More so than any other site on the Internet, tech news aggregator Techmeme reflects and influences what the big tech news stories of the day is going to be. What started as a small project by former Intel engineer Gabe Rivera in late 2005 has now become the go-to site for tech enthusiast and the writers who write for them. What’s remained pretty illusive for quite a few writers and readers, though, is how Techmeme actually decides whether a given story is worth a full-blown headline, a “discussion” link or not worthy of inclusion altogether. Earlier today, Rivera provided the site’s users (that is, both its readers and the writers who want to be featured) with some insight into how the site works and why he and his team pick the stories they do.
What’s this Techmeme Thing You are Talking About?
For those not steeped in the arcane arts of Techmeme, it’s worth noting that the aggregator uses a mix of algorithms and human editors to choose the tech-focused stories it features on the site. For publishers, getting on Techmeme – and especially getting the headline for a major story – brings a major boost in traffic directly from the site, but also follow-up links from other sites, as many writers today look at Techmeme as a kind of virtual assignment desk. Besides the main headlines, Techmeme also often picks secondary headlines that provide additional context. In addition, it aggregates related stories in the “discussion” section underneath the main headline, but these generally don’t drive a lot of eyeballs to a story.
So How Do I Get on Techmeme? Write Good Stories, Be Smart and Be Fast
According to Rivera, he and his team look for three main factors when deciding on which story to feature. A story can either be a “huge exclusive story, well conveyed,” a “huge non-exclusive story, exceptionally conveyed,” or “an interesting, yet not so (obviously) huge story.”
All of these things will help you to get on Techmeme, though given how the algorithm works, it also helps if lots of people link to it or if you alert the Techmeme team of the story by posting a tweet with a link and the words “tip @techmeme” in it.
In addition, Rivera also spelled out some do’s and don’ts for those who want to get on Techmeme. The basic gist here, I think, is that you should write interesting stories – and do so fast enough for them to still be relevant. You don’t need to have a huge exclusive story to be featured, but your analysis has to be interesting (and preferably different from what everybody else is writing).
Some of the advice is obvious (stories with major factual errors will likely be ignored, don’t write about old news etc.), but its nice to see the Techmeme team emphasize that speed isn’t all that matters and that writing a good headline can often be more important than being first.
Most tech writers figured most of these things out long ago and often tailor their writing accordingly, of course. As Rivera notes, though, it’s not just about Techmeme, “the very same practices can lead to more retweets and more pickup beyond the world attuned to Techmeme.”
For more details on how to land that elusive Techmeme headline, take a look at Rivera’s full post.