Ben Parr: Pageviews Are a Broken Metric and Other Musings for 2013

Ben Parr and Psy

I have a HUGE list of startups that I'm paying attention to, but these three have the potential to be very disruptive...

Ben Parr, Journalist and Investor

As a former editor-at-large for Mashable turned investor, venture capitalist (hello,  #DOMINATEFUND) and entrepreneur, Ben Parr has a unique insight into to Silicon Valley, the media business and what makes it all tick. These days he writes a column for Cnet, and invests in and advises startups.

Last year we talked to him about what he was thinking about for 2011, and he gave us some interesting answers. This year we asked him back for some more insight into the year that was in tech and media – and what lies ahead.

What do you think were the most important media stories of 2012? My top four media stories of the year were: 1) The explosion of the News Corp phone hacking scandal, and the resulting split of News Corp into two entities. It will have major implication for the media world for years to come. 2) Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm. Disney has become the king of entertainment. 3) The BBC sex abuse scandal and 4) The rise of Nate Silver. Silver's impact on political reporting cannot be understated. He made hundreds of pundits look like morons.

What big changes would you expect to see in media predictions for 2013 and why? I predict that 2013 will be about the fallout from the multiple scandals that have rocked some of the world's largest news organizations. Without politics to report on, the media will turn to scandals. I think 2013 will be a year of leadership shake-ups and introspection about how to monetize media (e.g. more paywalls, more e-commerce by media companies, etc.).

What about tech predictions for 2013 – what do you see as the big stories shaping up? We're going to have a lot of useless discussion about bubbles and the "Series A crunch". I think that tech as a whole is going to continue to grow (I'm bullish), and the storyline will be about the startups that focus on generating revenue (e.g. Square) than ones that are still trying to figure out monetization. The mobile wars are only going to intensify next year as well.

What's still missing from most tech media sites or tech media coverage? Enterprise coverage. Deeper and more engaging enterprise coverage. Someone needs to crack that nut.

What were some of the most interesting startups you saw come to life in 2012? Three startups that caught my eye this year (not all launched this year, but some really got big attention this year): uBeam, FundersClub (disclosure: I'm an investor), and Medium. I have a HUGE list of startups that I'm paying attention to, but these three have the potential to be very disruptive for different reasons.

Lean Startups – has it gone too far – why or why not? Startups just need to remember the core tenants of lean startup philosophy without taking it overboard. Test and iterate often, keep costs low, and take a scientific approach to how you improve your product.

What other disruptions in startup land do you think we'll see in 2013? A far greater focus on startups that know how they're going to monetize and start early. Square is the next great Silicon Valley company because it never had to "figure out" how to monetize, and it wasn't searching for a problem to solve.

You've said pageviews are a broken metric and there's a better way to rank and measure content on the Web. Can you talk about what you mean by that – and what needs to change? Journalists on the Web are driven too much by how many pageviews they can garner. Using engagement as a metric is far more useful to media websites and to advertisers. Just look at what Buzzfeed is doing. You don't see them breaking their lists into 20 pages. Instead, you see them experimenting with new types of brand and reader engagement and advertising. I like that they're unafraid to push the boundaries.

You look at lot like Psy – anything you've learned from that? I have a backup career as a Psy impersonator! It's my goal in 2013 to do the Gangnam Style dance with Psy and film it. So if anyone can help me make that happen, shoot me an email.

Follow Ben on Twitter @benparr.

[Image credit: Psy Screaming at Things]

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