Audience vs. attention


In the image above you can see the effect of my last two posts on the blog’s traffic. If you look at number of visits in dark blue, clearly my article Take F# to the stars was — please forgive me — a stellar hit. If you look at average time spent in lighter blue, my most recent article The last apolitical developer did much better. In fact, it over performed all my articles by a lot.

Audience vs. attention

This is not the first time I ponder on the importance of users vs. time. My main venues for passive entertainment are YouTube and Netflix, and they have been for a long time.

Netflix Logo

Netflix has always used time as their main metric, its mission is to maximize user’s time spent on the platform. I remember one of Reed Hastings’ earlier interviews where he shared this fact, adding that because of this their main competition was gaming, and that the future of entertainment may be an hallucinogenic pill 🤯

YouTube also transitioned to time spent optimization at some point, and I distinctly remember youtubers sharing in their videos the fact that the monetization algorithm was successfully incentivizing them to make longer videos. Earlier YouTube videos were usually around 5 minutes, and after this the 10 minute format became more of a norm.

These youtubers and Reed’s interview made me aware that attention is one metric that matters and that can’t be measure in viewership. For YouTube it makes more sense, because every few minutes more ads can be shown.

But for Netflix who gets paid the same whether a subscriber watches 10 hours or 50 hours a week, it’s interesting to see that time spent is still the main metric used to measure the success of the platform.

Back to my blog

There’s a lesson here for me, one that’s applicable to general life: do not undermine your own self-confidence by judging yourself with a single metric, and keep in mind everything you succeeded at when contemplating something that failed. There wasn’t any failure for me in this particular instance, but as a brand new blog I clearly need new eyeballs, so an article that spreads like wildfire is very welcome.

As a writer however I care more about whether the people that landed here found something of value and ended up reading most of the article. In this respect the performance of The last apolitical developer is particularly rewarding. It may have reached a fraction of my most popular article, but for that fraction and for those 10 minutes on average, it gave Netflix a run for its money.

No hard feelings Reed, I’m still a huge fan, just don’t send me any pills.

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