About a year ago (wow! I’ve been blogging pretty consistently for over a year now with nary a hiccup!) I posted about the overabundance and annoyance of Facebook invites due to their inclusion of an apps interface.
A year (and a Facebook redesign) later the problem is still persistent.
I don’t think that the overabundance of these silly apps and their invites will ever go away. These social networking sites have followed suit with the rest of consumer corporate America, in that they’ve discovered that the freetime of adolescents provides them with the most reliable profit yield (in this case, in the form of subscribers and internet traffic).
Notice that as soon as MySpace leadership realized they were losing subscribers to Facebook, purely because Facebook’s capacity for mini-apps made the site more (shall we say) “participatory”, MySpace immediately contracted Zynga to produce similar “free games”.
I don’t follow the blogosphere’s self-documentation as closely as some enthusiasts, but I’d be curious to know if there’s anyone out there who has made the connection between the privatization of internet communities, and the hegemonic encroachment of youth-oriented marketing.
I wonder: is it something intrinsic to our country’s economic model that dooms us to replay the post-War commercial boom of youth culture in every facet of society? Or is it restricted to media? Because it seems like the most plebeian forums for the past 5 decades have exhibited a growing trend towards youth-orientated content and format. Even look at Fox News: its juvenile by comparison to the traditional standards of journalism, whose degradation into “infotainment” I would certainly make the argument is a direct result of the youth-ization of media for the sake of marketing appeal. That is, I think Fox News is symptomatic of the effects of the prior generation’s youth-identity being pandered to; the Gen-X’ers are unwilling to forgo that aspect of their relation to media, as they will still respond to the old strategies…
OK, I’m rambling, but I thought that this was something you’d have a lot to say about yourself. So, consider this an opportunity to expound.
@nick Sorry I haven’t been responding to my posts for some reason I started to think it might be too much of an ego thing to be replying in my own forum. But definitely interesting points.
Its hard though I think to relate online culture to consumer culture directly if for the one point that most popular online forums (facebook especially) rely more upon free content. The minute anyone is asked to pay for anything it immediately is derided and pay services in general suffer greatly from criticism by the cheap masses (like myself).
The currency of online media is instead reputation and status. The “cooler than thou” mentality. It’s interesting to think about the overlap this has in the “real-world” with commodity. E.G. The number of friends you have on facebook is > or = your monetary or object value in real-life. But the bottom line is it’s going to be very difficult for online culture to keep up precisely because even though this sort of overlap is popular it doesn’t translate necessarily into real-world $$. The great leap in the 21st century is going to be how to get this to happen.. how to monetize this culture.
For now, however, I quite like the system. While forums like facebook are swamped with content spam, other forms of content (the blogosphere) produce some great things and provide a needed outlet for mature, thoughtful discourse in a forum that just doesn’t have a corollary in the real world.
I suppose the finer distinction should be made between custom blogs maintained by the author, and social networking sites. Its the latter in which I see my aforementioned trend manifest itself.
On that note, when you say:
“… most popular online forums (facebook especially) rely more upon free content… ”
is the “free content” you’re referring to the content that the users/subscribers are publishing?
Perhaps I was not taking enough pains to accurate relate my observation, but when I talk about the “privatization” of internet communities, I really mean the trend of social networking sites to sell advertising space to commercial interests, “flier-ing” the site’s interface with banner-ads.
Understood in this light, all social networking sites must be seen as leveraging their traffic for the sake of garnering ad revenues. Why else would anyone go to the trouble to create and maintain such a gargantuan site?
So, this is why I see a common pattern between internet communities and precursor public technologies (e.g. radio, television), with their tendency towards pandering to youth markets, as they have the most disposable income, and from the perspective of the traffic-to-ad-revenue equation, disposable time as well.
In short, the true enterprise behind “free” public forums consistently favors the 14 to 28 market.
Now by contrast, these individually authored blogs, of course defy these market forces.
However, since there is no unifying format, or standardized means of intercommunication (e.g. integrated messaging services), I would argue that collectively, individually authored blogs (such as this one) do not constitute an internet community.
