The week isn’t over yet, but traffic stats so far on this blog look like it will be the busiest week in around six months. The driver is the recent article I wrote for Tnooz, as whilst I’m impressed when I crack over 100 page views in a day here (as I did yesterday and the day before), what is more interesting is to try and understand some of the dynamics behind this. As I indicated yesterday, this activity has already had me reflecting a bit on how Twitter and email are used by readers. From the early days here I’ve swum against the tide on Twitter, but I’ll come at it from a slightly different angle today, and then give it a rest.

Take a look at the chart below from Gawker and then the commentary in quotes below from Silicon Alley Insider

Why is the Gawker data important? Because, collectively, Gawker Media is a mass-market network of sites. So its traffic provides a good snapshot of what the mass market is doing. Now, if you looked at a similar chart of SAI’s Twitter-referrals, you would see enormous growth over the past year. But this is because SAI is mainly read by the tech community. If you looked at the broader Business Insider traffic, meanwhile, what you would see is this:

  • Stories that appeal to the tech community go bananas on Twitter–and barely register on Facebook
  • Stories that appeal to the mass market do much better on Facebook than they do on Twitter.
  • Stories aimed at our Wall Street and finance readers have enormous readership–but much lower Twitter referrals than our tech stories do.

Our own experience, in other words, suggests that Twitter is still mainly a tech phenomenon, albeit a profoundly powerful one, while Facebook has totally gone mainstream.

But in case you didn’t see it, earlier this week Twitter raised $200 million at a valuation of $3.7 billion! And also this week I read an interesting piece on how Twitter’s US growth has stalled and it is foreign numbers that are keeping it as a growth story. So how does this tie into the The Shearwater Blog traffic numbers?

Firstly, I’m still working off the assumption that about 150 people read each blog post here, and that the people who read my typically more detailed thought leadership pieces on Tnooz amount to many times that number. But the pattern of where these readers come from tells a similar story to the quote above. In the three days from the day Five emerging trends around convergence in online travel was published, here is what I saw on this site.

  1. 116 page views, 39 redirects from Tnooz, about 65 tweets, no clicks on new subscriber button
  2. 127 page views, 47 redirects from Tnooz, about 6 tweets, 4 clicks on new subscriber button
  3. 87 page views, 18 redirects from Tnooz, maybe 1 or 2 tweets, 4 clicks on new subscriber button

Here is my guess on what those numbers mean. The readership of Tnooz is very wide whereas the logo of this site makes it abundantly clear that it is aimed only at people interested in airlines and only those working with direct sales. The truth is I write about a wide range of topics, but I try to keep it focused most of the time as I know that I don’t have the time (or talent!) to write credibly on the entire online travel technology landscape – so I stick to what I know and enjoy.

But when I write for Tnooz I try to avoid making it too airline specific as their audience would find this a turn-off. So people tweeting (see screenshot) are almost exclusively non-airline people. But what seems to happen is people read and enjoy that article and subsequently come here looking for more and unfortunately leave disappointed when they see it is all airline stuff – so none subscribe.

By Day 2 the article has dropped off the Tnooz from page, so I suspect they are getting much fewer readers than on day 1. On the other hand, it looks like we are seeing email and the airline crowd take over from Twitter and the more general online travel universe. The traffic to this site is higher, and the subscriptions start to pick up as what seems to be occurring is one of two things (actually, probably both). People read the Tnooz article and forward it to a colleague via email, or people in the airline industry who came to this site via Tnooz then forward The Shearwater Blog via email to a friend or colleague working with direct sales who may not have known beforehand that I write on this topic.

By day 3, the article on Tnooz would be so far down the list on their site that it is probably only getting views via search engine traffic and some people just seeing the old tweets and emails, but I still had a surprisingly high number of people click on the subscribe button. Given I’ve got just under 100 subscribers to this site, four in a day is huge. So by day three I am seeing extremely targeted traffic coming here, but Twitter by this point is virtually silent.

In conclusion, Twitter was great for building buzz really quickly, but the questions remain – will it go mainstream (will my airline clients and prospects embrace it, not just their PR / marketing departments), and  if it does, is it really a scalable customer service proposition for an airline?