@HuffPoSpoliers published its first tweet on August 29, 2012, yet it didn’t take hold until this afternoon. A quick search on Topsy demonstrates that only a handful of people were paying attention until late April.
What gives? After some additional Topsy sleuthing, i.e. clicking through all of the search results and finding the one with the oldest timestamp, it appears that Tom McGeveran, co-founder of Capital New York, was the first one to tap the dominoes.
Journalists, editors and Twitter addicts (mostly in New York and Washington D.C.) started to spread the gospel about @HuffPoSpoilers faster than a listicle of 18 corgis eating cake at a baby sloth’s birthday party. An unscientific survey of word on the street.
After this mad rush of activity, the writer(s) @HuffPoSpoilers started cranking out new content to meet demand. This conversation will most likely continue throughout the afternoon and then slowly fade by the weekend with occasional traffic spikes.
In the present moment, why is @HuffPoSpoilers so beloved by the social media editors club of America (SMECA, trademark pending)?
Blame a dated misunderstanding of R = βz.
R = Traffic
β = how likely a post is to spread
z = Number of people who see a post
R = βz is the formula used by Buzzfeed to measure the success and failure of their content. Peretti, formerly of The Huffington Post, is known for being at the forefront of understanding what makes content spread on social networks. At The Huffington Post, Peretti worked with people to get really good at R (traffic). He created Buzzfeed recognizing that the real objective should be to understand β (spread).
Why does β > R?
R is grounded in a dying business model dependent on chasing pageviews so advertisers can make as many impressions as possible.
β is based on a burgeoning business model dependent on explaining why people decide to start or join conversations.
Figuring out how to make profits from β is still a work in progress, but it is a foundational element to the future of paid media.
Currently, we are in a transition from R to β. Companies heavily reliant on traffic are doing all that they can to squeeze out every last drop of pageview revenue. The right way for @HuffingtonPost to use Twitter is to just give us the damn answer. The gimmick of asking a question or withholding information so we click is connected to a world where publishers wished Twitter didn’t exist. Similar to a newspaper owner complaining about Craigslist, The Huffington Post is wasting energy.
Until then, we have @HuffPoSpoilers to mock those resistant to change.