“free content” meaning the apps that are available on the site and the various tools built into facebook itself. It’s interesting to note that while the old guard media is attempting to adapt to the new media using the same techniques (i.e. advertising) it’s not always successful. Though the value of the overall company is high I wonder the dollar per profit revenue of even the big names like facebook. A lot of their income comes from private investments and subsidies from other, more profitable companies. I think ultimately a new frame-work for monetizing the internet will have to be found because the cost of advertising space online just doesn’t stack up with it’s old-media counter-part (I don’t have direct citations so please correct me if I’m wrong). What I’m getting at is that while for now it appears that new media is simply copying the old format I wonder how long this can be maintained. Perhaps I’m wrong.
Likewise I’d want to point out that most of these apps and certainly not the most popular ones are not by large corporations but from individuals. My main point being that while left to the masses discourse can gravitate towards the absurd or grotesque it often also allows for more robust debate. While you may disagree with the concept of the blogosphere as a community in and of itself (technorati would probably disagree with you) even facebook itself through the ability for users to generate content (notes, ability to write their own applications) it leaves a forum for thoughtful, and insightful ideas to filter through. In short, while it is a trade off, I’d rather have the good with the bad.. a plethora of crap to find a diamond then to have the channel completely closed as with old media.
Right. Thats why I’m guessing that these silly apps will probably not disappear for a long time. As you point out, until a new profit-generation model is developed, they will continue to ape the old business plans.
Thats a good question too: exactly how profitable is this ad-traffic oriented model? I imagine it must be somewhat viable, as it is imitated everywhere that either access to content, services, or the content-publishing services, are offered for free. I think a comparison of the ad-revenues earned between a major television network and a popular social networking site would be very illuminating…
As it were, I’m not disparaging the capacity of teh internetz and/or the blogosphere to generate robust debate. Rather, I’m positing that, if we were to sample an index of the content generated by the entirety of the social networking phenomena, that it would overwhelmingly resemble the content of television and radio. And that all of the aforementioned economic interests are responsible for shaping it, in format as well as content.
Also, I’m not sure I would agree with your assessment that “old media” is any less “closed” than with new media. If you look at it in terms of the overall societal body of discourse, being able to create your own ranting blog is not quite as significant as it may seem compared to the limitations imposed by fixed radio and tv stations. Moreover, it is the overall patterns of mass-viewership/readship that influences old media and new media publishers alike…
I think the question to ask now is: Does a technology’s innate capabilities guide its use, or the economic interests supporting its distribution? (Or am I begging the question, haha)
In addendum, I would ask, are not social networking site more of a _coherent_ community than the confederation of privately maintained blogs?
The blogosphere used to be _the_ “internet community”, but I would argue that the emerging popularity of these social networking sites reveals how thinly connected people really felt out there in blog-land. In truth, they are meeting a demand for a more coherent and concrete structuring of content-publishing; the result of which being, the transformation of the internet into content “gated communities” as it were, leaving everything else as community-less by relation…
Well, thats how I see, anyways…
Again I’m lacking in hard statistics but take a look at this: top 100 Blogs and this: Most Popular Podcasts on iTunes. Without counting them out (I’m lazy) I think you can see clearly that the percentage of independent (i.e. original for internet) content weighs heavily against the old media. As a cursory glance I’d say 50-60% of popular blogs are divorced from old media and around 10% of popular podcasts.
Stacked up against most popular magazines, newspapers, Television stations and the like that’s tremendous. Even film (as you and I know closely) the term “independent” is more of a marketing label for the big boys and does not verily represent outsider content.
It would seem we have somewhat of a different metric for evaluating “popularity”, as defined in “new media” terms. For instance, I haven’t heard of a single one of the top ten of that top 100 Blogs ranking.
For me, I rank the popularity of a website (e.g. content-provider, content-host, etc…) according to two criteria:
– Name-recognition among non-techie individuals
– Number of voluntary content-contributors (e.g. “members”)
That is to say, I really look at it from the position of RL mass-culture.
My apologies, I’m not deliberately trying to be argumentative, haha. Its just developed into a really great thread 😉
I recognize all but two of the top ten blogs. Paint me a N. E. R. D. I checked out of the real-world a long time ago.
i agree with both the article and many of the comments that the facebooks problem with invites is treading waters with myspace and 2. the popularity of an indivdual may not be on the terms of traditional popularity standards yet the facebook problem highlights that something on the internet may seem popular but we must get to the specifics to see how popular they are for instance perez is getting more traffic but less comments so according to the criteria of the other commentators its not enought to just be viral, have alot of friends, or have valuable internet realestate its how meaningfully people connect with the subject.