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Sept. 14, 2015, 1:22 p.m.
Aggregation & Discovery
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   September 14, 2015

Techmeme celebrated its tenth birthday on September 12, and founder Gabe Rivera took the occasion to look back at how the site works and how it has stayed independent. If you’re a media or tech reporter, you’re no stranger to Techmeme and its sibling, Mediagazer, as a source of stories as well as traffic.

Techmeme debuted in 2005 at a time of rising media hysteria over the power of aggregators. I remember conversations in my old newsroom over whether Memeorandum (Techmeme’s politics-focused predecessor) was a net good or evil, and what it might mean for local news.

Now the landscape is more than a little different, as the outright aggregators have been challenged by social media. But the impact on Techmeme has not been as severe as you might think, Rivera writes:

Like all media sites, Techmeme’s real competition comes from whatever is best at diverting attention that it might otherwise draw. So foremost among Techmeme’s ‘competitors’ are Twitter, Facebook, blogs that function as news aggregators, and, in fact, media of all forms (not to mention sunshine, children, and puppies). A person who is content to gather technology news through what friends share on Facebook, or by scanning thousands of tweets each day, may be less likely to rely on Techmeme.

On the other hand, because this competition exists, those that do rely on Techmeme happen to be the most demanding and informed readers, the ones who know they can’t stay current on actionable news by merely consuming social media feeds. So while competition may curtail Techmeme’s readership somewhat, it has the effect of making our average reader more valuable.

In recent years, Techmeme has decreased its reliance on algorithms and has hired news editors (who aren’t afraid to rewrite headlines). That’s interesting timing, considering that some publishers are finding more uses for automation in the newsroom.

But that combination of man and machine is also what has made Techmeme stand out. M.G. Siegler writes:

The recognition that the two sides, humans and algorithms, can work in concert is perhaps the key power driving Techmeme. The site has a ‘voice’ as a result. What’s left off is just as important as what’s added.

In reflecting on Techmeme’s 10 years, Rivera said one of the site’s original goals was to uncover new sources for news and original voices. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson thinks that’s one area where Techmeme could still improve:

I can get the “big breaking news” anywhere and don’t value Techmeme for that. But I understand that others do and frankly Techmeme can and should do whatever they think makes for the best site for the largest audience. But I do miss the time when solo bloggers made up most of the links. Those kind of voices are still out there and there really isn’t a great way to find them unless they are software engineers whose links show up on Hacker News.

Techmeme’s birthday brought no shortage of congratulations and well wishes, along with the requisite snark.

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