2018: Year In Review

It’s my freshman year for a hypothesis: hyperlocal journalism just needed to be approached from the right angle. True statement? All signs point to a resounding yes after launching countless content aggregators in various locations this year. But more on that on a different post. Here’s what I’ve learned in running my side project …

– A picture isn’t necessarily worth 1,000 words. Having stripped off everything but the title and lead from the aggregated content, people are still willing to peruse through dozens of headlines, irregardless of any imagery.

– News readers don’t want to be patronized. For each post on my network, readers are encouraged to rate each headline as “fair and balanced” or “false or misleading”. In a two-week A/B split test, I changed the wording to “boring” or “interesting”. All things remaining the same, the user interaction dropped by almost more than 20% when ratings came into play.

– Dot coms are still preferable over other domain extensions, but not why a whole lot. TLDs ending with .com are easy to remember, and they’re also much more expensive than their alternatives, but sometimes the other extensions can perform just as well. If I had to pick one, I’d always go with .com, but not at the heavy expense of having to dole out four-figure amounts.

Google Adsense sucks. Don’t get wrong here … if you’ve got millions of monthly readers visiting checking out your content online, then you can make a great living off of it. But trying to monetize a small crowd by plastering ads everywhere on the onset of your journey will most likely hurt your traffic instead.

Suppress your outliers. Throughout the first year of running my network, there were several times when traffic spiked enormously and the resulting traffic would’ve suggested a growth curve that was seemingly exponential. However, after several weeks when those numbers dropped, the growth looked more gradual and steady … and very boring.

I remember launching FolsomPress.com and thinking, “it’d be awesome if a fraction of the 80,000-plus people who lived here used the site.” After a few weeks of running some experiments on that site, I decided to go wide rather than deep and expanded to other cities, which eventually led to the 86,000+ users that have since used the site over the past year. Not a small feat but it also felt rather underwhelming, as well, because we’re not talking DAUs here … yet. So, off we go into 2019. Mahalo.