Raining on the F and G parade

I think the impression everyone has of Facebook is way too misguided. Yes, college students use it – lots of them. And they love it. But, most of us graduate college and move on with our lives. Facebook has not done a good job of recruiting the “non-college crowd” (why would they, that’s not their niche) and I predict this will be their ultimate demise. It may even be sooner than that as we might see someone like MySpace use the Facebook API to transfer the FB’s profile data to their own site (I’m not sure if this actually can be done, or maybe it is done already?) upon a user’s request. Why would a user request this? Because ALL of their friends (family, college, work) are on MySpace, not FB.

“So what?”, you say, “Facebook has the attention of a key demographic! College students like toys and gadgets and they (or their parents) have lots of money so FB will get lots of advertising $$$.”. Yeah, maybe for the next year or two. For the long term, it’s not quite that simple.

Monitizing a “profile” is going to prove more and more difficult as the excitment of online advertising dwindles, just as it did in the late 90’s. It’s great that Best Buy has another mechanism to reach people who are likely to buy their headphones but I’d argue it’s all noise to the people actually using Facebook.

So, what’s the saving grace of internet advertising? Data mining. Get me exactly what I want for my particular need. Showing me headphones isn’t enough – I need headphones that are going to fit my oddly-shaped ear. How are you going to do that? Either find out about my oddly-shaped ear or find out that I want to know about headphones for oddly-shaped ears and show me information on others with oddly-shaped ears who purchased headphones. (I don’t have oddly-shaped ears, do I?)

The requirement to accomplish the above? Longevity. The true allure of internet advertising is the ability to focus on someone’s true interests and place things in front of them that they would actually want. That’s what Best Buy really wants because it then becomes an easy sell. You just need to be around for a while and be collecting and crunching data to do this. Facebook isn’t collecting any real, usable data to help push product. Right now, Facebook is the equivalent of putting a billboard right in the center of campus: Everyone is there, everyone sees it, everyone congregates around it. Then everyone graduates and everyone forgets it.

Google is smart enough to see the need for data mining as we can see by their key products and acquistions. Some examples:

  • Mail – figure out what people are talking about.
  • Maps – one of the first applications of the web and useful to everyone. Plus, they can figure out where people are going
  • Doubleclick – nearly everyone’s computer has a Doubleclick cookie on it
  • Feedburner – what are people reading and how is content being aggregated and passed around
  • Docs and Spreadsheets – Office is the killer app of the desktop. Unleash the user from those shackles and they can become all-G, all the time.

The problem is that Google is scaring alot of the low-key (yet 800-pound) gorillas in the media industry as well as the content providers and producers with their hype, practices and market cap.. Not to mention those in the tech sector. These companies aren’t going to just roll over as Google tries to take over. Ever watch Survivor? The person who is so wonderful in the beginning is generally voted off early on. We’re still in the cheerleading phase with Google and they’ve already made some enemies. The truth is, although they produce alot of “good”, other than search, they got nothing. Don’t get me wrong, search is big, but we’ve all been through this before in the late 90’s. This kind of reminds me of the band Kajagoogoo – they had a really big hit, a couple of smaller hits and a catchy name that we all laugh about now.

Only time will tell.

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