Social Media Musings
I just spent some time on the june comscore media metrix numbers and all the big social networks (and many of the smaller social networks) are basically flat june over may. It's probably the summer months, kids getting off from school, doing something other than staring at their computer screens, etc, but it's interesting nonetheless.
This chart shows how much bigger myspace is over all the other networks, but it also shows that there is a group of services bunched in the 10mm to 15mm users range. It includes photobucket, youtube, facebook, and sixapart. And several of those, like sixapart and facebook, have been relatively flat for the past year.
So we may have to wait until the fall to see where all of this is headed but my sense is that "social media" is here to stay. The individual properties may rise and fall (remember Geocities and Tripod?), but the idea of media that is personal and social is a lasting one and an important one.
Robert Young posted his thoughts on this subject on Om Malik's blog earlier today. And he really nailed it with this paragraph:
But just as the Internet was not a subset of AOL, social media will not become a subset of traditional media. In fact, social media will increasingly begin to compete directly with traditional media consumption. Yes, it is true that the media output produced and distributed by the audience itself will generally be of lower production value and quality. Even so, they will prove highly competitive to Hollywood products, as the personal engagement factor inherent in personal media outweighs any loss of production value.
Robert did not highlight that last bit, I did. Because it's the critical insight. I prefer reading Tom Watson's posts on the Mets over the NY Times' Mets coverage because Tom is a friend and I get a little bit of him in addition to the Mets.
Josh's band, The Four Fellas, are a far cry from the Rolling Stones, but given the choice, I'd prefer to see The Four Fellas play live every time.
Personal engagement does compensate for a lack of production values. But it's not one over the other. Robert compares it to cable versus broadcast, and I guess that's a reasonable way to describe it. Social media will co-exist with produced media, what the ultimate market share of each is a big open question, but I believe they are both important.
And most importantly, social media can bring great value to produced media. YouTube is beginning to be embraced by the TV and film industry because it can help create demand for their products. I am spending the vast majority of my time using social media to find new music that I ultimately purchase from traditional record labels.
Social media is a fantastic development, and is a critically important piece of the emerging new media landscape. It's not going to replace traditionally produced media, but it does compete with it for audience,and most importantly, its is highly additive when integrated with traditionally produced media.