The Road Ahead – May 2009

A recently retired U.S. armed forces General was quoted on a national news show as saying he joined one of the online social media networks because he wanted to keep up with the younger generation and very quickly I had 4200 new “friends.” Other than vaporizing the meaning of “friends”, what was learned?

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, cites many examples of some average limits on humans when it comes to: easily remembering telephone numbers (seven digits), optimizing teamwork (150 persons per team), distinguishing tastes, touches or sounds (six), and maintaining close friendships (15). Gladwell also posits the phenomenon of immunity in mass communications – at some point the more pervasive a network becomes the more likely it is to engender immunity to it. In what might be called Gladwell’s Law of Inverse Effects, he says: “As a network grows in size, . . . it is also the case that the time and nuisance costs borne by each member of the network grows as well.”

In the case of telephone marketing, immunity responses to those costs include do not call lists, answering machines, caller I.D. and just hanging up! They have helped decrease the effectiveness of telemarketing by 50 percent over the last 25 years or so, according to Gladwell.  And now it may be immunities to social media’s are incubating.

While it is a mix of functional and financial factors, each of the big social networks is having troubles. Writing for the Silicon Valley Insider, Benjamin Wayne says, “YouTube is soaring towards the future like a pigeon towards a plate glass window.” He projects a half-billion dollar loss for the video-sharing network in 2009.

Maria Russo asks in The Wrap, “With no buzz factor, low scores for ‘user trust’ in online surveys and a reputation as a hangout for disaffected teenagers, is MySpace still viable as a broad-based, come-one-come-all social network?” Om Malik answers in GigaCom, “Like an 80’s rock band MySpace’s time has come and gone.” Forbes writer Taylor Buley cites Facebook insiders as putting that network’s “burn rate” at $200 million a year. Meanwhile Twitter, coming off one of, if not the best, PR/Marketing campaigns of the year with the Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey ploys, is growing approximately 33 percent per month, according to ComScore.

Some columnists suggest that this short-form social networking may itself be an immunizing response to the personal costs of participating in the full-blown versions. Keeping it short and most often, too simple. For those who despair, there is consolation in a Media Publications report that checking the weather is the most popular app on smart phones.

And there’s this thought by Corey Treffiletti writing in Online Spin: “Just about everyone agrees that the next stage of the Web is a transition towards a customizable, distributed Web that no longer relies on mass audience destinations as much as it will rely on technology to tailor the remote experience to the individual user. But is it possible that this next stage will also transition from a two-dimensional experience of flat Web pages to a three-dimensional experience more akin to virtual worlds?”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Stephan Wilkinson

    Lemme point out before I launch into this that I don’t even use a cellphone, much less a Strawberry, or whatever they’re called. Oh, I _own_ a cellphone, but I don’t know the number, since I never give it out; it’s written in big Pentel numbers on a strip of masking tape on the back of the phone, in case I need it to find my wife at the airport, or to call someone when my quarter-century-old 911 dies of carburetoritis.

    Anyway, we now own a Blu-Ray DVD player, and I noticed in the manual that it could be connected to the Internet. Having an Apple Airport wireless setup that I no longer was using for serious stuff–our new house came with built-in WiFi–I said what the hell, connect the thing up with the Web and I’ll be able to download movies on demand, get instant Netflix films, stuff like that.

    Well sir, I’m connected. And what does that do for me? Has nothing to do with movies on demand or anything of the sort. It enables me to chat in real time with people who are watching the same Blu-Ray disc that I am, and to play a variety of games, as far as I can tell, that might have some vague connection with that movie.

    Who would want to do that? Especially who would want to do that if they’re the kind of person–as I suspect many of you are–who never goes into the Extra Added Attractions selections on a DVD to play “scenes the editor cut because they were too bad to leave in” and “the director narrates the film frame by frame because he’s being paid to”?

    It’s the cinematic-overkill version of cars with 12-position individual seat-heat selectors accessible only through the iDrive…

    Stephan Wilkinson

  2. Michael Karesh

    The newsletter seems to get better with each passing month, Glenn. Incredible resource for anyone in automotive media.

    On the topic–as we’ve discussed, “short and often too simple” has always been common, but is virtually an imperative on the Internet. The lasts bastion for extended reading seems to be the john. And how long before people start surfing the Internet there as well?

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