Technorati – Why Crossing The Chasm Is Not Always a Good Idea

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by: Karl Long

Courtesy of Laughing Squid

A week or so ago there were some announcements that Technorati CEO Dave Sifry had resigned and they had laid off about 8 people. I think I mentioned at that time that I would want to comment more on this later, and that’s because i’m pissed off that Technorati, a service that I am a big fan of, has not been able to capitalize on it’s early success.Maybe disappointed is a better way to put it but we’ve all had those interactions with startups where you thought you saw great potential, signed up and tried to participate in it’s success only to get let down by the decisions the company makes… Dodgeball anyone?

IMHO Technorati is a very interesting example/case study of the phenomenon known as Crossing the Chasm, which is you create a product that appeals to early adopters (because you need them to get it going), but you then fail to move the product beyond the early adopters into the mass market. In this case technorati appealed to bloggers (or to bloggers vanity if you like), but they never figure out how to make your product now appeal to the mass market.

Now it seems that Technorati made the decision to actually try and cross the chasm to the mass market though by moving away from blogs and starting to track popular videos, popular posts, and what was happening now. In doing so they managed to become less relevant to their core audience of early adopters, and providing a sort of watered down, less dynamic version of reddit or digg.

Now the interesting thing about Technorati of course is that it didn’t necessarily need to cross the chasm at all, and could have built a very successful product and service that primarily served the blogging community. Technorati could have easily taken the lead in blog metrics, blog measurement, and analyzing the blogosphere, things that the community were crying out for. There was such a need for blog measurement people like ToddAnd with the Ad Age power 150, Mack Collier and Peter Kim all created their own “metrics” to measure blogs in particular verticals, a concept that Technorati could have totally owned.

It appears to me that Technorati ended up losing it’s way in an effort to become more popular itself, oh the irony. Of course they had investors pouring money into the business so I imagine the pressure to turn a profit was inordinate and led to adding more populist features. I think there are a lot of Web2.0/social media companies that are going have similar dilemmas, moving from this focus on early adopters to the mass market.

On a related note check out Read/WriteWeb’s article on rethinking crossing the chasm

and my other post Geeks Are Not The Mass Market

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