Twitter Slows, What Blippy Thinks It Knows
Premise: Twitter’s fundamental innovation was a lowering of the effort required to establish a public voice.
So if you looked at the universe of public content creators, imagine a series of concentric circles, each representing an expansion in the volume of published voices.
The inner circle would represent traditional journalists and authors. It used to be the comittment and effort required to publish your voice was a dedication of your entire vocation to that effort. Blogging platforms like wordpress and blogger then came along and lowered the required commitment from a vocational dedication to simply creation of long format articles that mirrored the structure of professional content creation, but without the effort of establishing employment/partnership with a 3rd party publisher for distribution. That innovation increased the universe of content creators from XX professional writers (lets call it hundreds of thousands), to XX+YY writers+bloggers (I just read an estimate that in Feb 2006 (pre microblog explosion) there were an estimated 200M blogs in existence). The addressable market for blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger was constrained by the effort/time required by a user desiring a voice to consistently create long format (multi paragraph) content. At some point, their penetration reached a market of consumers who fundamentally desired a public voice, but who were not willing to put in the time and energy to maintain a blog. Then along comes Twitter and other mircroblogging platforms with an innovation that reduced the comittment required to have a voice from hours per week (on blogging platforms) to minutes per week. Twitter established the next concentric circle of publishers who desired a voice and were willing to put in a few minutes a week, but not a few hours per week, in order to maintain it and reach an audience.
Which brings us once again to the limits of Twitter’s addressable market, as defined by the population of people who may still desire a public voice, but who are not even willing to allocate the amount of effort/time that twitter requires in order to establish and maintain it. So Twitter’s addressable market of users in confined to the total number of people in the world who desire a public voice and the percentage of those people willing to put in the required active effort to maintain it (leaving aside the user who is only consuming content on the site but not creating it…which is a whole other discussion). I have no idea if the graph below is indicative of the company pushing up against those limits, or if there is some other explanation for the slowing in their growth curve, but I have no doubt that there are services on Twitter’s heels that seek to reach the next concentric circle of consumers desiring a voice, but who are too lazy even to actively engage in a microblogging platform.
One such service that seeks to reduce the active effort required to publish a “voice” is Blippy.com. Amongst the venture/startup world, I would say there is a lot of anticipation around blippy, which I believe many are incorrectly viewing as the platform which could create the next concentric circle of publishers by making a feed of content that is almost passively (read: zero active effort) broadcast to a user’s “reader base.” Once you sign up to Blippy, a feed of your purchases is published to followers. So the user does not have to actively put any ongoing effort into publishing content (not even writing 140 characters), so long as they let Blippy pull transaction level data from the creditcards, online accounts, etc…While that may be interesting to a body of readers in a similar way as to how ones tweets are interesting to followers, I would argue that a stream of purchase data is not a true “voice” and does not empower users on the publisher side to “speak to an audience,” which is the value that I think sustains blog and microblog platforms. So Blippy might look like a “micr0-micro blog” that would blow out another concentric publishing circle, but I don’t think that’s gonna be the case. Now, there may well be other forces that contribute to Blippy’s growth and allow it to become an interesting consumer service, not the least of which, is people’s general desire to communicate their consumption behavior (“i bought this expensive thing, and i want everyone to see that I did because it says something about my success and ability to spend”), but that type of value proposition does not seem to have the same potential scale as a true innovation in the race to give a wider universe of consumers a public voice. If anything, I’d guess that this type of passive data capture (also at the core of the burgeoning location based services market) will end up being a feature/input incorporated into true “voice providing platforms” like WordPress, Twitter, and whatever is after Twitter, as opposed to standalone replacements to the existent publishing platforms.