Techmeme: We are the 1%

Gabe Rivera, the creator of, has an interesting post over on the Techmeme blog today.  In it, he talks about why Techmeme links to them instead of you.  It’s interesting for two reasons.  The first is that most of the tips he gives for showing up on Techmeme are sound journalistic tips that anyone writing news articles on any subject would be wise to follow.  The second reason that it’s interesting is because it reveals a new depth of behind-the-scenes at Techmeme that hasn’t been very publicly acknowledged before.  In particular, this bit jumped out at me:

How can you improve discoverability? First, encourage tech blogs to link to your post, particularly the tech blogs Techmeme frequently links to.

There are some other bits, and, like I said, they are valuable too.  But, let me pick at this one for a bit.  I once claimed that this site had been included in a Techmeme blacklist.  Gabe, himself, stopped by and left a comment claiming that one doesn’t exist.  Do I still feel that way?  Yes and no.  I’m not as convinced that one does exist as I was before.  But, based on that tidbit from Gabe’s post today, I’m left wondering if it isn’t actually a blacklist that is the issue, but an overly weighted whitelist.  Of course, I won’t rule out a bit of both.

But, let’s play with the idea of an over-weighted whitelist for a minute.  Techmeme has a list of sites that it frequently links to.  Some, deservedly so.  Sites like TechCrunch are leaders in the tech news industry and as such, they often break exclusive news.  So, yes, if I were Gabe, they’d be on a list of constantly crawled sites.  There are others that I would include as well.  But, if that list is weighted a bit too heavily, it’s entirely possible that those sites would get first shot at the headline, based on the algorithm alone.

IMG_6321 © by michaelarrington

If a smaller tech site broke the news, and had an equally good headline, equally good content, and, overall, matched or bested the TechCrunch article on the same subject, TechCrunch would get the headline on Techmeme.  And, despite claims otherwise, I sincerely doubt Techmeme’s editors would attempt to override that.  Why would they?  They have a relationship with TechCrunch.  It’s not a paid relationship, but, similar to any relationship that two businesses have that regularly work together.  Some might call it a crony relationship.  And, when you have one of those relationships, you are going to naturally favor the other business in that relationship.

For those of us who don’t have that relationship with Techmeme or TechCrunch, it looks a lot like a Gatekeeper sort of scenario.

Occupy Wall Street might call them the 1% of tech blogging.

Now that I’ve railed on that a while, I think it’s important to take note of some of the tips that Gabe gives out.  Because, when it boils down to it, if you can get past the gatekeeper scenario, the rest of the information is really pretty solid advice.

To appear on Techmeme, do this:

– Break a major story.
– Report/summarize/write up a big, developing story. Be early, or better: first (mindful that this doesn’t trump other considerations).

– Got a press release or non-exclusive briefing? Write the very best take. Highlight what’s important, what’s fascinating. Be lucid and critical.
– Make sure your headline is clear and contains all major details (proper names, dollar amounts, dates, etc.) If you’re posting on Google+, make sure the first line of your post functions as a headline.
– Link generously to stories on other sites to establish context and cite sources. Sometimes including a Techmeme permalink is the best way to do this. (Self-serving but true!)
– Articulate something lots of people are thinking, but not putting into words.
– Write the kind of story an Apple or Google exec would share with their fellow execs.
– Write the kind of story people will talk about at an industry cocktail party.
– Write the killer analysis piece that tech pundits can’t help but to link to. Yes, be a “thought leader”. If your post is linked enough, the automation behind Techmeme will notice and attempt to surface it.

– Tip Techmeme on Twitter. (Include “Tip @Techmeme” when you tweet your link.)
– Summarize a major story that’s behind a paywall. Techmeme rarely features paywalled stories, but may link to you. Link prominently to the source story, of course.
– Say what you’re going to say early in your post. The reader wants to know soon whether there’s a payoff to reading, not 8 paragraphs in.
– Include relevant images, videos, or figures in your post.
– Time some analytical pieces for weekends and other slow times when they’re easier for Techmeme to discover.

Some of that is somewhat obvious.  Breaking a major story is obviously going to help you out.  But, the key takeaway is that you’ve got to have a spectacular headline.  You’ve got to have a well written article.  You’ve got to cite sources when you can, and bring in the conversation by linking to relevant information.  In short, be damn good at what you do.  Don’t put up shit and expect that you’ll hit the top of the list.  Leave that to the gossip column writers.