While gathering notes for an article on Internet marketing tactics for unfunded (and unfound) musicians, I turned up this great little rant on Mashable. With tech news ascendent in the public eye, some savvy geek-targeted marketing can create ripples throughout the larger media world.
When Digg invited readers to install the Alexa toolbar (which Alexa then uses to estimate overall Internet traffic stats), they were able to create the impression that “Digg was bigger than the New York Times”. I think this works because Alexa assumes that a fixed percent of all Internet users have their toolbar installed and extrapolate general trends from that assumption. When there is a more perfect overlap of Alexa toolbar users and site visitors (e.g. 70% of Digg readers have the toolbar installed rather than the usual 2% of general Internet users), the calculations get thrown off: the multiple isn’t tuned down and suddenly it looks like Digg is getting massive traffic.
There is an inverted version of this story from the Plenty of Fish guy that he blocked all incoming Internet traffic from users that had the Alexa toolbar, so he could stay off the radar and hide from potential competitors. (Kudos to Alexa’s marketing team for maintaining their role as a reliable data source for media analysts.)
This is an interesting consideration for technophilic product designers who might be prone to creating too-sophisticated tools: perhaps it is viable to launch that RSS-enabled Podcast Folksonomy, win the tech crowd, and leverage their media overrepresentation to boost your visibility into the mainstream. This tricky tactic reminds me of the primaries-to-general-elections tightrope the many US politicians walk, first wooing the more extreme party elements who vote in the primaries, then revising policy to match the interests of the larger public.