Today I received a curious tweet from Peter Cashmore, Mashable’s founder and CEO, pertaining to an ABC announcement and a somewhat biased story angle about social networking.
What seemed odd was ABC using one medium (the Internet) to solicit information for another medium (TV). As I read the tweet, the obvious irony was not lost on me!
Mashable founded in 2005 is the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Networking news. When I hyperlinked from the tweet to the ABC website, it brought me to a “contributor pitch page” entitled: “Enough Already! Sick of Social Networking?”
The pitch read as follows:
Have you had enough of social networks? Are you weary of the constant stream of photos and status updates and friend requests? Do you want your privacy back? Or are you one of the last holdouts? Do you feel pressure to join social networks but don’t want to? Tell ABC News how you really feel. Share your story with us, and a producer may contact you.
Now, doesn’t it seem a little bit incongruous that an organization as large as ABC needs “social networks” like Mashable to get their message out to the masses. And then subsequently soliciting those same masses to ask them to turn on their own “social networks?” And when ABC talks about social networks, they are specifically targeting Twitter and Facebook subscribers.(note: while the ABC pitch speaks generically about “social networks” as a whole, the photo posted on the pitch page graphically depicts the “Twitter” and “Facebook” logos).
While Mashable has presently accumulated over 361,000 followers on Twitter and notes that their website has attracted over 5 million pageviews, I can only imagine how many 1000s of stories ABC will receive. Tales will flow in from the attention-deficit digerati waiting to bite the social networking hand that feeds, so they can move on to the next “shiny thing” that offers more topical “geek cred!”
People like Jeri Cartwright, President of Cartwright Communications might also agree with ABC, as she indicates she is unable to fight off “digital exhaustion” when she is inundated with “friend” requests on Facebook and LinkedIn.
On the flip side, it is very possible that ABC will receive a good number of positive responses that speak favorably about the advantages of social networking. There will be those who commend its ability to break news faster than any mainstream media could shake a stick at (sorry about that ABC!). Others might note that Twitter and Facebook have provided them with the opportunity to conduct business, build a brand image, provide hands-on customer service, and communicate regularly with a truly international melting pot of people, from all walks of life. Still others might shed some light on how social networking breaks down racial, political and religious barriers and how many of us feel we have become members of a global society who appreciate our similarities but can also address our differences, and relish in our diversity.
Or perhaps ABC will receive a humorous anecdote similar to one emailed to me from Lauren Turner, an interactive marketing manager at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and a member of my LinkedIn network, who when asked the question if she thought social networking was “overexposed,” responded with,”I don’t feel like I am ahead of the curve anymore. My 72 year old grandmother just added me on Facebook!”
Or maybe they will be enlightened similarly to what I learned from Mike Sosin, an associate health & benefits agent in Chicago, who marvels at social networking as a space where “so many people never before connected can share ideas and perspectives with (just) a few keystrokes.”
We also could be just making too much out of this topic. As Corinna Martinez, senior technical project manager at the Department of Fish and Game states: “Cool tools are just tools!” They get us from point A to point B. However, she was also quick to add that “these apps give more power to the people…because they link PCs, mobile phones…and marketing in many exciting new ways.”
It just so happens that even while the “geek cred” of Twitter and Facebook is starting to fade, tens of thousands are still subscribing to Twitter and Facebook daily. At last count, five-year-old Facebook has tallied 175 millions while Twitter, two years its junior is closing in at 7 million!
So “NO,” Mr. ABC journalist, we haven’t had enough! We are just getting started. And if you want to learn more about our breaking social networking stories, all you have to do is tweet us. Not to say you were ‘scooped, but my best bet is as result of this blog and others like it, this topic will be searched, researched, tweeted, retweeted, commented on and discussed ad nauseum, before yours’ hits the airwaves. Social Networking may be a little bit “overexposed,’ and perhaps it doesn’t move at the speed of light, but it sure does move a lot faster than a TV news story!
So in closing, I wouldn’t be so impertinent or worse, “unsocial”… by telling this TV network that they are a little LOST in taking on this misguided story angle…. because I just realized… that’s one of the things ABC does best!
