At some point amid all the Tweets, GChats, status updates, pins, yams,* emails and rapid fire blog posts, we hit a breaking point and turn into the guy from Memento.
It’s like we know something sounds familiar, or important, or like we’ve been here before, possibly five minutes ago, but we can’t remember a damn thing for more than 15 seconds. Oh well, onto the next thing! Such is life in the merry-go-round tech news cycle.
At least that’s how I felt when I got wind of a big update to 8Tracks, a cool music streaming service that’s been around since 2006 and is still kicking. Oh right! Those guys! I thought. How easy it was for me to quickly assume that something has failed the minute that updates on its every move stop reverberating across the techochamber. I believe that’s what they call going “heads down” and I’m starting to see why fewer and fewer tech companies partake in such an act. Everyone might assume they’ve disappeared.
Meanwhile, I have been swooning over Songza’s concierge service, congratulating the startup for its revelation that human-curated playlists trump the algorithm-generated playlists of Pandora. I, and the rest of the Web, wrote these words with zero mention of the fact that 8Tracks has been here doing the same thing, basically, for several years.
That fact was not lost on 8Tracks founder David Porter. He tersely noted the similarity between the two services on 8Tracks’ Facebook page and blog. This was back in 2010 (2010! lifetimes ago!), when Songza debuted its playlist option. But even with a copycat of 8Tracks’ user-generated playlists, Songza failed to gain traction.
It wasn’t until this year, when Songza launched “Concierge,” a service that recommends playlists created by experts based on the time of day and your mood, that the service took off. “Epic film soundtracks” for a Tuesday afternoon of focused work, “90s crowd-pleasing hits” for getting ready to go out on a Saturday night. The app went viral, snapping up two million monthly active users and grabbing the attention of investors to the tune of $1.5 million. I got excited because the company fit perfectly into one of my pet themes — it had abandoned big data algos for human curation. What’s more, Songza had succeeded by doing exactly what Kevin Systrom says made Instagram what it is today. Songza’s founders didn’t wait for hockey stick growth; they tested and tweaked things until they found something users loved.
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