Or, What Josh Said About Ansearch That Was Irrelevant to Most Users.
Dean Jones responded to my Ansearch Answers post with the following:
All in all I feel [the post is] a fair representation of the so called facts, but I stand by my recent email… namely that simply reviewing us on technical issues that most people either
- wouldn’t have discovered, or;
- would not likely care about,
is selling your audience short.
I’m inclined to disagree, and just wanted to quickly post to say that. I like to think I understand the ‘audience’ here fairly well. They’re either people with (web-)geek tendencies, and are hence interested in any analysis and criticism I can deliver on the technical aspects of products, etc., or (and this category is completely unrelated to the former) students and humanities-focussed people reading various content I’ve published here — ranging from stage plots to a short story to an essay on the nature and effects of the digital divide.
Most guests in the latter category are just that: guests. They generally discover this content via a search engine, read what they want, and leave. Over 80% of my visitors stick around for one minute or less, presumably because they find what they need quickly, or discover that the content isn’t what they were looking for.
The “regular” audience/participants, however, are not that. I don’t think you’re all geeks, but this blog leans towards that style of content, and you match that accordingly. You don’t come here looking for product recommendations (the one exception to that being someone who viewed my post on Asterisk/VoIP, and asked me what my experiences with it had been some time later: to which I replied, we haven’t bothered, as we moved into a house with a Commander system preinstalled!). You come here, I think, for the quality of writing, for rants, for occasionally insightful (I hope) comment on various facets of things I deem interesting.
This is a blog. This is not a newspaper, though it is possible that search engines, ironically, are changing the clout of this medium to something similar. The distinction between newspaper and blog becomes blurred with posts like the one that inspired this, because of the form it was written in. It is important, however, to remember the audience.
People don’t come here to shop for search engines. We might be interested in how they work, what they do, what the potential benefits and failings of each one is, but ultimately it doesn’t affect anyone’s choice in the real world. Similarly, investors are unlikely to come here, scoping out Ansearch’s offering before buying into parent company Optum. And, if they did, my concluding remarks were positive — I genuinely believe the story balanced out in their favour more than anything else. If I overplayed the significance of a small flaw that could potentially be abused, my apologies. I don’t, however, regret including it in there at all, because I think it’s something my audience is interested in.
As you stated in an earlier email… “I’m not 100% sure as to how one should go about reviewing a search engine.” Here’s a tip. like Google, Yahoo, MSN… we are a business. For us to stay in business we need to generate revenue.
To do this we need to get more people to our SE, to get them to come back more often, and to, through their usage (CPM, CPC etc…) generate revenue.
To achieve this we need to provide a search service that the user finds useful. Given our rapid growth over the past months in UV’s and revenue, I would say we are doing OK.
Unfortunately for Ansearch and anyone else who wants to use this as an advertising space, we don’t particularly care if you’re making money. It’s good to hear they’ve grown: if their evolving product is anything to go by, they deserve it. But metrics such as revenue and Unique Visitors mean little to this audience, even if it’s what investors want to find out all about.
I think this is a fair assessment of this site’s ‘audience’ (the important ‘audience’, for me, being the minority that don’t come through search engines, subscribe by RSS, and come back regularly) — though, as always, your role is not restricted to that. You are participants. In light of this, I’d invite comment and discussion on this post as to your role as you understand it. It’s possible I’ve got this all wrong… but I doubt it.