Friday, June 29, 2007

Friendster? Really?

posted by Andy Leff
File this story under "Great Comebacks of the 21st Century," right after the Boston Red Sox and before Lance Armstrong.

VentureBeat reported that pioneering social network Friendster experienced a 41 percent surge in page views in May -- about 9 billion views total. This gives it a 4th place finish in the social networking race, and a leading position among second-tier sites. (Keep in mind that Friendster has gained its popularity in secondary markets, which are not as valuable as the U.S. market.)

Friendster's resurrection is a good case study for other Web 2.0 businesses just getting started, or trying to overcome market setbacks. Here's the backstory: The company crashed and burned three years ago. It relinquished its market leadership to MySpace and then Facebook came in which didn’t help either. The future looked bleak.

But Friendster refused to admit defeat. Instead, it re-architected its site. The debilitating technology bugs were fixed and improved. And the company went toe-to-toe with rivals by adding classifieds, classmate search, invite prompts, and automatic friend updates.

Friendster also relaxed its views on who could be a member of the site, and stopped deleting accounts for cities, colleges, clubs, and people who just liked adding random people to their contact lists. In effect, they began copying the business model that killed them in the first place.

Now place this transformation within the context of social network community growth. Friendster passed through early buzz, plunged into obscurity, and presently enjoys self-sustaining growth (in member acquisition, not necessarily bottom line growth) in secondary markets to the United States.

Friendster will never regain the spotlight that it once had before being crushed by MySpace, but it can gain some ground in markets where MySpace doesn’t hold a death grip on the market.

It's already capturing valuable share in the Pacific Rim, and can overtake MySpace and Facebook in these markets if their growth continues at a decent clip. That said, I am not optimistic that it can continue at this rate without strong penetration in the U.S.

Will Friendster’s victory over MySpace in secondary markets happen tomorrow? No. Will Friendster ever become a leading social network in the U.S. and not look like a ghost town? Probably not.

After all, it took Friendster three years just to reach this hopeful turning and possibly tipping point, so reaching the No. 1 spot could take another few years, if ever.

Still, market velocity might be Friendster's new best buddy. Web 2.0's offerings and audience are growing exponentially and rapidly. This in turn will accelerate the growth model, and drive social networks along the curve faster than expected.

So what can start-up social networks learn from Friendster? One, business is business, online or off. Survival always demands strategy, flexibility, and adaptation.

Two, Web 2.0 is unpredictable. Friendster came back once, but they could easily slide back. And a new social network might be waiting in the wings, ready to make its own grand entrance and upstage the classic sites.

The takeaway: Just because there's a market leader doesn't mean you can't come along and redefine the space with a better, smarter feature set that reaches more users or a different set of users. Most recent example: the Apple iPhone, which has upset the telecom industry simply by attempting to redefine what a mobile phone is.

So take the existing paradigm, and reinvent it or break it -- even if that paradigm is your own.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wooing the new

posted by Andy Leff
The young have spoken. And they want Web 2.0.

According to a recent article in InformationWeek, employers are finding that their younger workers -- such as the new batch of college graduates entering the market right now -- are pushing to have Web 2.0 technologies available in the work place.

Employers are also finding that if companies don't adopt the technologies, such as wikis, blogs, and social networking sites, their younger employees are likely to use them covertly, which eliminates an employer's control, management, and ability to secure these networks.

Many IT managers have already started preparing to integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their business practices, a common topic at last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

For the new generation of budding employees, these tools are just as valuable as technologies such as e-mail to the generation of workers that preceded them.

Employers take heed: Martina De Beer, a senior VP with Cisco Systems, says that if these technologies are not provided, younger employees will leave for a more tech-capable environment.

So if you're looking to attract and retain the tech-savvy generation quickly seeping into the work force, I suggest you go Web 2.0 now. No matter what, dealing with its integration will soon be necessary. So what's stopping you from jumping on the movement now?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Podcast like a Fox

posted by Andy Leff
Maggie Fox says she's never met a medium she didn't like. We say she's our kind of woman.

She's the founding partner and chief blogger of Social Media Group. This is Canada's first agency devoted exclusively to helping businesses navigate the world of Web 2.0, and harness the power of emerging social media channels.

Maggie certainly practices what she preaches. This communications and content expert blogs, writes, produces, strategizes, and counsels on social media around the world. She also hosts the weekly Social Media Today podcast for the Social Media Collective.

We decided to podcast the podcaster, and turned our mic toward Maggie to glean her thoughts on defining social media, translating offline business experience in Web 2.0 success, and crafting effective blogs and podcasts.

It's 20 minutes well-spent with an industry insider. Listen, absorb, and share with other eager minds!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Testing one, two, three ... testing ...

posted by Andy Leff
The eyes of the world are on Philadelphia ... or at least on its upcoming free WiFi network for city residents.

After three years in the making, it appears Philadelphia is closer to realizing city-wide Internet access. The Philadelphia Inquirer just reported that the city and its partner EarthLink successfully conducted a 15-square-mile test project over the weekend.

