MNSpeak > Secrets of the City Transition

Andrew Zimmern, Bill Roehl, and peeps on SoTC (formerly MNSpeak) have weighed in on what they think of the new site. Time to jump on the bandwagon!

I haven’t given this much thought since the transition, but I did manage to dig up some stats that may say something about the transition.

Bill mentions that he typically received around 100 visits each time he was linked up on MNSpeak, but less since the transition. Here is a chart of MNSpeak referrals by day over the past year to TheDeets.com that shows a similar pattern:

MNSpeak Referrals by Day

The number of visitors tends to be a bit higher on posts that become highly conversational. The spike from a link seems to be down a bit. A few hunches on why this is the case:

1. MNSpeak’s traffic is down.

MNSpeak & TheDeets

2. More people have subscribed to TheDeets.com through RSS readers like Google Reader over the past year, so they’ve already seen the post by the time it ends up on MNSpeak.

3. Some people have decided that they can’t handle The Deets.

I get the impression that MNSpeak lives and dies by its comment volume since conversational posts greatly increase the number of page views per visitor and with that, ad impressions. I tallied up the comments per month on MNSpeak going back to November 2007 and came up with this. (Nov 2008 is projected based on averaging out the month’s daily traffic to 30-days):

MNSpeak Comments By Month

Comments are definitely down.

What’s changed? Here are my hunches:

1. RSS Readers: More people are reading content through RSS readers than a year ago, so people are less dependent on aggregators to learn about what’s going on around town.

2. Mandatory Registration: Kills 1-off comments and snark that drives conversations. Discourages new commenters.

3. Killing Comments Subscriptions: People forget to come back to view responses, or do so at a slower rate, killing the pace of conversations. Personally, I’m reluctant to comment on sites where I can’t subscribe to follow-ups. Comments are as much about the reactions as the contribution on a conversational platform like MNSpeak. Killing comments subscriptions kills the conversation.

That’s what I’m seeing.

As far as peeves with the new site go, my biggest would be the change to linking to commenter’s profiles rather than their websites. I’m not interested in viewing profile pages. But I am interested in figuring out who is associated with what website. Previously, that was a great way to discover new sites around town. Now it’s not.

10 thoughts on “MNSpeak > Secrets of the City Transition”

  1. Ditto on the profile link. I’m sad to say that I’m too lazy to click over to the profile to see the person’s website.

    When I started reading MNSpeak and commenting heavily, I was working nights. I had time during the day to comment. Now I work days, I’m busy, and I’m there less often.

    I think the new site is fine, I have no strong reaction to it, although perhaps there’s a little too much content right now. It’s hard to focus the attention on one conversation when there are so many posts going up in a day.

    And google reader has me going directly to people’s sites to comment, rather than spending a ton of time on MNSpeak commenting. That’s been a big shift for me over the past year.

  2. I think you might see those traffic drops across thr board on time wasting sites…oh wait I mean conversational sites. People are scared they don’t want their boss to catch them loafing.

  3. I think #2 is a big factor. MN Speak/SoTC doesn’t really link to a lot of different sites, and you see a lot of repeat sites featured. By the sixth-seventh time you see The Deets or Lazy Lightning or Metroblogging readers have either subscribed to the RSS if they like the site (and therefore get the content before MN Speak links to it) or they have dismissed the site as not their thing and don’t click through.

  4. I agree with the point about profile pages vs. website/blog links of commenters on SOtC. I am not leaning heavily towards loving or hating SOtC but any change takes time to get used to. With a few tweaks, SOtC could build the former Rake Mag’s readership because once on a website, at least a few readers will click around. It sucks to see the MNSpeak brand gone but as far as a business decision it will likely make sense.

  5. It’s the name. “MNSPeak” is a good name. “Secrets of the City” is just awful as a name. And it doesn’t speak to what they do. It’s not a secrets website. It was an aggregation website with interesting stories about minnesota and the sad, sad stories of an ever drunker Wisconsin.
    I know I go there much less just because everytime I see “Secrets of the City” I think “What kind of aspirational garbage is this?”

  6. Another thought about the horrible “Secrets of the City name”– what city? What kind of secrets?
    It’s so generic. There’s nothing to connect it to minneapolis, st paul or even a city in Minnesota. And, do they mean Minneapolis or ST Paul? Which city? No one on the cool side of the river considers themselves part of that other city. and only suburbanites say Twin Cities so, no, “Secrets of the Cities” won’t work either.

    I , as you can tell, hate the name. It ranks up there with the Minnesota Wild. The wild what?

  7. You have a few good points, Ed.

    Here’s what we’re working on:
    – Bringing back email subscriptions of comment threads. (We just started working on it today after we saw your post, so it might be a few days.)
    – Linking to users’ URLs in addition to their profiles. In fact, we might eventually go a step further with CommentLuv (http://drupal.org/project/commentluv). It automatically pulls the last post from your RSS feed and links to it.
    – Bring back post/comment archive

    Your point about increased use of RSS readers is probably accurate. The best thing we can do to maintain our usefulness is to offer more context within our posts. Instead of just linking to an article and offering a brief quote, we need to do a better job of adding links from related sources so that posts give readers a better sense of what the local interwebs are saying about a topic.

    As for the name/design change… keep in mind that we had a big Rake constituency to think about, too (twice as big as MNSpeak’s, in fact).

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