Bits and Pieces: The Social Media Edition

Social media companies continue to make news.  Here are my thoughts on some of the bigger headlines this week.

1.  News Corporation finally sold MySpace for a "paltry" $35 million (mostly in stock, not cash).  They had initially bought the social network pioneer for an eye-popping $580 million and had invested heavily in it, including a recent effort to rebrand it in the competitive new media environment.  Justin Timberlake is part of the group Specific Media, which is buying MySpace, so there are still some people out there who seem to have faith in its future.  MySpace was at one time, not so long ago, at the top of the heap, only to lose its edge (and tens of millions of users) when other networking services emerged and did it better.  It's a cautionary tale about the highs and lows of the media power cycle.

2.  Do we really need another big social networking tool?  Here comes Google+ (pronounced Google Plus)!  The little search engine company that transformed itself into a mega-corporation continues its seeming quest to dominate the globe.  Google failed before to make a dent in the crowded social media marketplace, but critics now think Google+ might be a winner.  What's most promising about the service is the rumor that it might eventually allow users to transfer data from other existing social networks. I think the future lies in consolidating information, making it all accessible from any platform, any device, any media, rather than compartmentalizing it all on endless sites that eventually become overwhelming to maintain and manage effectively.

3.  It was inevitable.  Twitter is allegedly introducing advertisements in its live stream messages.  It's calling them "promotional tweets" but an ad by any other name is still an ad.  I don't blame any company for trying to find new ways to monetize, especially if they're still keeping their popular service free, but I don't want ads to become intrusive and impede the communication experience.  That's one of the reasons I hate pop-up ads on Web sites -- they cross the line from attention-grabbing to annoying intrusions.  Hopefully Twitter will find a way to make those new ads seamless and effective without overly commercializing itself to its detriment.

4.  Facebook has hired a notorious hacker to help protect it from future cyber-attacks.  George Hotz, who infamously hacked Sony's PlayStation3 and Apple's iPhone, is now working for Facebook to identify threats and provide security from other potentially malicious computer geniuses out there.  It's like having the Department of Homeland Security hire a known terrorist to help in its war on terror. 

5.  LinkedIn's initial public offering was a good sign for the future of other social media companies.  We might see a new digital boom, which will undoubtedly help spark a revitalization for our economy.  Some might fear another dot-com bubble that might eventually burst, but I think the best companies will survive long term. 

As I said recently, social media, whatever its ever-evolving forms might be, are here to stay.

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