Sunday, February 11, 2007

Conspiracy theory #2: Two-faced Facebook

posted by Andy Leff
Proof there really is nothing good on TV: Facebook is teaming up with Comcast to create a TV show based on user profiles.

Thankfully, no one is going to watch it.

MySpace tried the same tactic last summer with their show 'Project MyWorld'. It featured hot girls driving around in a bus looking for people who had the 'best' MySpace profiles, and interviewing them on why they loved MySpace so much. But I just checked local listings, and this show is definitely MIA. Or, more accurately, DOA.

It failed because it wasn't authentic. And Facebook will suffer the same fate for the same reason. I can picture the train wreck now: Ed Snider, wearing a Facebook T-shirt, delivers speeches where every other word is 'dude' or 'cool' ... because that's what the youngins' want to hear!

In this case, corporate giants at Comcast are pulling the strings to make the Facebook puppet dance. They desperately want to be cool, hip, smooth, edgy -- anything to get in front of today's youth.

But that over-eagerness is driving their coveted audience away. Young people are not stupid. They can spot a poorly executed corporate strategy from a mile away. And they want nothing to do with corporate big wig posers.

I'm surprised Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is being so compliant. He himself is 22 years old. He takes great pride in not looking too corporate. He shows up at professional functions wearing a suit and Adidas flip flops.

This says 'I don't give a s***' loud and clear to Wall Street. And to an audience comprised of high schoolers and college students, that is true cool.

If (when) this proposed TV show tanks, Facebook will long for the days it could have sold the biz to Yahoo! for $1 billion. And it'll have to face all the front-page press about the program's dismal failure, just like it did when it added the much-maligned news feed system last year. (I think both events are PR stunts designed to stir debate and heighten awareness, but that's a conspiracy theory for another day.)

Then again, PR might be Facebook's one redeeming outcome in this whole fiasco -- and Zuckerberg's real intent. It's another opportunity to blast its name out there, grow more viral, and draw more users to the site. I've heard it didn't experience the hoped-for surge of members when it opened their service to the outside world last September. Most members are still in the school crowd.

If increased sign-ups are indeed Facebook's goal, then the deal with Comcast is a boon. It will help it create effective viral videos to pass through countless e-mail accounts, and create greater buzz for new members.

My final grades for Facebook: 'A' for adding video to its site, 'D' for letting Comcast convince it that a TV show would be 'totally rad' -- a.k.a., remotely a good idea.

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