Today’s technology has given us all the power to brand ourselves in whatever way we see fit. No longer does one need an expensive PR agency or a full-blown advertising campaign to define who we are or how we want to be perceived. Similar to how corporate branding defines how a company distinguishes itself, personal Internet branding is the sum of all one’s online activities which then triggers an expectation about who you are. Perception trumps reality when one seeks fame on the Internet.
The Internet has transformed the world — connecting cultures, streamlining commerce and revolutionizing communication. Not unlike a mosquito-infested swamp, the Web has become a rich breeding ground for buzz and viral transmission. The ability to become a worldwide celeb and the concept of becoming famous for being famous perfected by Paris Hilton and others can be developed fairly effectively on the Internet, without ever meeting one of your fans face to face.
Twitter can lay some claim for this individual branding movement. Presently organizing a conference this June, 2009 in NYC aptly called the “140 Characters Conference,” Twitter’s reach reinforces one’s ability to gain notoriety quickly. With their intent of not only attracting established celebrities who use their social network (e.g. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher), Twitter is also focusing on the new-found celebs who have learned how to harness the power of the Twitterverse to do their bidding.
For the naysayers who can’t conceive the Internet producing celebrity status, this is the first part of a two part series that will provide you with insight to contrary. The number of budding digi-stars are growing at a phenomenal rate with social media as its major catalyst. I tracked down some of the Internet’s biggest overnight sensations to see if they are truly exceeding their “15 minute of fame” expiration date. While some have settled into lives of quiet anonymity — others are now making grand livings off their Net-based fame. Living the Warholian dream, most of these innovative entrepreneurs are turning self-promotion into an art form.
One of those bright new shining stars is Nick Thune, a Seattle-born comedian now residing in LA and pursing the American dream in the entertainment field. While Nick’s modesty inhibits him from admitting to being an Internet celebrity, as a working stand-up comedian Nick first reached world attention when one of his YouTube videos went viral in 2006. Directed by Ruben Fleischer of MTV’s hit reality show fame “Rob & Big,” Nick’s video entitled “Phone Tag” is a funny sketch about a young man struggling to accept a break-up with a romance gone sour. Also starring Olivia Munn, the video currently tallies almost 1 million page views on YouTube.
An even greater buzz was created with Nick’s production of “Masturbation.” As Nick tells the story, his stage work included a ‘masturbation’ joke that he thought would be even funnier as a short film. Once again with the assistance of Ruben Fleischer a film version of the joke was produce that took slightly longer than the actual act of masturbating! A week later, after editing, Ruben Fleischer met with Funnyordie.com, the comedy video website. In tandem with their website’s debut launch, they posted “Masturbation” on their front page directly below Will Ferrell’s infamous Landlord Video, and Nick’s jerk-off session went viral!
While Nick doesn’t believe that the Internet brought him notoriety, he does feel that the attention it creates with casting directors and fans is immeasurable. On his second appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show in August,2007, Nick’s aptly named “Instant Messenger” stand up routine became an ‘instant’ success.
Nick’s latest project is called “Nick’s Big Show.” According to Nick,”it’s an undertaking” that he hopes will be his “last webseries,” and will act as a stepping stone “worthy of TV” exposure. On March 23, 2009, Atom.com, a digital comedy network and Comedy Central announced the premiere of “Nick’s Big Show.” This new six-episode mockumentary, available now at Atom.com and NicksBigShow.com, follows Nick Thune as he puts his comedy career on hold to do something much more important: “make people laugh because they’re crying so hard.”
One could ask after watching whether Nick really have a clock that reads It’s Go Time? Or Why does he own a pimped-out low rider limousine (driven by his assistant, played by the funny Kate Micucci) – and, for that matter, why does Nick even have an assistant? In Nick’s world, nobody asks these questions, and Nick’s world is a better place for it.
In coming weeks, “Nick’s Big Show” will be distributed widely to consumers across Atom’s multi-platform distribution network, including the “Atom TV” series on Comedy Central, mobile phone partners and other leading Internet destinations including iTunes, AOL, Dailymotion and xBox Live.
Internet Celebrity is not lost on Nick Thune. He appreciates what it has done to help mold his persona and allow him appeal to a growing fan base. But when asked if he tracks his website traffic, Nick mockingly points out that he has “someone track his websites…” as he doesn’t “wanna know numbers. I tell them to tell me if the numbers are low, then I’ll put more work into it. Do you think Picasso knew how many people had or will have seen his work? Is anyone (really) keeping count?”
