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People under the age of 30 use Myspace more than Facebook July 30, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in facebook, myspace, social networks, twitter.
6 comments

Interesting research noted at Inside Facebook on how different generations use social networks. Most interesting chart to me shows that Gen Y (15-29) and Gen Z (13-14) use Myspace more than Facebook.

Myspace suspending some categories of performance advertising? March 29, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, myspace, performance.
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PlentyOfFish claims that MySpace is suspending all dating and diet campaigns:

Apparently they got an email saying:

I have a bit of news about your campaign. Rupert Murdoch has decided to put all dating & dieting campaigns on MySpace on hold for a few days. They are discussing about dating creatives currently and planning to come up with a set of standards for them. I wanted to notify you and let you know that the campaign will be halted today and I will keep you updated as soon as I hear some news. I apologize for the inconvenience

Dating, Diet and Mobile comprise the three biggest categories of performance based advertising on social networks, so two of the big three are affected. If this suspension continues it will likely have a measurable impact on MySpace’s revenues.

Myspace isn’t going away December 2, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in Consumer internet, myspace.
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Businessweek covers the comments of writer Michael Wolff about Myspace, which he thinks is going to go away:

Michael Wolff: MySpace. They [meaning News Corp] know they have a huge problem. They’re quaking in their boots about MySpace. It always was a little rustling when I was there, there was this rustling—

Jon Fine: What do you identify as the problem?

MW: Facebook.

JF: OK. But Facebook is still smaller in America, and—

MW: Absolutely. But you know the rhythms of the Internet business, which I think are still, at this point, immutable. Something else comes along—a better technology, a better flavor of the month—and you, the former, are downgraded. Possibly to the point of being downgraded out of existence.

As a parallel, he points out that AOL* was once the dominant web destination, and now it is not. He misses one key point – AOL was not free. At it’s height it charged $23.95/mth for internet access bundled with community.

When people could get community for free and access for cheaper, they unbundled. Since MySpace is free, it is not going to get beaten on price.

Furthermore, now that AOL is also free, AOL and its subsidiaries reach 111m US unique users/mth. The AOL subscriber base peaked at 26.7m, with on average about 2 users per subscriber. So it actually has MORE users today than it used to.

Pundits like Wolff are often too early to call a top. People have been predicting that cable would “kill” broadcast TV for several decades now. While cable now reaches more people than broadcast TV, there are plenty of people still watching Heroes, Desperate Housewives and American Idol.

MySpace is going to be around for a while.
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* Prior to joining Lightspeed I worked at AOL, initially as SVP of Corporate Development, then as GM of Netscape

MySpace sees strong brand advertising growth August 6, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, myspace, social media.
2 comments

Paid Content summarizes some key comments from the NewsCorp earnings call yesterday:

— On MySpace: “We’re actually quite pleased with the momentum at MySpace… (for Q1) we’re pacing well against internal expectations.” He noted a “dramatic” increase in branded display advertising, with several categories up over 100 percent year over year. Other points: hypertargeting campaigns are seeing doubled CPMs and advertisers are increasingly interested in branding campaigns for the MySpace.com homepage. Outlook: “Key thing I’d say… we believe that we are still in a scale game business.” Meaning: The company will continue to invest heavily. “Our expectation is that we will continue to grow our margins in the FIM business in 09.” Costs will grow, but margins will too.

Further evidence that social media is a business.

Other tidbits about the rest of NewsCorps business and FIM at Paid Content.

Rupert Murdoch says 40% of all mothers in America are on MySpace June 10, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in myspace.
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A remarkable stat from Rupert Murdoch at the D conference, as quoted in the WSJ:

MR. MOSSBERG: Does [MySpace] skew younger?

MR. MURDOCH: No. That is a very old-fashioned view. Forty-five percent of all the people who use MySpace are over 35. We have 40% of all the mothers in America on MySpace.

Rock You CEO on social network platforms March 15, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in apps, facebook, myspace, social networks.
1 comment so far

Lance Tokuda, CEO of Rockyou (a Lightspeed portfolio company) is interviewed over at paidContent.org about apps on social network platforms. Read the whole thing.

