piece garnered 830 Diggs (Digg is a social news service where readers vote (or "digg") stories to the front page), which resulted in a boost of 30k page views for the one article alone.

Okay, you say, you're a genius, but that was the small spike, what was responsible for the much larger one in October? I can't claim sole credit for that one, as Russell Heimlich's post on a spoof device, the DVD Rewinder, became DVguru's most-trafficked post of all time, thanks also to Digg. Full credit to Russell, but there is of course a difference between writing a post pointing out the mere existence of a product (his) and a post made up of original content (mine!!! me!). I don't know how much traffic the DVD Rewinder pulled in but it was certainly 6 figures of page views; I can't speculate as to how much that was worth to Weblogs Inc. in advertising dollars but they probably made their payout to Russell times 500.

Two features I wrote that same month contributed to half of that spike, however. First I hit the readers with Ten reasons to not go to film school (wonder where I got the idea for that from?), and then, just as they were tossing their NYU Film prospectuses in the trash, I blew their minds with Ten reasons to go. Both also made Digg's front page, totaling 1300 Diggs, and inspiring a lot of discussion, both on DVG and on Digg. Here is a link to the comments on reasons to go, here is a link to the comments on reasons not to, and here is a link to a commenter calling me a douchebag.

Lest you think Digg was solely responsible for all this traffic--and no business model reliant on someone else's unaffiliated business is ever a very good one--the same features also made the front page of Slashdot, Techmeme (neither of which I read myself), and probably others. These articles were probably worth around 100k additional page views, and were also translated into Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, and Croatian. I had to do some digging (no pun intended... really) to find out which language the Croatian site was in.

If you're looking at these traffic numbers--and if you weren't already convinced, for whatever reason--you're thinking I'm the man.

Unfortunately, manliness is not judged by blogging ability. In fact, it was recently proven that manliness is inversely proportionate to blogging ability. Damn.

On top of this detraction is the fact that the current Netiverse (or whatever you call it) is quite unrepresentative of the real world. Similarly to how The Real World (every season since the San Francisco original) is filled with far more air-headed but attractive young men and women than the real world, so too is the Internet filled with far more technologically-minded young males than the real world. Most of the articles on Digg, even the most trafficked, would never make the mainstream news, so just because a bunch of young gadgety guys find your writing topically interesting, does not mean that anyone else does. Personally, I find Reddit's news more interesting, as it is more focused on news related to politics, religion, science, or the intersection of all three.

Regardless, when you're writing features for 5 cents a word and the shit is blowing up, I suppose you'd expect some sort of remuneration beyond what is given to the rank and file. But I wasn't invested in the idea of being a prominent technology writer, and as such, I left most of my feature ideas sitting in a folder, untouched.

Still, I did learn while looking over internet traffic stats that if you want to become profitable through the monetization of internet traffic, you should immediately start posting upskirt photos of female celebrities. In response to the proliferation of such photos, I have to ask: where do you go from here? It used to be that tabloids and gossip rags would sell copies by capturing a bit of thigh when the wind blew aside a starlet's dress, then it was taking photos of celebrities vacationing on faraway islands in bathing suits, which was one-upped by snapshotting their nipples (which, shockingly, look very much like regular people's nipples) slipping out of strapless dresses, and now we've finally arrived at sticking a flash camera between the legs of coked-up socialites as they step out of luxury automobiles. Simultaneously, body grooming has advanced to the point where it's marginally normal in society for men to do it, so many of these crotch-shots are unencumbered by any hair, clothing, or any other such concealment device, and thus become gynecological by nature.

So, let me ask again: now that we've reached a new low for paparazzi photography, where do we go from here?

I have the answer:

Sex tapes.

Not only do millions of people now have the privilege of knowing, topographically, what the nether region of dozens of celebrities are like, we can also (finally!) experience what it's like for them to have sex--what they look like, sound like, talk about, and how well-endowed their boyfriends are. I have a couple questions in response to this:

1) What did they think was going to happen when they taped it in the first place?
2) How did a post about the closing of a blog I used to write for arrive at expounding upon the sexual habits of celebrities?

Again, I have the answer: they're both about the proliferation of Digital Video.

And thus I know what would have stratospherically boosted DVguru's traffic numbers, and thus saved it from extinction: making it the authority (nay, guru) on celebrity sex tapes. Bring it back, AOL--if traffic is what you're looking for, we'll do you right.

Your Comment

4 Comments

Hey Ryan -- the decision to retire a blog is much more complicated than you are imagining. Many factors are considered and several teams are involved -- sales, editorial, finance, etc.. Believe me, it's not just glancing at Sitemeter! Nor is it just, "Hey, YouTube sold for $1.65B," or, "Om Malik is publishing in this space, so we should be too." A good decision for one organization can be a bad decision for another organization. We consider everything, and attempts to simplify substantial business decisions are usually ... well, too simple.

Anyway, cute post -- and good luck with your sex tapes venture :).

February 15, 2007

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You can thank Randall for posting the DVD Rewinder to Digg, I thought it was a rather cheesy story to go big with. nonetheless, the blogosphere thought otherwise.

Our traffic was certainly booming when they pulled the plug but I think they were forced to make a decision for the betterment of their bigger blogs. It's a shame they didn't keep us going past NAB, we could've really shined then.

I was really worried when Jason Calacanis wanted to see 1 million page views a month. It makes sense for a broad topic like gadgets and cars, but how many people are there in the world interested in Digital Video? I guess hyperniche markets aren't all they are cracked up to be.

February 16, 2007

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Nice post. It's good to get a little more information on the demise of our favorite blog. I think it goes to show (and looking at the weblogs Inc.'s "on hiatus/retired" blogs) you can see that these narrow market blogs must not generate enough revenue for a corporate giant. It's a shame as you can see that many of them have a lot of readers. I wonder if a savvy business person could start a string of these niche blogs and make the profitable. Or is that what Weblogs Inc. used to do? Hmmm....

February 19, 2007

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Fucking hilarious Ryan. How is the show coming?

March 5, 2007

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