On Hitting Techmeme

It seems that “hitting Techmeme” is considered an important part of being a successful tech blogger. Every day, during the daily news cycle, we all rage when our story is not selected as the one that Techmeme promotes, relegating ours to the “Discussion” section underneath. When we do score the Techmeme link, the newsroom erupts in celebration. It’s a validation of our efforts by the tech news aggregator that matters most.

But chasing Techmeme always feels strange to me. I haven’t been around long enough to understand its byzantine ways, nor have I cared enough to research them, but Techmeme seems to involve a curious mixture of algorithmic and manual curation. It responds to crowd noise as well as journalistic taste-making.

I always seem to hit Techmeme with headlines like “Google Plus Traffic Went Up 1269% Last Week” rather than with stories I actually find interesting. What factors determined that this post was worth Techmeme-ing? Quality or clickability? And did the robots choose it, or did the people?

There’s no question that hitting Techmeme feels great, because it’s a who’s-who and what’s-what of tech news every day. Every hour, really. It’s a great resource. It’s the first site I check every weekday morning before I decide what I want to write about. So that part matters.

But what about the traffic referrals? Is this really something on which we should concentrate for the sake of the readers? Assuming that any middle-of-the-pack Techmeme headline attracts roughly the same amount of clicks, I’d estimate that Techmeme alone is good for 1,000-5,000 extra pageviews, depending on the time of day. (Update 9/27, 11:00 a.m.: Funnily enough, the above Google Plus headline with the big number in it has completely smashed the above estimate. Go figure.)

Now, that’s wonderful. I’m glad about that. But who’s reading Techmeme and clicking those headlines? Is it really readers, people interested in the industry for its own sake? Or is it just a bunch of other tech bloggers?

I don’t know, obviously, but the numbers are in a range that makes me wonder if it’s the latter. If that’s the case, I have a feeling our energy might be better spent worrying about the places real readers get their news, and we should just let Techmeme do its thing.