It's given them the confidence to test the system over the rest of the city's 135 square miles. Certainly this will help local small and medium-sized businesses break out of the national marketplace box, and reach customers on the global stage.

For more of that local perspective, check out our interview with Greg Goldman and Thomas Kim from non-profit Wireless Philadelphia. We podcasted them earlier this year about what this wireless initiative means for folks in Philly.

The upshot: There's still a lot of work ahead for the Wi-Fi partners, but the end result will be worth the wait.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Are you blogging "Are you blogging this?"?

posted by Andy Leff
I love to blog. According to Technorati, so do 70 million other people and organizations.

No one more cleverly sums up this ever-growing phenomenon than David Lee King, whose video I found on Tim O'Reilly's blog:

King's take is humorous, but he speaks the truth. Every Web 2.0 service mentioned in his song is a useful tool for getting an individual's or organization's message off the ground, and into people's homes.

The video's production proves its content. King filmed the piece in his cubicle, posted it on YouTube, and watched it go viral through blogs. How's that for practicing what you preach?

And with more new services coming every day, there will be plenty for us to blog about -- and plenty to learn. Click away, friends.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Web 2.0 meets Darwinism

posted by Andy Leff
The jury’s in, folks -- Web 2.0 is not a fad.

More businesses are using new technologies such as blogs, podcasts, and social bookmarking to get out their message, and seeing powerful results.

That’s according to a recent poll conducted by NetBenefit. In it, 60 percent of respondents attending Internet World said Web 2.0 provides real value to their businesses.

What struck me most was that 83 percent of respondents saw Web 2.0 technologies as the Internet’s evolution, rather than a radical change in the way we use the Web. Think of it as the Web's progression from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic era.

This begs the question: Is Web 3.0 around the corner? I say yes. So keep your business walking upright by embracing social networking technologies now.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Full steam ahead for podcast popularity

posted by Andy Leff
Podcast listening is on the rise.

So says a new study from Edison Media Research that reveals the latest statistics, questions, and trends about podcast consumption.

From 2006 to 2007, podcast awareness in the United States rose 15 percent -- from 22 percent to 37 percent -- while podcast listening increased, from 11 percent to 13 percent.

Some skeptics have squabbled over these results, pointing out the disconnect between the awareness and adoption rates. But remember: Even a 2 percent increase in the estimated 219 million American Internet users means almost 44 4.4 million people.

Tom Webster, Vice President of Edison Media Research, comments on the varying opinions of what this means for podcasting, referring to what he considers "the glass half empty" syndrome.

Plus, podcasting can now shake the stigma of geeky tech boys in glasses working out of their garages. Statistics show podcast consumption is almost equally split between men and women.

And advertisers take note: Almost half of all podcast listeners are between the ages of 24 and 44. This spans some of the most lucrative consumer groups in the country.

The study also touched upon podcast producer demographics. Turns out the majority of podcasters are well educated, with at least a college degree, and are more likely to live in high income homes.

My conclusion: Consumer-controlled content is the future of audio and visual production, with podcasting taking the lead.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Google and Apple consummate relationship

posted by Andy Leff
I own one mighty crystal ball. Four months after I predicted Google and Apple would join forces for full-length video distribution, the deal has come to pass. (Check out the full story at BusinessWeek.)

Well, it sorta came to pass. I had envisioned entirely Web-based distribution, where audiences could download full-length movies directly to their iPods, and watch them on the go.

Instead, Google and Apple are connecting computers to televisions. The link is Apple's new digital transmitter Apple TV, which puts customers' iTunes libraries -- movies, TV shows, music, and podcasts -- on their TV sets.

Under this new agreement, Apple TV will carry clips from YouTube. This helps the site's fans watch cute puppies, Coke-and-Mentos experiments, and 'Dancing with the Stars' segments from the comfort of their living rooms.

Note the mutual back-scratching here: Google can cross-market even more user-generated content, and Apple can tap the video-sharing site's popularity to stimulate Apple TV sales.

So, while my prediction was not completely realized, this partnership marks another big step in the Google/Apple (Goople? Aggle?) relationship.

In the end, will their total media domination come true? My Magic 8 ball says, "Without a doubt."

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Friday, June 1, 2007

The great customer hunt: Selling to social networkers

posted by Andy Leff
Your target market is out there, tapping away at their keyboards as we speak. The question is, how do you reach them?

Some of the newest and, some say, most efficient methods of communication are the Web's social networking sites.

Over half of Canadians who use the Web are on some sort of social networking forum, according to an article by Kathleen Lau for Canadian Technology News, IT Business.

That's roughly 11,220,000 people on social networks in Canada alone. And in the U.S., an estimated 70 million people now use social networking sites, with the number increasing daily. Now add in the rest of the planet.

Companies are discovering these groups are more effective than advertising, because they organically foster word of mouth -- which is free, and more effective, because it's inarguably credible.

Better yet, this audience is inhaling the 24-hour, all-you-can-eat social networking smorgasbord, just waiting for your business to pop up and feed their need for whatever it is your business does -- if you understand how to communicate in this realm.

Are you ready to mine these social networks? If you are, stay tuned. We'll show you some techniques to get started in our next posts.

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