What’s the value of Stumbleupon?

stumbleupon2A new online friend, Dave Atkins, asked recently what the value of Stumblupon was. “Who has time to randomly browse web for interesting things?” I’ve been thinking of that too. After all, there are dozens of social bookmarks or social news submission networks around the Web. You can see the best — or at least the most popular — over at popurls.com. Digg, delicious, Reddit, Yahoo! Buzz, Truemors, Newsvine, Metafilter, Slashdot — all the usual suspects plus many of the world’s top blogs and newspapers.

When I saw what Marshall Kirkpatrick had written StumbleUpon Hits 7 Million Users, Quietly 50% Bigger Than Twitter” at ReadWriteWeb, however, clarity of utility of the service came quickly. Here’s how he put it:

What’s got a button to push, knows how to make money while changing the world and is read all over? StumbleUpon! The social discovery network [is] like Pandora for webpages and videos.”

Needless to say, that got my attention. Twitter’s business model is one of the great speculative exercises of our time — well, at least in the hothouse garden of the social media world. Mark D. Drapeau‘s thoughts on Twitter’s vision offer considerable insight concerning the possibilities for the popular microblogging service. As Marshall notes, however, Stumbleupon has several things going for it that Twitter does not quite enjoy, at least to date.

  1. Stumbleupon has its own Firefox plugin and Toolbar. While there are many addons that allow you to add a Twitter bookmarklet to your browser, to date Twitter does not provide one itself. Small potatoes compared to the next three.
  2. Stumble upon is a social discovery service. As Marshall wrote, it’s ‘like Pandora for websites and videos.” This resonates with me on a fundamental level. I’ve chosen who I follow on Twitter carefully; my network brings me news I care about constantly, especially when I ask questions about specific subjects. Stumbleupon, however, adds an algorithm and 7 million other clickers to the challenge of finding more content for me. That’s incredibly powerful. I adore Pandora — and my stations continue to get better at tuning music to my interests. So if the parallel holds true, there’s every reason to keep “stumbling” while I “tweet” away.
  3. Stumbleupon is profitable. According to Marshall, “Advertisers pay a few pennies to have their pages inserted into the Stumble streams of relevant users and those ads are silently voted on just like any other page. Silicon Alley Insider estimates the company was making $10 million each year as of this Fall.” If Twitter monetizes the realtime search at search.twitter.com, maybe they’ll get there too.
  4. Stumbleupon delivers massive amounts of traffic. I can vouch for that. When tweeted about my last post, Online J.R.R.Tolkien Translators and Font Converters, I earned a few dozen clicks and a retweet or two from friends like Shava. When one of those people Stumbled the post, however, I immediately began receiving a river of visitors to the blog (relative to normal traffic, anyway).

In sum, that’s all powerful. And it’s all occurred without much notice. So here’s my answer to Dave’s question: Stumbleupon has some power when one person uses it to bookmark sites and explore the Web that way. Like delicious or Twitter, however, the service shines when all of those clicks are analyzed and used to rate content on the Web. We’re all deluged with increasing amounts of information online; the websites that matter to me are the ones that help me make sense of it all. I haven’t been using Stumbleupon at all in 2009. I suspect Marshall’s post may change that. Who knows? Maybe I’ll stumble across you. You can find digiphile on Stumbleupon here.

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5 Comments

Filed under blogging, personal, social bookmarking, Twitter

5 responses to “What’s the value of Stumbleupon?

  1. Yes, Sumbleupon is great. I received 192 visits on a page that was only getting 1 visit every month.

    Since I went to your blog why don’t you go to mine :D

    http://nerd10101.wordpress.com/

  2. This is a really nice post that’ll get me to pay more attention to StumbleUpon, thanks. Great contrast between my article on Twitter’s vision and the other writing on social bookmarking. My gut tells me that Twitter as a company is very vulnerable, as they can get outflanked a number of different ways. This is one.

  3. Hmmm. I will continue to play the skeptic here. I don’t doubt that people are using it…so I don’t dispute that it is valuable. I’m just trying to understand why. I don’t care to find interesting websites. I am searching for information. I go to google and type in a question and search for the answer. I am very precise in my searches until I find what I am looking for. I don’t bookmark sites, I bookmark pages and I don’t assume anything else on that site is relevant to me.

    I guess that makes me sound like a “tool” but I have not “browsed” the web in years. I see it all as one flat sea of information with google as the home page. I do use delicious to bookmark pages, but I don’t use the tags; again it is more efficient to just google things. Most bookmarks aren’t useful to me after a week or so anyway; it easier to just research again and possible find better information.

  4. digiphile

    Thanks, Mark. And Dave, the social media world needs more skeptics.

    Your view of the Web as a horizontal sea of information is informative and very much inline with the database engineer’s perspective. If it’s always out there, you simply have to remember the string the provided you with the desired output. Of course, we’re not all possessed with your precision recall, so other tools are handy. We’re all exploring and gathering information in our own ways; if your method allows you to efficiently find data and recover it at will, you’re doing better than most.

    With respect to the use of StumbleUpon, I find it attractive for exactly the reasons I enjoy Pandora: it brings me more of what I like, improving over time. I’ve found many great resources, marvelous images and informative videos I suspect I might never have found that way. In that way, we differ: I’ve been exploring the Internet since I first gained access to a BBS and the Web after I installed Mosaic. I don’t enjoy the leisure time of a student to simply surf as much any more, sadly. StumbleUpon restores the satisfaction of finding marvelous things online without the oceans of dreck separating the gems.

  5. Hi
    The Stumbleupon thingy is new to me, but I have find that its really a cool tool.

    I’m on a search for more tips & tricks
    Let me know if you got some more.

    Thanks for links and explanation.
    And for the post too.
    Definitely learned something new today ;)

    Amit

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