Virtual Goods and Real Money Trade: Paving the paths March 13, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in business models, digital goods, facebook, friendster, games, games 2.0, gaming, myspace, social networks, virtual goods.
2 comments

As I read the coverage about the real money trade in MMOs panel at GDC, I was reminded of danah boyd’s thoughts on why MySpace took off and Friendster did not, which notes in part:

Friendster killed off anyone who didn’t conform to their standards, most notably Fakesters and those with more creative non-photorealistic profiles. When MySpace users didn’t conform, they were supported and recognized for their contributions to evolving the system.

A good analogy to both situations is what to do when faced with a nice green lawn on a college campus. Some students will always cut across the grass, leaving worn paths. There are three solutions to this problem:

(i) Erect a fence around the lawn and put up some “keep off the grass” signs. This keeps the grass green and pristine, exactly as the landscape architect imagined it, but forces unhappy students to go the long way around to their classes.

(ii) Do nothing, let students cut across the grass and tramp mud into classrooms.

(iii) Pave the paths. Students take the shortest paths, no mud in classrooms, and the rest of the lawn stays green.

Friendster put up “keep off the grass” signs. Myspace paved the paths.

Now if you ask students as to what should be done about the muddy paths, they’ll probably suggest option number one. But its those same students that created the paths in the first place! It is more important to watch what users do than what they say. Facebook is facing a similar dilemma with its apps right now.

Games companies have the same issue with virtual goods. The abundance of real money trading markets for virtual goods tell us what users want to do (despite their vociferous claims to the contrary). If game developers don’t pave these paths, they risk muddy classrooms or unhappy students.

Social Media: Culture = f(UI) December 19, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in culture, facebook, game mechanics, interaction, Internet, myspace, social media, social networks, UI, web 2.0.
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Lightspeed hosted a summit for portfolio companies and friends of the firm in the fall, focused on consumer internet user acquisition. One of the panels was about building community on a social media site, and on that panel Angelo Sotira (CEO and founder of deviantART) noted that for social media sites, culture is a function of UI. (deviantART is the leading community for artists and their fans on the web, and is an Alexa top 100 site. [Disclosure: my wife did some consulting for deviantArt.])

I was reminded strongly of this when reading Judith Donath‘s paper on Signals in Social Supernets that was published in the special theme issue of JCMC on social network sites guest edited by dana boyd and Nicole Ellison:

Variation in the design of SNSs promotes the development of different cultures (Donath & boyd, 2004; Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2007; Lenhart & Madden, 2007b). On a site where creating a link involves little cost, users may amass thousands of “friends,” but an observer has no way of knowing which, if any, of these links represent a relationship between people who care about or even know each other (boyd, 2006; Fono & Raynes-Goldie, 2007). On Orkut, for instance, one simply clicks on a profile to request a connection, and being connected provides no special access or information.

On sites with higher costs for creating a link, the observer has reason to believe that the links represent genuine relationships. Members of aSmallWorld are careful to request connections only with others whom they are sure wish to be linked to them, since they can be banished for having a few link requests declined (Price, 2006). On LiveJournal, making the link is easy: It is one of the few sites in which this can be done unilaterally. However, linking is generally done to give someone access to part of one’s journal, and linked members’ posts appear on one’s own space. This makes “friend” a relatively significant signal, as friending someone both reduces one’s privacy and publicly connects one with that person’s writing (Fono & Raynes-Goldie, 2007).

The meaning of these links is also personally subjective. For some people, listing someone as a “friend” on a social network site is an indication of personal and positive acquaintance. Others are far more casual, willing to add friends indiscriminately (boyd, 2006). This has ramifications for the reliability of the profile itself. Viewers may trust the self-created content of a profile if they believe that its links are to people who know that user well, while links that they believe have only minimal connection add little credence.