Well in the case of Nick Thune, I think a lot of folks are keeping count and will be marking their calendars for his next TV appearance which just so happens to be April Fool’s Day, when he appears on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Tune in to see the next comedic superstar with humble Internet beginnings. He measures up… all “5 feet 16 inches” of him!
Speculation is out there about whether or not Twitter is peaking. Is the Social Network darling reaching its saturation point? If so, what will take its place? What is the next the big thing? What could possibly capture our imagination in the same way as Twitter?
As the medium of blogging started to plateau, was it any wonder that our attention-deficit angst would find micro-blogging a suitable alternative? In a world flooded with data overload, 140 characters or less seemed to strike just the right chord for many of us. But nothing lasts forever, as a wise Buddhist once told me (e.g. even the Dalai Lama was recently exiled from Twitterdom… but that’s another story).
So since a few warning signs are blowing in the wind, and a couple of red flags have been raised, it might be worth our while to explore what might be rolling down the social network highway.
Steve Rubel, an elite member of the twitterati with almost 20,000 followers is probably one of Twitter’s most vocal critics. He talks about how the intraweb has attracted celebrities and how this pop culture dynamic can become a double edged sword. As celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore and Britney Spears put their stamp of approval on Twitter, us common folk became blind-faith followers, attracted to the Twitterverse like moths to a flame. In turn, when something goes mainstream it begins to lose its “geek cred,” according to Rubel, and like nomads looking for the next oasis, the digerati will begin to lose interest and seek out greener pastures.
“Jumping the shark” is a pop-culture catch phrase coined by Jon Hein and has been used by TV critics and fans to mark the point when a TV show or series veers off its original plot course into an absurd story line departure. The phrase refers to a scene in a episode of the TV series “Happy Days”, first broadcast on September 20, 1977. In the episode, Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a shark while water skiing. This was particularly ironic, in that Fonzie, famous for being a biker, had previously jumped his motorcycle for a publicity stunt¢â‚¬â€but was severely injured in the process, and very remorseful for his actions.
He then learned a valuable lesson, and delivered a moral message, that taking foolish risks “isn’t cool.” In contrast, Fonzie’s later decision to take an even greater risk on water skis “to prove a point” came across as absurd in many ways (particularly since the “motorcycle jump” episode was a major point in Fonzie’s character development).
So the analogy of “jumping the shark” came to mean reaching a threshold and losing the interest of a fan base. Could Twitter have tipped that delicate balance, and be headed for a downhill descent? Will the Founding Fathers of Twitter abandon ship and mosey on down the Social Network trail?
I don’t think so! I think the rumors of Twitter’s demise are grossly over exaggerated.
I believe the basic premise of Twitter is brevity and access. Twitter, dissimilar Facebook and LinkedIn, requires less active participation on our part. While the group involvement of other social networks has its own appeal, they definitely require a focus that can eat up a lot more time than Twitter. I personally can keep my Twitter home page open all day long, and visit it periodically when I have a quick thought or a need to shake out some cobwebs. I can’t say the same of the others. On Facebook and LinkedIn, I get caught up in answering incoming mail, joining discussion groups, reviewing photos and videos, supervising memberships for groups I organized, and a myriad number of other tasks that can become exhausting at day’s end.
I also feel that the Wild West appeal of Twitter provides it with staying power. As a disorganized, chaotic venue, while it sometimes seems like you have entered the Tower of Babel, it is also comforting to be immersed into a space where multiple conversations are filling the void. In the Twitterverse, we are deluged with insights, perspectives, absurdities and the like, all donated freely in many cases by a motley assortment of strangers. It’s a global cocktail party where you can listen, participate or retreat periodically throughout the day. Its a water-cooler environment that never gets old and is definitely part of Twitter’s charm.
