Monday, January 15, 2007

Findory's sleepers

Greg Linden has decided to discontinue working on Findory, his one-man personalised news site. This is strange to me on a couple of fronts, and I will try to list them here without speaking ill of the deadpool, or of Greg who deserves nothing but congratulations on his hard work over the four years of the Findory project.

First, Greg announced just over a year ago that Findory was cashflow-positive. I don't know what Greg's balance sheet for the site looked like, but if Google's server farm numbers 500,000 and's contains 500 boxes as Rich Skrenta says, then I don't think Findory was anywhere near those orders of magnitude. At a guess, I'd say five boxes, max? I don't know. In any case, I don't think Greg's burn rate, given that he's only one dude, was anything more than a slow smoulder.

Second, Greg didn't mention anything about problems with revenue streams, but I'd hazard a guess that if that side of things was all roses and sunshine, he wouldn't have made this decision. Findory's revenue was (reportedly) based on a personalised advertising engine that Greg launched back in May 2005, originally based on Google AdSense but evidently shifting more towards Amazon affiliate ads over time. That sort of thing was necessary because Findory's front page is a dog's breakfast in terms of spidering - something I'm finding with the Tinfinger top-level "Human" category. When you have 10 different stories about 10 different topics on a page which change every 24 hours, the Google spiders don't know what to make of it, and they decide different things on different page loads about what that page is about. When I went to the Findory front page today the five AdSense links were all to spyware removers, for instance.

I found one comment on Greg's blog post interesting:

I really like Findory. In fact I have read 2,565 articles through findory so far.

Although I must admit I wondered about your monetization strategy

thanks very much for the service

As it is now, Findory's front page contains four Amazon affiliate ads (which are just shots of book covers) above the fold on the left edge, and then one wide skyscraper from AdSense towards the bottom left and another Amazon banner at the foot of the page. With all respect to Greg, that doesn't seem like a sound ad placement strategy. I know Greg is an ex-Amazonian, but Amazon ads don't merit that sort of prominence.

To me, Findory always seemed like a fabulous product that could have done with some better marketing. In some ways that's true of many News 2.0 sites: Kevin Burton, Matthew Chen, Gabe Rivera, myself, even Rich Skrenta are technologists first, second and third, and marketers about 17th behind all their other skills. For one-(or two-)person shops that can be a killer, and so it seems to have been with Greg. I wish him luck in whatever helse he puts his mind to in future - and the best of health too.


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