SNSs are designed for different audiences. LinkedIn is for professionals. It has no photographs, the profiles are resumés of education and work, and the comments are in the form of testimonials from co-workers. Identity is firmly tied to one’s professional self, and there is limited ability to explore other people’s networks. MySpace, popular with young people, has a very different atmosphere. Its profiles feature photographs, music, and embedded programs, and users can explore the network far beyond their own acquaintances (although they can choose to make their profile visible only to direct connections). This open interface makes it a rich environment for the jokes, links, and software that function as information fashions (discussed below).

Identity in MySpace is fluid. Some profiles are real people, presenting themselves much as they would offline. Some are commercial entities, such as bands, charitable organizations, or celebrities; still others are fictional personas, made for creative experimentation or as fronts for spam. No single design is ideal for all sites. What is important is that designers be fluent in not only the fonts and colors that make up the graphical design of the site, but in the social costs and benefits that shape its emerging culture.

Once a culture takes hold on a site, it is very hard to change. People building social media sites should be careful to think through the implications of their UI (including such mechanics as keeping score and exposing popularity) as their choices will likely have long term implications that can’t be easily reversed by a subsequent tweak to UI.

I’d love to hear other examples of sites where the dominant culture is a function of UI.

UPDATE: Bokardo has a good related post on how changes to Digg’s UI changed its culture

NY Times reports research findings on Facebook December 18, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in facebook, myspace, social networks.
1 comment so far

Interesting article yesterday from the NY times that outlines some of the research findings on Facebook users (spotted via Bokardo).

Some interesting quotes from the article:

Researchers learned that while people perceive someone who has a high number of friends as popular, attractive and self-confident, people who accumulate “too many” friends (about 800 or more) are seen as insecure…

Eszter Hargittai, a professor at Northwestern, found in a study that Hispanic students were significantly less likely to use Facebook, and much more likely to use MySpace. White, Asian and Asian-American students, the study found, were much more likely to use Facebook and significantly less likely to use MySpace…

Social Media: Why social network “friends” are not necessarily friends. December 16, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in attention, facebook, myspace, social media, social networks, structure.
6 comments

Two interesting posts recently address the issue of the number and strength of online relationships within social networks. Andrew Chen notes that friendships are complex:

…friendship networks are actually very complex, and are poorly approximated by the “friends” versus “not friends” paradigm, or even the “friends”, “top friends”, and then “not friends” paradigm…

… in fact, once you have this social map drawn out, one of the most interesting questions you can ask people is how they figure out in what situations they should:

* call someone
* text someone
* e-mail someone
* poke them
* write on their wall
* write them a message
* meet them in person
* etc

…there’s a steady progression of “commitment” that it takes to go from writing on a wall (the least burdensome thing) versus meeting them in person (the most burdensome thing). In fact, one of the really useful things that social networks provide that e-mail doesn’t is a range of expressiveness in your communication such that you can use it for more things than sending notes or data across the wire.

danah boyd reaches related conclusions as she thinks about the value of inefficiency in communication.

Social technologies that make things more efficient reduce the cost of action. Yet, that cost is often an important signal. We want communication to cost something because that cost signals that we value the other person, that we value them enough to spare our time and attention. Cost does not have to be about money. One of the things that I’ve found to be consistently true with teens of rich and powerful parents is that they’d give up many of the material goods in their world to actually get some time and attention from their overly scheduled parents. Time and attention are rare commodities in modern life. Spending time with someone is a valuable signal that you care.

When I talk with teens about MySpace bulletins versus comments, they consistently tell me that they value comments more than bulletins. Why? Because “it takes effort” to write a comment. Bulletins are seen as too easy and it’s not surprising that teens have employed this medium to beg their friends to spend time and write a comment on their page.

Andrew found that sending or accepting a “friend” request was one of the least effort ways of communicating online (especially now that sending friend requests has largely been automated via email import tools). This leads to “friend” lists quickly growing to a size well over 150, Dunbar’s number, the theoretical maximum number of individuals with whom a set of people can maintain a social relationship. So interestingly enough, marking someone as a “friend” in a social network is not a terribly good test of whether or not they are actually a friend.

Mining implicit data on behavior to create this structure is actually a better indicator of the real strength of relationships. Xobni does this via email; do any readers know of any third party systems that do this for social networks?

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