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 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 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.

Baconalia 2008 – Triple Rock Edition

When Teucer announced plans for a bacon themed MNSpeak meet-up, I knew I’d have to hit that scene. We met at the Triple Rock and bacon was consumed.

Teucer, DouglasG, Bob from ALAMN, mnblrmkr, bubbles, taulpaul, and The Freets showed up.

Ham, Bacon, and Sausage

Teucer with Bacon

edkohler with Bacon, Ham and Sausage

DouglasG and JustBob

mnblrmkr with Breakfast

Rather than holding one Baconalia, teucer organized both a mid-day and evening meet-up. I was only able to hit the first, but did manage to eat some bacon wrapped meatloaf at the Happy Gnome later in the day.

Good times. Although I think I’m going to need a bacon break for a while.

Update: alicat has a report and lots of photos from the Manny’s scene

How to Maximize Traffic from a MNSpeak Link

My previous post covered how to get a story you wrote linked to from MNSpeak. This post looks at how to maximize the amount of traffic you’ll receive from that link through a combination of timing and engagement.

As I mentioned before, getting linked early in the day is key to getting a lot of traffic. Here’s my theory on how to pull that off.

1. Follow the 10 steps listed in the previous post.

2. Post between 7-10pm. Why? Because Max will probably see your post that night when he’s looking for Local Blogging links for the next day. Some blogging platforms like WordPress allow you to schedule posts so that could help you hit the sweet spot for post times.

3. Post them between Sunday and Wednesday – For timeless posts (non-news breaking stuff) this is when you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck.

4. Post news fast. It’s news, right? For timely posts such as news, get them up as fast as you can.

5. Join the conversation on MNSpeak. No matter what you’re written about, some people will love it, some will hate it, and some will hate you personally. Joining the conversation on MNSpeak helps keep the conversation going, which leads to more comments, which leads to more people taking an interest in the thread and clicking on your linked story. 85% of the traffic The Deets receives from MNSpeak comes from the homepage rather than links from individual post pages. People click on stories that appear to be interesting then return to MNSpeak to discuss the topic.

Top-10 Secrets to Getting Linked from MNSpeak

The Deets has been lucky enough to get linked to from MNSpeak quite a bit lately. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where a few commenters on MNSpeak have asked “WTF is up with The Deets getting linked all the time?”

Is it a conspiracy? Absolutely not. I have met Max a few times, but I haven’t slipped him a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 in order to lubricate his linking.

Does MNSpeak Drive Traffic?

Before getting into the tricks, let’s address the question of whether it’s actually valuable to appear on MNSpeak. The answer to this question is most likely a resounding “Yes” for most Minnesota based bloggers. Why? Because the site drives a lot of traffic. And some of that traffic will likely turn into regular readers of your site if they like what they see.

How much traffic?

Generally, I see between 100-300 visitors per linked story from MNSpeak. Is this significant? It’s the most traffic from any one link to The Deets from a Minnesota based site. MNSpeak is #1, beating the StarTribune, Pioneer Press, MinnPost, DailyMole, other MN newspapers, magazines, and every TV station’s website.

MNSpeak has driven 1392 visitors to The Deets in the past 30 days.

Traffic Varies

In my experience, a number of factors come into play here. The most valuable traffic comes from being a featured story published earlier in the week and early in the day. Monday through Wednesday before noon is ideal. I believe that’s because people are more likely to be at work, bored, and in a clicking mood.

Another traffic factor is the comment count. Stories with higher comment counts seem to drive more click throughs to see what everyone’s arguing about. Getting linked to early in the day increases the chances that there will be an active conversation in the comments thread below your link, leading to more traffic to your site.

Linking Secrets Revealed

Max Sparber Reading1. Get into the mind of Max. While anyone can submit a story to MNSpeak, Max is responsible for the majority of the linking. So think about what he’s looking for in a story.

2. Read the manual. It’s pretty clear what Max is looking for. Just read the submission tips. Posts about things you’ve done or plan to do in Minnesota or the Twin Cities are a MNSpeak fodder. I run a news aggregator at that allows me to scan through 2000 blogs and news sites per day and let me tell you this: based on what I see, Max has to work pretty hard to find a handful of blogs to link to every day that meet the site’s criteria. Just look at the crap people submit. This is what people submit AFTER skimming over the instructions. How sad is that?

3. Be original. Write a review of a new restaurant. Do an expose on where you can find the best cornbread in town. Compare and contrast Eden Prairie’s TGI Friday’s with Maple Grove’s TGI Friday’s. Provide something of value, or fuel people’s desire to bitch about stuff.

4. Create an issue micro blog. Have a local cause that interests you? Create a specific blog just for that. Jucy Lucy Restaurants and Shoefiti were both linked to shortly after they launched just because they exist.

5. Avoid Politics. This is covered in the submission guidelines, but I can’t stress it enough. I write about politics from time to time on The Deets because it’s a subject that interests me, but I would never expect those posts to get linked on MNSpeak. Unless you write a political blog and do original reporting, there is little chance you’ll get linked to from the occasional political threads. Sports is a tricky subject as well. You’ll have better luck if you write a Minnesota perspective on an obscure sport than your personal take on last night’s Twolves game.

6. Take Pictures. A story with a picture has a much better chance of being linked to. In fact, a good picture by itself is enough to warrant a link.

7. Foster Media insider BS. The MNSpeak crowd tends to enjoy discussing the latest changes at local media sites. This could involve announcements about the launch of new media sites (MinnPost, DailyMole), commentary on the latest layoffs at the StarTribune, or fanboy/girl posts about your favorite TV personality (Derusha beat Sven in pool at the media gala afterparty WITH PICTURES!!!)

8. Stroke Rivalries. Think Blake is better than Breck? Think SPA is better than both? Write it down and explain it with some humor. Take a few jabs. That will get people talking.

9. Absurdity. Find something crazy that’s relevant to Minnesota on Ebay or Craigslist? Write about it.

10. Get Read. Before you can get linked, you need to get read. How do you get Max to read your blog? Beats me, but I think a safe assumption is to comment occasionally on MNSpeak with your blog linked from your profile. Max will pick it up and add it to his RSS reader, assuming he sees posts on your blog that seem like a potential good fit for the site.

That’s my take on things based on my own experience. The most important takeaway from my perspective is, “Tell me something I don’t already know.” That’s what I’m interested in reading about. I think that’s well aligned with what makes MNSpeak a popular site. People like to learn about new things and immediately start bitching about them.

Edina Housewife Poetry

A woman on MNSpeak went on a rant about how strange Minnesotans were earlier today (er, yesterday, and referred to Minnesotans at MNans), and included a rip on Edina housewives where she wondered:

3. Why Edina housewives talk so loudly? (Before you bristle, give this one a chance. they truly scream when they speak.);

Among the 265 and counting responses was an anonymous (but apparently knowledgeable) response stating:

I don’t know about their talking volume, and I don’t mean to generalize… but Edina housewives are, IMHO, the loudest screamers.
»» Submitted by MILF LOVER at 9:05 AM on July 5

This led to the formation of a new thread inspired by MILF LOVER to form a new local drink called The Edina Screamer.

Which led to the creation of this poem: – Nightshift: MnSpeak cocktail

“The Edina”

One shot tequila
One shot rum

pat her on the bum

some grapefruit juice
and seven up

mix it in a plastic cup

with ice
tell her she’s real nice

tell her you like her hair
tell her she’s light as air

get a sitter for the night
and turn off the lights

»» Submitted by sheila at 10:12 PM on July 5

I think the MNSpeak Happy Hour on Monday has brought the community closer together while further isolating Edina housewives.