Episode 02: Search Intent vs. Social Serendipity

“The war for people’s time”

Sachin and Andrew talk about optimism for digital subscription models, implications of the DNAinfo and Gothamist shut down, and how four big tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) have changed the web. They dig further into how we find content on Facebook and Google, decoding data behind the traffic duopoly and comparing social serendipity vs. search intent. They wrap up with +1/-1 quick takes on Twitter’s growth trajectory, 280 character tweets, and “Medium 3.0.”

Industry news that caught our attention:

01:04 – There may be a bigger digital subscriber market than we think, drawing on research presented by Activate co-founder Michael Wolf.

04:40 – Issues of impermanence on the web and who owns the media, in the context of the DNAinfo and Gothamist shut down.

07:58 – How the rise of the four big tech companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook) changed the source of traffic to websites, and whether “the web began dying in 2014.”

The data that held our attention:

09:30 – Facebook and Google were able to rise to positions of influence in how people find content by owning two key modes of finding information, serendipity and intent, and creating daily habits.

13:55 – Facebook’s fast rise as a traffic driver for the web: a boon for publishers or a cause for fear?

16:49 – What makes Facebook’s “serendipity engine” work?

19:44 – How referral traffic from Facebook and Google to news content differs by topic. For example, people searched for news about the solar eclipse in the U.S. but found political news on Facebook.

“A lot of people, instead of just searching for that stuff, were actually talking about it on Facebook—this is who I identify with, here is how I feel about these policies, here’s what I don’t like about this candidate, here’s what I like about this candidate. And just by the fact that you’re sharing that stuff, that content—you’re commenting on it, you’re liking it—that actually is creating the feedback loop to Facebook to say this is what I’m going to engage with, therefore show me more of this stuff. That’s exactly what we saw with presidential election politics. About 60% of the referrals across the Parse.ly network were from Facebook.”

—Sachin Kamdar

23:50 – How the duopoly factors into conversations on the political stage about platform control and net neutrality. (If you’d like to support net neutrality, here’s a resource to call your congress person.)

28:57 – Why it seems like platforms want to be treated like telecom companies, but not media companies.

+1 or -1? Quick takes:

30:58 – Twitter’s growth trajectory

33:49 – 280 character tweets

35:27 – Medium 3.0

Show notes:

This episode was recorded on November 13, 2017.