Be Afraid, But Not of MySpace
3 min read

Be Afraid, But Not of MySpace

Everyone in Old Media, and many in “New” Media (which isn’t as cutting-edge as it thinks it is), should fear the radically different media habits of the Digital Generation now coming of age. As Jon Fine points out:

Today’s teens are the first for whom self-created content competes with teen-aimed media like videogames. There are now widespread means with which they can create and share their stuff, be they blogs, or the music recording software and design tools found on many computers, or sites like (NWS ). Established media has to grapple with the novel fact that its next generation of consumers is also competition.


But, which launched last May, attracted 2.3 million unique visitors last month, up from 1.7 million in November. Not only can teens now compete when it comes to making content, they can compete for the business as well. Man. Grown-ups should be terrified.

MySpace has been much hyped because it’s riding this generational wave, and I’ve seen some compelling arguments that MySpace should be feared, as if it were the new Google.

How refreshing it was, then, to read a skeptical view of MySpace — and from ABC News, of all places:

Is MySpace as Big as We Think?

“Certainly there are a large amount of people spending a large amount of time on this site,” said Nate Elliot, an analyst for Jupiter Research. “When you look at the huge numbers they throw out there â€â€� 50 [million], 60 million registered users â€â€� those are a mirage.”

Elliot admits that the site generates a lot of activity, and that it may indeed have tens of millions of registered users, but those numbers can be deceptive and only tell part of the story.

“They’re promoting the number that is most advantageous for them to promote, but the simple fact is that only a fraction of the registered users ever go back,” said Elliot. “And only a fraction of them use the site on any kind of regular basis, and then another fraction of them are responsible for the traffic.”

According to the most recent survey, he said, 12 percent of Internet users in the United States say they’re registered at an online networking site.

But more than half say they don’t go back. Only 18 percent â€â€� one in five â€â€� of the registered users say that they visit networking sites weekly or more often.

That means that despite having large numbers of registered users, only a portion of those are active participants on the site.

“The reality is you can get a lot of people doing something without it being a major trend,” he said.


Not as Cool as You Think

For teens who are always looking for the next cool thing, MySpace was it � for a while.

Now, Elliot says, it’s cooled off and his theory is that it has the media to thank for it.

“People go there thinking it’s cool â€â€� it’s nearly impossible to maintain ‘cool’ in a vacuum, certainly once they start seeing themselves on the 6 o’clock news,” he said. “If time doesn’t kill cool, then a network anchor will.”

It’s the attraction to what’s not in the mainstream that often draws kids in, and Elliot points out that the abundance of press and buzz surrounding MySpace has hurt its ‘cool’ factor.

He points to the rise and fall of another popular social networking site, Friendster.

Part of what killed Friendster according to Elliot, was its own success. Once everyone knew about it, no one wanted to hang out there.

Try wrapping your brain around this new media axiom: the more successful you are, the faster you fade. Like rock stardom, but with a compressed time frame.

Maybe in the future, each new medium will be popular for 15 minutes.

The next generation of media consumers is all-digital, fast-moving, and fickle in the sense that its adoption curve of new media is nearly vertical.

In this brave new world, how is anyone in media going to make any money? All of the Web 2.0 start-ups trying to come up with the hottest new app are courting failure with every step they take towards success.

Social media and building communities is all the rage, but what if the communities of the Digital Generation don’t stand still? We’re going to need a whole new marketing paradigm to reach them — or rather, to keep up with them.

And indeed, marketers are starting (slowly) to catch on– check out these findings from a recent Blackfriars study:

A SURVEY THE 2006 MARKETING spending plans of top business executives forecasts an almost 10 percent drop in the portion of marketing budgets allocated to traditional advertising in comparison with 2005. Most of the shift will go to new media and alternative marketing strategies such as word-of-mouth. In 2005, according to Blackfriars’ principal Carl Howe, companies allocated about 31 percent to traditional advertising, but this number will fall to 22 percent in 2006.

Bloggers are currently giving away their buzz marketing power for free (with the possible exception of some “paid advisors”).

Can you imagine a world in which everyone is a paid representative, and all brand usage is product placement?