Running a website is a nerve-wracking business, because traffic on the web is so fickle: At Co.Design, the difference between a superb month and an average one can be a single hit on StumbleUpon. So I knew the power that the social-bookmarking site has. But I had no idea that their influence was so unbelievably huge until I saw this infographic by Column Five. Simply put, StumbleUpon is a roaming traffic monster, able to make or break content all across the web.
For those you that don't know StumbleUpon, it's essentially a browser add-on, which adds a button allowing you to "stumble upon" a random site that's geared to your interests. (These are built over time, as the add-on tracks which sites you liked and didn't like.) Therein lies the power of the service: Unlike something like Reddit or Digg or even Facebook, StumbleUpon is like a web-based slot machine, where every pull of the lever should theoretically yield another jackpot. It offers instant gratification while eliminating the stress of choosing what you want to read.
And that little bit of social engineering has been unbelievably successful:
That's right: StumbleUpon drives more traffic than Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Digg, and LinkedIn—combined. (Granted, the numbers for Twitter are probably artificially low, since so many people use outside URL shorteners and Twitter clients to manage their feeds.) And part of the magic is contained in that very last chart above: A link in StumbleUpon isn't nearly as transitory as those on Facebook or Twitter. Because StumbleUpon keeps loading interesting links that you haven't seen no matter how old they are, it revives older content in a way that Facebook and Twitter simply cannot.
The next part of the chart expands on that point:
Now, you would expect that because finding a site on StumbleUpon is simply a matter of pushing a button, people wouldn't last very long on each site. After all, they're expecting instant amusement, and if they don't get it, they'll just push the button again.
But the StumbleUpon algorithm is exceptionally good at finding things you'll like—and that point is proven by the fact that people actually spend more time on StumbleUpon links than the average web page:
If I could sacrifice to the gods of StumbleUpon, I would.