Posts Tagged ‘Myspace’

Identity, Privacy, And Web 2.0

January 16, 2008

I’ve broached the subject of privacy in a previous post, but I’ve run into a few more articles concerning the issue since then.

The Kinda Creepy YouTube Video

While looking for other material on this topic, I ran into a video from the government of Canada that attempted to shed light on how social networking sites can exchange and leverage a user’s personal information for marketing purposes.

Don’t get me wrong: privacy is very important, but the issue I take with this particular video is a) the “big brother is out to get you” tone, as well as b) they make the marketing angle sound all bad, i.e., the video says you will only get more junk mail on your doorstep, more email adverts in your inbox. This completely ignores the aim of marketing: in the fracturing media landscape, reach is not the only goal. As a marketer, I want to spend my client’s money in the most responsible way. Thus, I want to reach the people who are the most likely to be interested in buying what my client is selling, so hitting the target is more important than reaching the most amount of people; this is what responsible advertising and marketing agencies should be trying to accomplish.

Projecting Yourself Online

Did you notice the header above says “projecting” rather than “protecting”? We are putting ourselves, and our identities online. Now, we may not be the most honest, but we are the ones making the conscious decision. The New York Times published a fascinating article on how we put our best foot forward when it comes to our online persona, and quite some time ago New York Magazine had an incredible story exploring the shifting values of privacy in a new, digital generation. I highly recommend reading both (lengthy) articles.

My personal attitude about privacy online is pretty cavalier: “Marketers have already known a lot about us before the Internet came into full swing. Therefore, so what if Facebook is using Beacon?!” I’m sure that pisses off a lot of people who treasure their privacy, but honestly, I think the way things are headed your information will inevitably be viewed by someone else; the point is we need to educate ourselves on the measures we can take to protect that information: clear your cookies; actually visit the privacy settings on Facebook; and above all, delete that damn MySpace account already! It’s such a waste!

Don’t Misunderstand Me, Though

Privacy and the identity game does matter. Although many teenagers report utilizing privacy measures, MySpace has recently agreed to devote some of their resources to leading the fight against online sexual predators. There are those who are too young to be adept at protecting themselves online and require more help. I think the most heart-wrenching intersection of the privacy and identity game comes in the story of Megan Meier, a teenager who, subject to a hoax perpetrated through MySpace that turned ugly, committed suicide. I really want to say that in a case such as this, all the sentimental “this is a cautionary tale” is bullshit and is not addressing what happened on the level the incident merits. Being on the younger side, I remember seventh grade vividly; it was one of the worst years of my life. Teenagers can be merciless, and with tools such as MySpace and Facebook, they can be even more underhanded in their quest for doling out pain. It is within this tragedy that the problem of identity and privacy become even more conflated: people want to protect what information others know about them, but then can those measures be deployed to create even sneakier, meaner attacks? It also sheds light on the fact that, no matter how old some people think they are, they need assistance to safely wade through the waters of digital society.

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Why It’s So Difficult To Monetize Web 2.0

October 17, 2007

So maybe it’s time to take my training in post-colonial literature studies and apply it, in an ever-so-esoteric manner, to Web 2.0 and the problem of monetization.

The Problem

As the New York Times once again trumpets the possibility of a dot-com bust (see today’s article Silicon Valley Start-Ups Awash In Dollars, Again), I am beginning to believe the issues presented by web pessimists are somewhat pertinent: once again money is being thrown at sites that can only guarantee eyeballs… and in most cases not even a lot of eyeballs (sans MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc). It appears many are forgetting that guaranteeing eyeballs is not a sound revenue model. Even with successful advertising campaigns running on these sites, that still does not make up for other costs. YouTube is a prime example of delivering a significant audience, but with the bills they must pay for bandwidth alone I can’t foresee them making acceptable margins.

So why is it so hard to create business models around this new venture in media? I think it’s because we are trying to do something completely new; honestly, I cannot think of another instance in history where it has been done before.

The Real Question

I’m not an economist, but from what I understand a free market economy runs by taking natural resources, land, and labor and turning those materials into a commodity that is then sold at a profit. This commodity is bought at the expense of a ‘thing’ that has an arbitrary exchange value attached to it (money, for instance). But what are we trying to do with Web 2.0? Let’s use Facebook as an example: we are trying to monetize relationships. So rather than using materials to create a product that is sold, we are using materials to facilitate relationships. Cell phones facilitate relationships, but people are willing to pay for tools like an iPhone and for an outrageous monthly bill, keeping shareholders for Apple and AT&T happy. But ask anyone from the generation that is utilizing Facebook if they would pay for it (and keep in mind, this is the same generation doling out oodles of money for that iPhone and monthly bill). What do you think their answer would be?

I thought so…

Three effective business models are typically subscription fees, commission fees and advertising. The latter is being utilized heavily in Web 2.0, but I feel this will not make the majority of sites profitable. How do you monetize interactions between people? Dating sites such as eHarmony do exactly that, but finding a significant other is a critical priority for many people… commenting on a friend’s new highlights or hair cut not so much. So maybe we are asking the wrong question; maybe we should ask why isn’t Facebook such a great service that people would pay for it? But even then, Generation Y and on are used to free services; we’ve spoiled them (free MP3’s, free email accounts, free Facebook, etc).

