Saturday, October 21, 2006

Findory Q3 2006 traffic

Findory's Q3 traffic numbers are in. The good news is, after a dip, there is a modest increase from the previous quarter. The bad news is that, after exponential growth for two years, Findory's traffic now appears to be flat.

The flat traffic almost certainly is due to lack of resources. Findory remains a self-funded, small startup. That provides a lot of flexibility, but limits the company's ability to address larger projects.

In particular, Findory has not had the resources to address big opportunities such as international expansion, licensing deals, personalized web search, improving our feed reader and customization options, or creating a behavioral advertising network using Findory's personalization.

Findory also has lacked capital for traditional marketing; our advertising budget is not perceivably different than zero. This has limited Findory's ability to reach out to the mainstream audience it seeks.

It is a challenging question what to do next. Growth clearly requires additional funding for Findory. But, those additional resources create some opportunities and come with constraints that limit others. The company is at a choice point that requires some careful thought.

By the way, I have received some advice to stop posting these traffic numbers since they now may be viewed negatively. While I agree that is a concern, I think that it is best to be transparent with this kind of data. I will continue posting Findory's traffic stats every quarter.

See also my previous posts ([1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]) about Findory's traffic over the last several quarters.


Big V said...

Hi Greg,

I have been using Findory for a while, but still have no loyalty to it. My problem with Findory is that i fear i will miss out on the most important news (say the Hawaii earthquake a few days back)just because i tend to reach tech news and Findory thinks i am techie and only care about google or apple. I don't know if Findory balances my personal interests with what's most popular in general, it well might be, but the heavy personalization claims makes me believe otherwise.

Here's another idea, in addition to the expansion opportunities you mention. The only reason i read news on the internet and not on a news paper is because i hate carrying 100 pages of ads. Why doesn't Findory send me one personalized page every morning, ideally by mail to my home, or i will be willing to print it as well, and read it on my way to work. If the quality of news is good, i will pay for it as well

Anonymous said...

That is how I use Findory - I get an HTML email every morning, click on stories that seem interesting, read the stories, and delete that email.

See my use above. I like what Findory sends me, but I contribute 0 to traffic. Do you also measure the number of these emails? Maybe that is how people are using Findory's service.

Time for a "What should Findory do next?" post?

Anonymous said...

The problem I see with continuing to grow at a fast pace is that there is a very small set of people that are willing to invest the effort required to see any benefit from personalization. The effort may not seem high - simply to use findory rather than google/yahoo/whatever they're used to, but the cost of consciously thinking to go to Findory is actually pretty high. The other problem is that there is no zero-day benefit from personalization - it takes time for the system to figure out just what kind of a person the user is.

There are two ways to overcome these problems. Well, certainly more than that, but two that come to mind immediately...

The first is to lower the effort. That's hard, because it's already so low that a technical solution probably won't help. Instead you need to address it from a business perspective, which is much, much harder. For example, if was the default search engine in IE and/or FireFox, then the effort required for someone to use it would be much lower. Unfortunately, becoming the default search engine is a very hard business problem to solve (and the technical solutions that jump to mind are illegal, unethical, etc). Another approach would be to become the embedded search engine for something that people are already using for another purpose - a popular website, application, etc. Depending on the popularity this is also a difficult business problem, but it isn't so binary - there are lots of potential partnerships, with some small ones probably quite easy and some big ones nigh-impossible.

The other approach would be to accelerate / accentuate the benefit. The biggest problem I see with personalization in general, and in particular, is that the user doesn't see any benefit right away, and the benefit is never very obvious.

So, on the "accelerate" front, one random idea is to ask the user for some "salt" data - demographics, rate a couple of representative sites, etc. Then you could start personalizing right away. This increases the effort required to use the solution, of course, but nothing is free...

On the "accentuate" side, another random idea is to somehow show how the personalized results are different from generic results - perhaps an icon showing that a given result was promoted due to the user's past history or something like that.

Anyway, enough mad ramblings.


Greg Linden said...

Good point, Kevin. The benefit may be too subtle.

Though Findory learns very quickly, it still requires someone to click at least one article, then come back to Findory to see any benefit and more like 4-5 articles before seeing substantial benefit.

And, though Findory marks recommended articles (with a little sunburst icon by the title), that is not obvious and easily overlooked. The intent there was to be quiet about the recommendations to not get in the way of reading news, but it might be a little too quiet.

Thanks for your thoughts, Kevin.

Anonymous said...

Not being the default search engine in a browser may be hard to achieve, but its certainly easier if the site supports the OpenSearch standard IE7 and now Firefox supports.

When that feature came out I desperately got all my sites configured to make the built-in browser search glow, and I expected every major site I visited to do likewise. I've been amazed at the apparent lack of interest.