January 28, 2008

Forget the A-List? Not Quite Yet.

Well known A-list blogger and technology evangelist Guy Kawasaki says the time has come where prominent bloggers with brand names aren't any more likely to determine a product's success or failure. As he says it, referencing a recent article in Fast Company, "Lousy reviews by them cannot tank your product. Great reviews cannot make it successful."

But to summarily dismiss the most well-known bloggers as ineffective means to get word out around a new product or Web service is flawed. In my belief, there is no binary "right or wrong" answer here. You shouldn't make outreach to the A-list bloggers OR hope to reach users who can virally make your product a success. A good campaign should be more broad, and include elements of both reaching out to the most widely read, and to early adopters.

We can see Web services every day try to get launched through TechCrunch, GigaOM and Mashable, in hopes that the massive traffic spike will carry them through their next venture capital round and long-term success. People often refer to the ensuing deluge of visitors as "The TechCrunch Effect", as they once did about the "Slashdot Effect". And while we know that eventually traffic goes back down, being profiled by such well-read sites leads to smaller bloggers following on with their own take, trying out the product and writing reviews. In effect, rather than starting at the bottom to get a few links and working their way up, going after the big dogs means getting coverage both at the top and the bottom.

As I told Emanuel Rosen, author of "Anatomy of Buzz", following my first comments on his book, there are new ways to gain buzz and interest across the Web these days, from limited invites and private betas to working Twitter and the B-List. There's no question that each of these elements can deliver users. But to ignore a significant portion of a potential campaign on its face and declare it one to "Forget" is silly.

Some of us may wish the A-List concept were dead and gone, but it's not yet, and it won't be for some time, and if one name were to go down, there's no doubt another would rise to take its place. In every marketplace there are leaders who wield an inordinate share of power. Simply wishing them away won't make it so.


  1. The A-List is not dead, but the traffic "Effects" are MUCH lower than they once were. Where a TC post would once have generated tens of thousands of incoming visitors, it's now barely in the thousands...

  2. After reading the original Duncan Watts piece and commenting, I think my comment still stands.

    The effect of the A-list on creating a trend is arguable. The traffic effects are somewhat reduced. And focusing solely on the A-list would be foolish.

    But Watts' own experiments show that involving the A-list makes trends etc spread faster and further - something people seem to be overlooking...