So to think about what might take its place is a daunting task. If you think that Twitter is a replacement for how we receive the news, then perhaps Twitter has taken the place of the newspaper. But if that be the case, US newspapers experienced logevity, having been around since the early 1700s. And yes, everything does move a lot faster in the electronic age, but it will be interesting to see how long social networks in general will last. Rubel and others are proponents of FriendFeed, Jaiku and Pownce as possible substitutes. However, it doesn’t look likely that they can gain the critical mass of support necessary to overtake the micro-blogging front-runner. Pownce has already shut down operations, and the others do not have the ease of access that Twitter possesses.
So, while Jon Stewart can satirically joke about Twitter’s ” faux-social network” competitors like “Grunter” and “Stalker,” I think the Twitterverse is going to continue to evolve with its devoted fan base for quite some time to come. “Jumping the Shark” is a bit premature at this stage of the game!
The way we listen to and access our music has changed over the years, but nothing in the music industry has steam-rolled quite as fast as what has transpired in the first decade of the 21st Century.
As the Beatles’ rock anthem of the late 60s reminded a nation:
You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution…
And as we all know, the one constant in life is change. Just when we were all starting to feel real comfortable gravitating from tapes and CDs to online music downloads, a new revolution of options is beginning to unfold.
Strangely enough, Apple has approved an iPhone application that actually might replace its iTunes music download model. Even odder is the fact the new app was created by David Dederer who’s in the process of reinventing himself. Previously the lead singer for The Presidents of the United States of America, a 90s alternative rock band, David is transitioning from his old job into his new role as VP business development for Melodeo,a music technology firm. Here, he has developed the PUSA app that will let users stream his band’s entire catalog of music over a cellular connection for less than the cost of a Big Mac.
Fans who buy the app will also get access to the band’s original 10-song demo tape Froggystyle, four albums, “lost” recordings, demos, and whatever else they can throw into the mix including live recordings updated regularly and links to the PUSA blog.
The sticky point for other bands and musical artists to follow suit is the copyright issues. One has to own all of the copyrights to a piece of music in order to distribute it this manner. Otherwise agreements and sign-offs would make it prohibitive. However if all the rights are owned outright, artists can sell their music in this new distribution channel.
Based on this innovative format, one could imagine the source of new-found wealth for artists that are sitting on publishing rights for bands that no longer perform. While there is still conjecture whether or not Michael Jackson owns the Beatles library of music outright, let’s assume for arguments’ sake he does. In this case, Michael, whose appeal has waned over the last decade, might be sitting on a small gold mine! If he could produce a Beatles app that contained over 150 songs, his financial and health worries might be over!
So while Dederer and the PUSA app are gaining traction off the fact they were the first to rock ‘n roll with this new technology, the popularity of The Presidents of the United States of America pales in comparison to the Beatles. Where the PUSA app will sell nicely at $2.99 each, one can only imagine how much Mr. Jackson might be able to hit us up for a Beatles app. Can you say Cha-Ching? Sorry Paul, but don’t think you were planning an Ebony & Ivory reunion any time soon, anyways!
In tandem with the PUSA model, iPhone is in the process of rolling out an “unlimited access” option where customers would have the opportunity to either pay a one-time lifetime access price to the iTunes’ music library, or a monthly subscription fee. What Apple will charge users for this service is still being ironed out, but recent sources have speculated a $100 fee for unlimited access to the complete iTunes library for the lifetime of their device, whether it be an iPhone or iPod. How that fee will shake down between owners, artists and Apple is still undecided and will probably take an army of lawyers to figure out.
In the meantime, be on the look out for the PUSA app. While it might not be the type of band that floats your boat, it’s currently the only one out there selling their entire body of past, present and future work for less than three bucks!
According to Ian Paul, a journalist for PC World: “Artists will always need labels to promote their music effectively….The music retailer, however, is not so important–a lesson that Tower Records discovered,” when they incurred the recent online download evolution of the industry.
So while currently the iTunes model enjoys success by basically replacing the physical record shop for the digital world, in the end, iTunes is still selling copies of music just like Tower Records did back in the day. However, the real revolution will occur if and when major artists feel they no longer need the middleman and can sell direct to the consumer. At that juncture, Apple may have to take a major step back to rethink the way it does business. And in a completely wireless world, this could become a reality sooner then we think.
So while we inch up to the end of the first decade of this new century, and music continues to soothe the savage beast, keep your ears open to the ever-changin’ music revolution that will continue to rock on, even beyond what we discussed here!