PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA — As the social networking behemoth Facebook shapes the way people think about everything from privacy to public relations, and as rumors continue to circulate about a possible 2012 IPO that could value Facebook at over $100 billion, the site Inside Facebook, which analyzes the company’s growth, has become increasingly relevant.
Internet media entrepreneur Justin Smith started Inside Facebook in April 2006 to provide coverage of and research on the rapidly growing social network. Geared specifically for marketers and developers, the site provides daily updates on changes to the Facebook platform, popular applications, and more industry-specific topics like advertising data.
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Smith said that the site’s commitment to data-driven research, which comes through in the numerous charts and graphs that accompany many posts, sets Inside Facebook apart from similar sites, which provide more commentary than analysis.
The success of Inside Facebook, which gets over 1 million page views a month, led Smith to create Inside Network, which includes sites that focus on mobile applications and video games on social networking platforms. When Smith started Inside Facebook in 2006, he was the sole blogger, but his staff has increased to an editor, three lead writers (one for each Inside Network site), several freelance contributors, and developers who create programs that help with analysis. For example, Inside Facebook developers invented a data tool called AppData, which gets useful metrics for popular Facebook applications–like exactly how many people are wasting time each day on FarmVille.
Smith thinks that this data-heavy model will catch on with other industry focused hyper-local sites. “I expect there to be many other companies following this model, integrating research and data into their work, so they can write more about facts and do less editorializing,” he says.
Writers post about five stories a day, lower than a site like Mashable.com, a site for general audiences that covers a wide array of social media news and can post well over fifteen stories a day. Smith maintains that quality information trumps quantity of posts for his site.
Posts are fact-filled and tidily organized. Some are written like reviews or criticism (like this look at the Facebook music landscape), and others are more like PowerPoint presentations, peppered with graphs and numbers (like this analysis of Facebook’s mobile apps). Most of the content is clearly tailored for specialists in the field, like advertisers and software developers.
Like a blog, new posts replace old ones in a simple, vertical setup. There aren’t really categories, but there is a list of topics on the left-hand side, under a mass of advertisements, that has tags like Advertising (1127 posts), development (1347 posts), and privacy (223 posts).
Smith declined to reveal certain business details of the site, like the site’s budget or payment of freelancers, but he says that revenue comes from advertising and paid subscriptions to research services. For example, users can subscribe to a detailed monthly report that tracks Facebook’s traffic, usage patterns, and business growth around the world. Inside Network was acquired in May for $14 million by Web Media Brands, an Internet media company; Smith expects Inside Network’s growth to accelerate as a result.
Inside Facebook just celebrated its fifth birthday, and is showing no signs of slowing down–at least as long as Facebook doesn’t slow down. Smith is confident that the site’s history of providing research and analysis will pay off.
“I don’t know of any other site that’s been as focused on this as we have,” he says.
Inside Facebook Data
Name: Inside Facebook
City: Palo Alto, Calif.