When the market is in turmoil, you succeed by going upscale, not downscale. You don’t get down into the pit, you rise above it – Bob Lefsetz
When we started LessThan3 back in 2010, it was nothing more than a few nouveau-ravers, birthed from the uprise in dance music’s popularity in the US, who wanted to share their favorite electronic music in a seamless listening experience. As far as we know, we were the first music blog on the Internet to have a persistent audio player that didn’t stop when you navigated to different areas on the site. This led to a highly engaged community of electronic music fans who were coming to LessThan3 and staying put–our average session time became, and has remained, at around 20 minutes. Coupled with an undying commitment to thoughtful, well-written editorial, LessThan3 gained respect throughout the electronic music industry, traffic and social numbers grew, advertising opportunities increased, and it was smiles all around for our dedicated team.
Then, around mid-2014, the clickbait algorithm apocalypse happened.
And we began to wonder why we were doing this anymore.
Following algorithmic changes in the way Facebook chose to display content, a growing amount of “noise” in the online editorial space, and the rise of sites who game online audiences by making them think they are about to click on something worthwhile and instead give them something far less interesting than initially anticipated (aka “clickbait”), our mission began to falter. Traffic began falling, and it seemed like if we didn’t write an article about Skrillex, deadmau5, dead ravers, Twitter beefs, or drugs every 15 minutes, no one would visit our site. Given that we were simply interested in promoting good music, whether the artist had 10 fans or 10 million fans, this was the complete opposite of our company’s dogma.
To add insult to injury, Facebook’s changes made it to where if you posted anything that wasn’t sure to have mass appeal, they would actually take away reach from you. Given that, we had to make the extremely difficult decision to not post it to Facebook, or literally no one would see anything we posted. Pair that with Facebook’s botched, deceptive ad targeting for its first few years of existence making any fans you gained during that time through advertising essentially worthless, and we had a full-fledged disaster on our hands.
Any editorial site out there will tell you Facebook is a massive traffic driver–for some sites, it’s the biggest. Even after the 80 percent drop in reach we experienced following the changes, Facebook remains our #2 traffic driver. So if we wanted to get anyone on our site and maintain ad impression numbers, which equals being able to keep people employed, we had to make ourselves slaves to the algorithm, and act in direct opposition to where our hearts were. Skrillex and deadmau5 are fantastic artists, but we at LessThan3 would prefer to talk about them no more or less than we talked about any other talented musician. Facebook, and in turn Google SEO, which is heavily weighted by traffic driven to articles from other areas of the Internet, would prefer we did not. We tried every avenue possible to reach out to Facebook employees and tell them of the disastrous effects their changes were having on our business and online editorial in general, and we were greeted with a customer service experience similar to this.
So what’s a blog to do?
In late 2014, the executives and editors of LessThan3 decided that we would rather shut down the site than play this game. But we believed the respect people had for our brand was real, so we wanted to try something else. Something where we could own, rather than rent, the followers that we had. Something where some other company’s algorithmic whims didn’t mean the decimation of our own business. Something where we didn’t have to deceive people by writing a headline like “This Girl Stopped Breathing At A Festival. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.” *click* “She started breathing again. Thanks for the ad revenue.” Something that changed the game.
Welcome to the new LessThan3. MTV For The EDM Generation.
You may notice things look a bit different around here. The articles are no longer front and center (though they can be if you’d like). Instead, you are greeted with an always-on, multi-channel music video network that divides the selection between three sound groups–Chill (the most relaxed), Groove (more upbeat, but not EDM mainstage), and Adrenaline (big room bass-booming bonanza). LT3TV is a channel for more custom playlists–funny videos, best choreography, and the like. Articles are now visible through the top nav bar as well as “The Pulse” panel you see running on the right side of the screen. Want to read an article but don’t want to stop watching the music video you’re on? Click on an article in The Pulse panel, and you’ll see we thought about that for you. Want to listen to a track on the article you’re reading now? Click on the audio bar, and it now plays instead of the video.
Other features include channel-specific chat, access to LessThan3‘s Twitter and Instagram feeds, and on-demand video playing in the right panel, as well as pop-ups, or “annotations,” that appear periodically over the video you’re watching that give you more info about the artists and creators behind the video.
Our new mission is to take an underserved area of electronic music (good videos) and build a community around it, as well as continue to serve the community we’ve already built with our site editorials and curated audio player. The “newsy” articles about the big artists are still there, but they are no longer the centerpiece. It’s time for trusted humans to be the curators instead of soulless algorithms. It’s time for the communities of the Internet to keep their actual fanbases on their own sites, rather than be slave to outside traffic drivers. We believe our expert team, in tandem with our close technology partners, known as Maestro, is the first step.
Do you love discovering new, talented artists? Do you miss when MTV was about the music? Are you tired of hearing about the same 10 artists ad nauseam? Join our community of like-minded individuals and spread the word for us. Put LessThan3 on in the background at your parties. Share it to your social networks. Talk to your friends about it. Let’s take electronic music media back to why most of us started doing it in the first place: rewarding good music with recognition.
All our cards are on the table. We have nothing to hide, and nothing to lose. Will this work? Will we be able to restore musical equilibrium in a scene that has run amok with clickbait that panders to the lowest common denominator? Maybe. Maybe not. The Internet is as unpredictable as deadmau5′ mood swings. But we will either go down trying, or rise to the top and take all of you with us. Be one of the LessThan300 and help us in our quest to bring good music to everyone.