December 2015 was a record month for Ben and me, in terms of page views on Silicon Spatula. We leveraged Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, word-of-mouth, and sympathy clicks from our parents to grow our monthly hits from just a few dozen a month to something much larger. However, as I’ve written, metrics remove, to a certain extent, some of the organic enjoyment of an activity, whether it be running, writing, listening to podcasts or steaming music. Metrics also don’t tell the full story.
Julia Greenberg wrote an article in WIRED yesterday on how the click metric needs to end. She observes:
Along with its corrupting effects, the page view itself has been corrupted. It’s easy to fake (see the gallery above). Advertisers get that counting each click on an endless slideshow as a page view doesn’t equal a multiple of genuine interest over the initial click that brought a reader to the page. It’s low-quality “engagement”—the Internet equivalent of flipping through channels.
Web advertising is at a crossroads on several different platforms. Search ads are less relevant than they used to be, since so much of Internet usage has shifted to mobile, where consumers leverage sandboxed apps, rather than a search bar.
Producers in the burgeoning podcast industry are also in search of an effective means of monetizing their content. It’s hard to track user data in the way the Netflix does, since podcast apps are basically MP3 players with the ability to curate or download content, and no ability to track user engagement, fast-forwarding, etc.
The Internet has lowered barriers to entry – anyone with an iPhone is a producer now, and there are no barriers to distribution – and so advertising is much less meaningful than it was in, say, 2015. Perhaps the solution for content producers, podcasters, and perhaps, one day, Silicon Spatula, is to take the subscription path. (Ben Thompson’s wonderful blog Stratechery is a great example of this). It’s a more expensive proposition for consumers, but it will keep better content on the web, and remove the impetus for certain content producers to merely produce click bait.