More ReCode

It had a lousy name, a dot net address and a terrible website.

Sure, Mossberg and Swisher were starting all over, but they could have given themselves a fighting chance!

“AllThingsD” was a brand, never underestimate the difficulty in building one and the power in an established one. Scott Weiland was in Velvet Revolver, what acts did he populate thereafter? Velvet Revolver got some recognition, because it had multiple stars and united their individual fanbases, but after that… You’d need a chart to know who Weiland played with. As for Bill Simmons, how dumb to name the site “Grantland”! It had to be SIMMONSLAND! And he needed to own it. Instead, he built brand equity for ESPN and walked without it!

Let’s start with the number one deal-killer, ReCode’s site.

It’s like they never surfed the net before.

It wasn’t only me, everybody hated it. It was unfathomable. Didn’t Steve Jobs say design was paramount? That usability was key? Didn’t Walt and Kara interview him? Did none of his message penetrate? ReCode’s site is so busy, you can’t get the grasp without scrolling, and the headline, which was never big, was rarely important. That’s what the HuffPo has right, design. The big headline is right up front and clear. The site may not have been updated in years, but it works.

As for the name… What does it mean? Either your moniker has to indicate what you’re about, like Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, or it must relate to nothing, like Shazam or Corolla. ReCode, what is that? A place where you rewrite C++? And what’s with the forward slash in the middle…yes, technically it’s Re/Code. Most people don’t even know where that key is to type, so you’re inherently limiting discussion. Hell, even the press doesn’t get it right, every story about the sale to Vox calls it “ReCode”!

And dot net? Is it Type recode into Safari and you’ll get Google results, you won’t automatically go to the site, as you will with Amazon and the rest of the .coms.

And if you’re on mobile, and you’d prefer not to use your browser, you’ve got to remember it’s dot net. Do you know any other significant site that’s a dot net?

And speaking of mobile… ReCode’s site works a bit better there. And mobile rules. But the truth is the people into this kind of info are sitting in front of their desktops all day and want to go to the regular site. And regular surfers go back multiple times a day, to see if there’s breaking news. But nothing is emphasized, there’s nothing you can see at a glance on ReCode’s homepage.

Which brings us to another question… Are you a breaking news site or an analysis site? If it’s the former, you’ve got to have more stickiness, a reason to return. If it’s the latter… You’ve got to deliver the goods, feature something that is forwarded. But since the site’s creation I don’t ever remember forwarding a link.


The truth is ReCode was hampered by its need to start from scratch, albeit with two stars.

But that’s not the whole story. A lot of little things go into making a successful site. Why did AOL triumph? IT WAS EASY!

You’ve got to make it easy. You’ve got to make it forwardable. You’ve got to make it accessible. You’ve got to either break news or explain it or both.

But the truth is Walt and Kara were so busy establishing relationships with the insiders they want to appear at their conferences that they lost touch with the rank and file who had to visit their site to make it work. Once again, in the internet age there’s rarely a middleman. The customer is the hoi polloi, the regular users. Play to them, not to the big swinging dicks you’re trading favors with who never break news at your conferences anyway.

Our planet is addicted to tech. Everybody’s wired. We want tech news. Tech drives the culture today, like music did in the sixties.

But ReCode couldn’t see that the game had changed. They were playing to the same people they always did, instead of broadening their game to appeal to EVERYBODY!

In other words, it was never gonna scale.

And scale is everything.

And scale is not only built on a good idea, executed properly, but delivery is also key. Isn’t that what those truly in the know always say, that distribution is king?

Well, being with the WSJ solved that problem.

But going alone Walt and Kara were completely unaware of the challenge, I’d say they punted, but they didn’t even understand the game. It’d be like leaving the major label, sacrificing radio, putting out an album with no hit singles and expecting to be successful.

But that ain’t the way it happens.

Give yourself a fighting chance.

Maybe Walt and Kara can pivot. Maybe they will realize you don’t reinvent the wheel. Just like you rent server power from Amazon instead of owning it yourself (even Netflix!) Walt and Kara spent too much time trying to replicate what others do better.

Like design a usable site.

ReCode To Vox

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  1. Pingback by Re/Code was a Terrible Name – Elaine's Idle Mind | 2015/05/29 at 22:20:35

    […] Bob Lefsetz on the fall of ReCode: […]

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  1. Pingback by Re/Code was a Terrible Name – Elaine's Idle Mind | 2015/05/29 at 22:20:35

    […] Bob Lefsetz on the fall of ReCode: […]

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