Cycling Contemplations

Strava Should Do Better Than Athlete Posts

669 words 4 minutes to read

Strava is transitioning, from one-of-many sports apps into the world’s first, proper social network for athletes. I find that very welcome, but the way they’re trying to get there—by inviting random content, marketed as Athlete Posts—is just copying what every other social network does already. It won’t help them build a feasible product.

Eight years after founding, Strava still is likely burning more money than they’re making. We can’t know for sure, since they’re a private company, and not disclosing financial results, but they already had six funding rounds for a total of well above $40M, the latest one just recently, in February 2017.

Becoming profitable

They’re making money from two sources:

  1. “Premium” subscriptions, unlocking a couple of additional features, and
  2. selling aggregate data from the logged activities to other organizations.

The second source has limited growth potential, so the first one should be their aim—building a product users would be willing to pay for.

Now, if I’m about to part with some of my money, I want something in return. Either something that’ll save me time, or that’ll make it easy to do something that so far has been hard or impossible.

Look at these Athlete Posts:

  • if someone, like myself, wants to post about their sports journey, they’re likely already doing this somewhere on the web. I won’t bother using a second platform for publishing, and God forbid I would use it exclusively, binding the future of my content to the fate of Strava.
  • from a content consumer’s standpoint, these posts are more likely to waste my time than save it. They’ll appear in the timeline, take up screen real estate, need to be scrolled past or, at least, filtered out via some setting.

Athlete Posts neither save time nor make anything easier. I’m actually less likely to pay for the Premium account if I get swamped with random content.

The reason social networks invite content to their platforms is to boost the magical “engagement” factor—causing people to spend more time reading and interacting with them. That’s because their (often only) source of income is advertising, so the more time people spend on the websites, the more (and better-tailored) ads they’ll see, and the more the networks earn.

Strava doesn’t have any advertising. Thankfully. But it’s a slippery slope from here—inviting content while trying to make money. They must already be considering selling ads to boost revenues.

If not content, then what?

There are plenty of opportunities to make the platform more social. The sports disciplines that Strava caters to are, by virtue of being individual, pretty solitary. Very often we’re cycling and running alone. Strava can make it easier for us to connect, both with the people we already know, as well as make new friends.

Some ideas from the top of my head:

  • improve discussion features around activities. Right now they’re simple, single-level comments. Add @mentions and cross-links to other entities—activities, routes, segments, etc.
  • help us stay in touch after a joint ride or run. Let us share pictures within the riders’ group, contact each other directly.
  • cater to multi-sport athletes, triathletes in particular. Right now I can only set my primary sport to cycling or running. The activity list I embed on my website will only show one of these at a time. Swimming has practically no support for performance analysis.
  • how about public events? Right now they’re only available inside clubs, but why can’t I find rides or runs in my neighborhood, that are open to anyone?
  • allow for non-sports events, joint race watching, a list of cycling clubhouses.
  • open the race database to crowdsourcing. I’d love to be able to find and advertise my participation in events there, if only the list was more complete.

Right now a lot of social activity around sports is happening in Facebook groups, with their generic features and nothing tailored for athletes. All these discussions, scheduling, planning, reminiscing, could and should be happening on Strava instead. And none of it involves anything that resembles Athlete Posts.