Social Media Hegemon Claims More Words

Face is about as common a word as you’ll come across, in any language. In English, that word belongs to a $100 billion corporation called Facebook. They registered it. So it’s theirs, at least as far as internet domains go.

They also own the letter “F.” Now they want to add the word “book” to their collection of intellectual property and patents.

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Can MySpace Get Its Sexy Back?

It’s understandable that MySpace would want to regain its groove by hooking up with a hipster like Justin Timberlake, one of its new owners. But what does the singer-actor see in this tone-deaf cougar of social networking?

An ad-placement outfit called Specific Media brought in the tastemaker as an investor in its $35 million purchase, or roughly a dollar for each of MySpace’s 34.9 million U.S. users (per comScore). That’s only 6 percent of what seller Rupert Murdoch paid just six years ago for the service, which pitches music and other media to users based on their profiles.

Is it a bargain

or a value trap? What can the new bosses do better?  Did Timberlake’s turn as former Facebook president Sean Parker in the movie The Social Network give him some special insight for his new true-life role?

Those looking to turn around a business (or a career or even a life) must first honestly assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (good old SWOT analysis). Beyond name recognition (now enhanced with the Timberlake association), MySpace has an immense trove of marketable user information and it’s in the hot-hot-hot consumer social media sector. In the negative column, its flat-footedness has left it isolated, losing money, and swamped by numerous rivals that are well capitalized, popular, innovative, and determined. Hmm…

Timberlake, with more than 5 million Twitter followers, has said he wants a place for artists to connect with fans, but MySpace has tried to do that for years without much effect; hence, Twitter. No, the big idea from Specific Media seems to be encouraging users to share favorite ads with their friends. OMG: I can’t wait to share my favorite product pitches with everyone I know!! Wait, what? Is that what passes for social exchange and enrichment? Doing the heavy lifting of advertisers?

Why did Myspace ever let this happen? It was way, way ahead of Facebook just a few years ago. Now it only has some 225 employees, down from 1,400 a couple years ago, and will lose $165 million for the fiscal year ending today, June 30. Why did it fail to recruit or retain top tech talent? Why did it fail to open up its service to outside developers (Farmville, anyone?) Why did it let youngsters like Groupon and Zynga zoom ahead to valuations in the tens of billions? And why did Rupert Murdoch dye his hair orange?

What MySpace failed to do, primarily, was product development, according to the real Sean Parker. “It was basically this junk heap of bad design that persisted for many, many years,” the Napster co-founder told Jimmy Fallon at the NExTWORK Conference in New York. [http://tcrn.ch/iGNSOr] “There was a period of time where if they had just copied Facebook rapidly, they would have been Facebook. They were giant, the network effects, the scale effects were enormous.”

Why do any of us lose our way? A variety of factors from arrogance to misplaced trust can lead us astray, but it’s almost always pride that prevents us from getting back on track. All you can do is accept the new reality on the ground, dust yourself off, and keep going (hopefully a little the wiser). Parker, a bankrupt hacker not that long ago, did; look where it got him.

And give News Corp. some credit. It’s fairly nimble for a leviathan. It rapidly bulked up on Internet properties and then shed them when fleeter rivals overtook them. (It also too-quickly flipped the Dodgers to the McCourts, but that’s another tale of woe.) The corporation is now doing the smart thing of developing digital versions of its real product: its television and newspaper brands.

Funny how media’s other irascible octogenarian, Sumner Redstone, didn’t step up to buy MySpace once it fell into the clearance pile. After all, the Viacom chieftain canned well-regarded Tom Freston for the sin of  letting MySpace slip through his fingers and into the hands of nemesis Murdoch for a mere $580 million in 2005. (Businessweek shortly afterward referred to it as one of the savviest acquisitions ever.) Poor Freston. He didn’t want to overpay.

There will always be plenty who do (viz, the $5 billion later paid for Dow Jones, once again by Murdoch). Look no farther than current valuations for new media properties. Living Social is eying a $1 billion IPO; its larger rival Groupon dreams of $20 billion. Facebook, MySpace’s vanquisher, has gone from $30 to $50 to $80 to $100 billion in valuation estimates (or is it a trillion this week?). LinkedIn’s recent public offering made it the most expensive stock in the market, with a price to earnings ratio of more than 1,000.

By absorbing MySpace, Specific Media is probably laying the groundwork for its own public offering. “We have one of the most creative people driving the creative strategy,” Tim Vanderhook, Specific Media’s CEO said of Timberlake. [http://on.wsj.com/isHi2b] “That’s a huge difference than what was done in the past.”

