Well, another news aggregator launched today. This one is called Newspond, and while they didn’t set a record for baseless hyperbole, they come close.
The site, like TechMeme and Digg, tries to determine breaking and important news – but it is a little different than both. Digg uses user voting to determine headlines. Techmeme uses linking behavior of blogs and other news sites. Both are, arguably, fairly transparent, and you can see the number of user votes or inbound links, respectively to a headline. Newspond, by contrast, has a black box algorithm that looks at number of factors and comes up with an overall score called a Buoyancy Rating. The higher the rating, the higher the headline.
So their approach is fine, although I argue that it’s filling a need that doesn’t exist. There’s just little to drive people to the site day after day. The user interaction on Digg, both from submitting and voting on stories (and getting all your friends to vote on stories) drives significant viral growth. TechMeme doesn’t have that, and has orders of magnitude less traffic. Newspond doesn’t have it either. And it’s unlikely to replace TechMeme as the blogger’s news site of choice.
But they just make ridiculous statements on the website that I can’t ignore. The home page says Newspond is “The most advanced news site on the planet.” The about page has a huge yellow ball thingy and the same words in 40 point type. It also calls itself “the ultimate hub for the latest news.”
What’s the technology behind this stunning new startup? Well, within “the heart of Newspond lies a tireless electronic brain” with “highly-advanced machine intelligence” that analyzes news “at a faster rate of speed than any human being could ever dream of.”
It reads like a movie script.
So far here’s my experience with the site – questionable freshness on the headlines and a complete failure to send me an activation for my account signup (they’ve posted on their blog about the problem). They also fail to provide a RSS feed for their content. Not so useful.
More and more websites are starting to make these types of ridiculous claims to get attention. It works, but only for a day. And after that, with your credibility shot, everyone is waiting for the inevitable failure. And since expectations have been set so astronomically high, even a mild success is still seen as a dismal failure.
Glam did it on a grand scale when they called themselves the “fastest growing web property in the United States” to justify a huge valuation. What they really are is a big ad network that’s currently unprofitable but is growing rapidly. But they are most certainly not the largest womens site on the Internet, or the fastest growing site in the U.S. (they count the traffic of all of the sites they sell ads for as “theirs). Glam is worthy of positive attention, but their ridiculous statements cost them credibility.
And we saw it again yesterday. New startup YouNoodle, which is currently little more than a catalog of startups, claimed that they could predict the valuation of startups five years out based on nothing more than information about the founders. The product hasn’t even launched, but the New York Times jumped on the story anyway. The only way I’ll believe it works, I said, is if they use it to predict their own failure.
I’m going to continue to call companies on unrestrained hyperbole, and hold them to the expectations they’ve set with users. Being proud of your work is one thing, but spouting random nonsense is something else entirely. Enough.