All this said, maybe one channel for revenue is a great program that aggregates these services and allows users to access all the sites they use through one portal. Online services such as Netvibes are doing this, but I have yet to experience a robust application that is also easy to use. For access to their sites and API maybe Facebook and MySpace could charge the developers of these programs. Anyways, this is just one thought, but it still does not address the more direct question of how to monetize personal interactions and relationships; I’m really at a lost for that…

Social Media Goes, Well, Social

June 25, 2007

Surprise, surprise. How excited was I last week? I’ll tell you: I was recently quoted in a CNet article in which the author, Caroline McCarthy, focused on the question of how to create networks online, such as Yelp, that get people together offline (who would have thought there was a real world outside my computer screen???). I feel this may become a critical measure of a social network’s success, especially when most the people on destination sites such as MySpace tend to be nothing short of uber-creepy. To find out more about the work behind Yelp, check out this podcast for an interview with the co-founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.

Blogger Demographics

June 5, 2007

Since the goal of this blog is to envision what advertising and marketing will/can look like in the realm of social media, I thought it would be in my best interest to post an entry of information I’ve compiled about blogging (so as to reference it in the future).

Blogosphere

The map above is a visual representation of the blogosphere and is explained in this Discovery online article. It was created by Matthew Hurst, who maintains the blog Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media.

So who are these people? Advertising Age posted the article Who Blogs?, which includes a handy pdf of some demographics at the end. For an in-depth view of bloggers, you can read another pdf report by the Pew Internet Project. In addition, BusinessWeek compiled a list of the most popular bloggers at the moment (I think it’s important to note that four of the eleven are technology centered, i.e., we are a bunch of nerds who are a real minority when compared to the rest of America; but that’s okay with me). Aside from those who are winning the digital popularity contest, most people write about the “mundane,” according to another BusinessWeek article, and, accordingly, are not read by very many people. Finally, one interesting trend that is taking root as far as advertising is the increasing popularity of widgets, which creates many opportunities for advertisers to put their stamp on someone’s (online) social activities. I feel this is a great step toward making a presence in the digital sphere, and should be developed further (for instance, after checking out widgets for MySpace, I tried out a few different sites and found some to be severely limited and disappointing… but that’s for another post).


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Participation In Web Innovation

April 27, 2007

For all the hype about Web 2.0, Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion points out that there are still many people who have yet to participate. Mr. Rubel posted a graphic representation of how an extraordinary number people do not take part in simple online activities such as blogging; this reminded me of a presentation I did a few years ago about “cool hunting,” which I first came across in the Frontline show Merchants of Cool, a journalistic piece about trying to market to the hard to reach Generation Y. This report mentioned an article about a company called Look-Look, which had been profiled in a New Yorker article about “cool hunters,” a method that is based around the field of “diffusion research.”

I believe this shows that although influential people on sites such as MySpace are central to word-of-mouth marketing (according to a new report News Corp. put together), the 52% of people considered “inactive” in the digital world may pose a large problem for generating revenue: currently most Web 2.0 business models are based on ad-generated revenue, so the more visitors a site has, the more clout it has in charging for ad space. However, if we are not expanding the base of users, most sites are doomed to failure without other revenue channels. Fortunately, one point of data shows that diffusion is happening, according to a report that broadband subscriptions are rising; this does not mean, however, that those users are using social networking sites. So, how do we convince people to start participating? What strategies do we implement to help people begin to engage with new media?

Exploiting “Web 2.0” to Promote Television Shows

April 10, 2007

Some attempts to promote television shows by utilizing the power of social networking sites have proved creative, but somewhat ineffectual.  Recently, however, the people behind ‘How I Met Your Mother‘ put together a promotion on MySpace that produced (measurable!) results. The television show ‘Bones‘ also started a new five-week campaign using MySpace; this particular push requires heavy engagement by the viewer, but there is not yet any word as to how successful it has been.

One of my personal favorites, ‘30 Rock,’ has yet to embrace the power of social networking sites beyond its own NBC-sponsored attempt, which I feel is a travesty: although it has been renewed for a second season, it has unimpressive ratings and could use more creative muscle beyond message boards and some behind-the-scenes interviews. For instance, in one episode, Judah Friedlander is seen using his cellphone to record a video of a funny shouting match between Tina Fey’s and Jane Krakowski’s characters; why not extend the scene, record it using a camera phone, and post this original content on YouTube? Also, most fans I know love Jack McBrayer’s character: his story has enough dramatic momentum (a funny/nerdy southern boy trying to make it big in the big city) that I do not understand why we are not seeing his own three-minute webisodes on YouTube. It seems that the answer may be NBC’s desire to keep control over original content, as they expand material on the web, but make it available only on NBC.com, effectively keeping any revenue generated by the content firmly within their own camp.

But, what about the effect a successful campaign could have on viewership? If you create new viewers through a successful push, I think that would outweigh pleasing the fans you already have by posting content on the corporate-sponsored site (my logic behind this is that the only people engaging the content on a corporate site are already dedicated fans, not brand new ones). What do you think? Would an increase in viewers be more beneficial than attempting to keep a firm hold on revenue generated by online content?

Also, NBC, please feel free to steal my ideas about promoting 30 Rock… and contact me if you want more freebies 😉