If you had your business online already in 2007 you probably remember Entrecard.com, the latest type of traffic generator for web sites. A sort of banner exchange with a twist where you choose the sites to advertise on and you exchanged “drops” where one “drop” equaled to a visitor. Here you can see how we increase the traffic to XavierMedia.com using Entrecard.
Entrecard was a fantastic service in the beginning (pretty much up until the sale of the site to ZipRunner, Inc in July 2009), and from there it just went downhill to the total closure of the site in September. It’s not official that the site is closed, it just stopped working. On September 19th I got this message from Mon.itor.us and the site is still down 🙁 :
Dear User, because of continual failure for a duration of 12 hours your test was suspended.
Test URL: entrecard.com
In 2009 Entrecard peaked in their traffic and the site was at it’s biggest point ever. They had about 1.6 million US visitors according to Compete (yes, I know you can’t rely purely on their data, but it’s working fine for this example). They had a working market place where you could use credits you earned from “dropping” your Entrecard at sites to buy digital stuff like articles, reviews, banners, design of sites, ebooks, Facebook friends and pretty much anything you could thing of. You could also give away your credits to others and that inspired many sites (including XavierMedia.com) to give away credits in contests.
Graham (the original owner) added a few restrictions to Entrecard before the sale which started the decline in visitors. These restrictions where for example a tax on credit transactions so you couldn’t give credits away to any user for free any more, and also a redesign of the market place to something that didn’t work very well. The marketplace stopped working both because of the new design and also because the “escrow” service they started didn’t work. For example people stopped delivering after they had been paid and in normal cases the buyer would get their credits back in that case, but since nobody cared about this at Entrecard you couldn’t trust sellers any more.
After the sale to ZipRunner, Inc, the discussion forum also stopped working. They simply closed it after a few months. The discussion forum was a really nice place where you could exchange ideas with others, and also get some extra marketing by advertising your contest etc. Without the discussion forum Entrecard wasn’t the social meeting place for bloggers any more since you couldn’t have the same type of discussions etc.
Next thing to be limited was the blog. When Graham had the site he had a very interesting blog at Entrecard where he wrote about anything related to having a blog and earning money online. When ZipRunner took over the blog turned more into a status update over the service outages they had (and believe me when I say the outages and downsides with Entrecard increased over time).
And finally the final nail in the coffin 😉 was the reduction in credits earned. From the beginning of Entrecard you earned one credit when you “dropped” your card on a site and the site receiving the “drop” also got a credit. However in August 2009 they stopped paying sites credits for displaying the Entrecard widget to only reward the “droppers”. This removed the incentive to actually have the widget on your blog, since you wouldn’t get paid anything for it.
When I checked the Compete data for Entrecard today they only had about 3000 US visitors in September 2012 compared to 1.6 million US visitors in March 2009:
The funny thing is that Graham wrote they had the resources and the vision to run this project when the sale was announced:
ZipRunner Inc. was chosen out of a number of potential suitors because of the resources they can dedicate to the project, their exciting vision for the company’s future, and their understanding of social media and the blogosphere.
So what can you learn from this? A few things actually. Don’t remove social services like forums and blogs if they are popular and gives your customers a great platform for connecting with others, and don’t restrict your services too much just to make money (you need to keep your visitors happy because otherwise they will go somewhere else). If you remove all incentives for your users to use your service and also to market it for you they you will have a hard time to get more customers.