I believe bitly will be one of the more successful startups out of New York in the past few years.  Critics posit that it is just another URL shortening service and it will die if Twitter creates its own shortening tool.  I disagree.  Yes, bitly has achieved incredible growth and adoption thanks to Twitter, but its business model does not rest upon the microblogging platform.  I believe bitly can survive beyond the twitter ecosystem.  The analytics it provides can be valuable to small- and medium-sized businesses conducting their own email marketing campaigns (whether through Constant Contact or an in-house system).  The timeline component illuminates the effects of externalities on a message’s response rate.  This understanding is priceless for an email marketer.  Additionally, bitly links can be placed behind banner ads for more robust reporting.

Beyond marketing uses, a bitly link within an email tells me how many recipients have read my email, closing the loop on the message without using a read receipt.  Plus I can safely assume if the email was forwarded on to other people.  For example, if I send an email containing a bitly link to 3 people, and bitly tells me the link has been clicked 6 times, there is a good chance the email was forwarded to others (of course it is possible that each recipient clicked the link twice).

Now on to the bitly vs Digg argument.  I like the fact that bitly is more distributed and thus it more accurately represents popularity of content.  However, I do not think that the metric used to determine rankings within bitly should be clicks.  For example, if Steven Johnson tweets a link to his 270,000 followers, the site behind that link will instantly get a huge number of “votes” simply because of the influence Steven Johnson has, not because the content on the corresponding page is of value to all those people.  So clicks on bitly links is more about who says what rather than what is actually said.  A better criteria would be the number of bitly links pointing to a page, plus the number of times those links have been retweeted or forwarded somehow.  I am not a techie, and so I have no idea whether it is possible to measure how many times a link has been retweeted or forwarded.  Yet a “vote” for a webpage is more genuine when it involves attaching one’s reputation to whatever is being linked to, rather than an anonymous click.


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