Twitter Slows, What Blippy Thinks It Knows

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , , , |

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.

Concentric Circles of Publishers

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  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.

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8 Responses to “Twitter Slows, What Blippy Thinks It Knows”

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Agreed that Blippy, Foursquare, etc. can be part of one’s microblogging voice or presence but cannot create another level of content publishing on their own. I would also add that the singular focus around a particular type of content is what will limit their independent growth of another concentric circle. Traditional publishing, blogs, and Twitter allow content creators to communicate with their audience about any topic which allows for a richness/variety that sustains engagement and conversation. In my opinion its only a matter of time before a stream of purchases alone loses its appeal. This is only a piece of a person’s voice and needs to be viewed as a part of the whole picture.

Agreed…so would you invest in any of these Platforms that support a singular focus?

Possibly. As you mentioned in your post, there are aspects of these companies that could potentially make them successful without becoming new “content publishing” methods. For example,I think the data Blippy will be collecting around purchases could be valuable. Also, I believe valuable communities can be built up around these platforms without requiring the levels of engagement or conversation that exist on blogs and micoblogs. Finally, while being acquired isn’t necessarily the best long term strategy for a startup to bank on, I see these services as adding significant value to the conversations and content publishing happening on Twitter so it wouldn’t suprise me at all if at some point there was a move to bring them all together under one roof.

What do you think?

Haven’t formed my opinion yet…I need to become a user of blippy before I make the call

i love your concentric circles. that’s exactly right.

there are two things that i think you are missing though

1) i believe the number of people who want to have public voices is increasing every day. it’s becoming a normal thing to do. i see a ton of my friends who looked at me like i was crazy six years ago say to me know – i want a blog

2) many social systems have a 10/1 ratio of consumers/creators. and in twitter, the search engines themselves are showcasing tweets. so the twitter ecosystem grows while twitterers don’t grow as fast

but i think your raising some great points in this post

I agree with both your points…but the pace of growth in the first point will not sustain the hockey stick that Twitter achieved when it opened up the flood gates to existent unrealized demand…that’s an argument for continued growth in the out years, but much flatter curve. Second point: I keep reading about “Twitter ecosystem,” but I haven’t really figures out how to value it…it sounds like your thinking about tweets in terms of impressions, and arguing that the potential impressions of this content are much greater than the number of users within the platform? Perhaps the subject of a longer conversation…

I think your first point is absolutely correct and, to Jordan’s comment in his post, Twitter has lowered the barrier to entry. I have always been a voracious consumer of blogs but never started my own. I have though always had the desire to further join the conversation happening online and Twitter has made that possible in such a unique and simple way. I think this desire to have a voice has hit its tipping point and now the more people that have a public voice, the more that other people want to join in. For me best thing about Twitter is that it makes the process of publishing your own voice so easy that everyone can now join in.

I also think Disqus is going a long way to further helping people create a public voice by creating a profile around comments. Again, people can now participate in the conversation and publish their views with very little effort. Perhaps blog comments organized through services like Disqus will create another concentric circle of publishers.

[…] social commitment of a user to engage in “share.”  As a result, it may not be that they are opening up a new concentric circle of users as publishing platforms have before them (i.e. what mirc…, but rather that they have expanded the addressable sharer base of content on what will be a […]

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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