Inspiration Is Bunk

What does it take to do great work? Whether we’re talking about writing a novel or building a successful company, the answer is the same: Focus and persistence. Being in the right place at the right time (a.k.a., luck) helps, but inspiration has little to do with it. It’s mundane plodding that wins the day.

“I think inspiration is nonsense, actually,” famed author Salman Rushdie told interviewer Max Miller for BigThink.com. http://bit.ly/fnFouX

Writing, he says, requires deep attention – definitely not inspiration. Concentrate on your characters, he advises, live in their world and tell their story. Stick with it until you finish.

“Every so often, I mean like one day in 20 or something, you will have a day when the work seems to just flow out of you and you feel lucky,” Rushdie says. “I wish there were more of those days, but most of the time it’s a lot slower and more exploratory and it’s more a process of discovering what you have to do than just simply have it arrive like a flame over your head.”

You can develop skills of concentration, which is something that strengthens over time (unlike, say, energy level). That’s good news not just for artists, but for careerists and entrepreneurs.

Fail, fail, fail … until you succeed. That’s the story of art and technology, of social progress and individual success – in every walk of life. Keep your focus. Concentrate intensely. Be persistent and never give up

Simply keeping one foot in front of another is how many walked their way to fortune. “A surprisingly large number of people have made fortunes because … they just have unbelievable focus on accomplishing what they sent out to do,” says Peter Bernstein, co-editor of All the Money in the World (Knopf, 2007), a book about the richest people in America. http://bit.ly/heVkRz

As you slowly propel yourself forward with your art, business, or life, what’s the most important thing to keep in mind? “No. 1: Don’t look back,” Harold Hamm, the 13th child of sharecroppers who made himself an oil billionaire, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “You can never get good direction from looking backwards. Just know that you’re going to make mistakes. Learn to survive those errors and hope they’re not so critical that you can’t survive them. Learn and go on.”

The key is to move forward, forward, forward. “Persistence is everything,” Hamm says. “Very few people have the persistence that they need to achieve the great things. I can’t say hardly enough about that. It’s so important to have persistence to see something through.”

Wouldn’t Mr. Rushdie agree?

Talking About Yourself Is Talking to Yourself

Fixating on establishing your “brand” can leave you kind of lonely. You’re at risk of neglecting what’s most important in building relationships with customers, clients, and readers: communicating how you can help them. If you talk about yourself too much you’ll soon just be talking to yourself. No one really cares, and won’t be listening for long. Instead, tell stories about how you can make your readers money … save them time … improve their lives.

Before crafting your narrative you have to know why people buy. Notice number 16 on the list below culled from the book Rapid Response Advertising by Geoff Ayling – “to communicate better.” PubArts understands that in helping you (our customer) communicate better, what we really need to discover is what YOUR customer desires.

We don’t want to prattle on about ourselves in this moment (and choke on the irony), but do point out that we can also help you (and yours) with numbers 1, 2, and 3, among other goals. And while we might be at a loss with number 11, we are quite practiced with rejuvenating communication materials and strategies.

People buy:
1. To make more money
2. To save money
3. To attract praise
4. To increase enjoyment
5. To possess things of beauty
6. To avoid criticism
7. To make work easier
8. To speed up work
9. To keep up with others
10. To feel opulent
11. To look younger
12. To become more efficient
13. To buy friendship
14. To avoid effort
15. To escape or avoid pain
16. To communicate better
17. To be in style
18. To avoid trouble
19. To protect family
20. To express love

Keeping Up With the Joneses

Sometimes when Monday rolls around and the blog is screaming for attention, you can’t help but feel a little “dial up” in a broadband world. Gotta keep going, gotta keep up … but, oh Lord, how?

You haul yourself to the computer to feed the little monster. You’re motivated by the fact that seemingly everyone else is doing it, breeders who have put a little bit of themselves out there to carry on. Technorati says there are more than 100 million blogs out there and proliferating quickly — along with Facebook pages, Tweets, and whatnot. One must keep up with the Joneses — and the Ramirezes, Chans, and Nahasapeemapetilons.

What’s the reward for this ceaseless communication? Recognition, influence, and customers (if that’s your bag). I seek an engaged readership and the off-site SEO (links from other sites) that catches the eye of search engines. But that all comes only after you nurture your little bundle past its vulnerable (to say nothing of messy) infancy. At this point, most people avert their eyes. That’s OK, I don’t take it personally. I don’t think my baby’s ugly.

At some point, however, it really may take a village to raise this child, so I hope others can assist the little fellow’s long-term prospects. Which isn’t a hint for birthday presents, but an invitation to contribute some content with your comments.